The eventual resting place of this year’s Heisman Trophy may not be clear after three weeks of the season, but this is: the road map runs through Oklahoma.
While Louisville’s Lamar Jackson took a major hit in his repeat bid in last week’s dud vs. Clemson, No. 3 Oklahoma’s Baker Mayfield and sixth-ranked Oklahoma State’s Mason Rudolph have all but cemented their named to a very short list of logical winners.
Certainly a lot can change, but the Sooner State’s quarterbacks have the numbers (Rudolph is fifth in total offense at 384.3 yards per game; Mayfield ranks 11th with 344.3) and they’re in the spotlight on College Football Playoff contenders, not to mention they’ve got a massive showdown on Nov. 4 in the Bedlam Game in Stillwater.
Penn State running back Saquon Barkley and USC passer Sam Darnold have joined Mayfield and Rudolph on that list of viable contenders. When it comes to the QB position’s best hope, Darnold, in particular, has the chance at a heavily-hyped clash vs. Jake Browning and No. 7 Washington in the Pac-12 title game. But the Mayfield-Rudolph duel is most assuredly coming, and it will be heavily hyped.
It also sets the stage for this potential piece of history. Since 1994, four times has a conference put two players on different teams in the top three in voting and no one has done it as many times as the Big 12, which did so in 1998 (Texas’ Ricky Williams and Kansas State’s Michael Bishop) and 2008 (Oklahoma’s Sam Bradford and Texas’ Colt McCoy). Both times, the Big 12 won the Heisman.
Certainly the winner of the Bedlam Game will have a leg up on delivering that win and before and after, the Oklahoma schools stand to dictate the Heisman narrative.
As an aside, mark it down that Jackson will still wind up in New York. Just once has a returning winner who made it through a season healthy has yet to not be invited as a finalist (Jameis Winston in 2014, but he had plenty of negative attention at that point) and Jackson will still have New York-worthy numbers, even if his hopes of joining Archie Griffin this year are all but over.
Before we dig into the players who are on the Forecasters’s On The Rise and Fall Guys for the week, here’s how the virtual ballot stands after Week 3.
1. Baker Mayfield QB Oklahoma
2. Saquon Barkley, RB Penn State
3. Sam Darnold, QB USC