Heisman Watch Week 10: Baker Mayfield surges to the top

(Yahoo Sports)

Each week throughout the season, Dr. Saturday will highlight the five players we think are the top Heisman contenders. The list will change often early in the season before the true candidates separate themselves from the pack.

Previously: Week 1, Week 2, Week 3, Week 4, Week 5, Week 6, Week 7, Week 8, Week 9

While running backs Saquon Barkley and Bryce Love struggled, Baker Mayfield made his move on Saturday.

Mayfield has been the lone quarterback to maintain a steady presence in the Heisman race this year and the Oklahoma senior put up some jaw-dropping numbers in a game that didn’t feature a whole lot of defense: a 62-52 Sooners win over rival Oklahoma State.

Mayfield has been performing at a high level consistently over the course of his three seasons at OU, and he has his team on the verge of a College Football Playoff, provided his defense can string some competent performances together.

But even if the defense continues to struggle, Mayfield has shown he can put a team on his back. Will that carry him to the Heisman podium?

1. Baker Mayfield, QB, Oklahoma: Mayfield set an Oklahoma record in Stillwater on Saturday with a whopping 598 passing yards and five touchdowns along with a rushing touchdown. 387 of those yards came in the first half for another school record. Simply put, Oklahoma State had no answer for Mayfield all afternoon.

Mayfield is now second in the country with 3,226 passing yards and first with a sterling 71.7 completion percentage. He set an FBS record for quarterback rating in 2016 (196.4). Through nine games in 2017, Mayfield’s QB rating is 201.6. He’s having a special season.

2. Bryce Love, RB, Stanford: Love, after missing a game because of an ankle injury, had his worst game of the season in Saturday’s loss at Washington State. Aside from a 52-yard touchdown run early in the second quarter, Love could muster only 17 yards on his other 15 carries. Still, he finished with 69 yards, which is a higher total than Penn State’s Saquon Barkley has put up the last two weeks and four times total this season.

We’ve given Barkley some slack for low rushing totals because of his all-around contributions to PSU, so it wouldn’t be right to punish Love for just one lackluster showing. His lowest rushing total prior to the WSU game was 147 yards, and that was in a game where he barely played in the second half because of a sprained ankle.

Love (1,456 yards) has fallen behind San Diego State’s Rashaad Penny (1,602) for the FBS rushing lead, but Penny has 78 more carries.

3. Saquon Barkley, RB, Penn State: Saquon Barkley added another pass — a 20-yard completion to tight end Mike Gesicki — to his highlight reel, but that was probably the most exciting play he had in PSU’s second straight loss. He finished the game, which had a three-plus-hour weather delay, with 63 rushing yards on 14 carries along with three catches for 33 yards. He also failed to reel off a big play in the return game.

Barkley hasn’t gotten much help from the PSU offensive line this year, but his 864 rushing yards, though they don’t sum up the totality of his impact, is just a really underwhelming figure. Luckily for Barkley and the Nittany Lions, the schedule lets up the rest of the way, beginning with a home game against Rutgers. It’s too early to count Barkley out. With big numbers down the stretch against Rutgers, Nebraska and Maryland, he could find himself right back at the top before it’s all said and done.


4. Jonathan Taylor, RB, Wisconsin: The fact that Jonathan Taylor’s 183 yards in Wisconsin’s 45-17 win over Indiana is his fourth-best performance of his season tells you a lot about what he has done this year. It was a big bounceback effort from Taylor, too. The true freshman left the Badgers’ previous game with a leg injury after putting up 73 yards on 12 carries. UW listed him as questionable all week, but Taylor carried a big load (29 carries) to help his team stay undefeated.

Taylor, with 1,368 yards, is now third in the country in rushing yards.

5. Khalil Tate, QB, Arizona: After a slow start, Khalil Tate put his explosive dual-threat skills on display as Arizona mounted a big comeback at USC. The Trojans ended up winning the game, snapping the Wildcats’ four-game winning streak, but Tate finished with 146 yards passing, 161 yards rushing and three total touchdowns.

Tate now has a ridiculous 1,087 rushing yards on just 95 carries in five starts. That’s an 11.4-yard average. Still, his passing leaves a lot to be desired. He threw two costly interceptions against the Trojans and now has five on the year to go with 930 yards and eight touchdowns.

Also considered:

Josh Adams, RB, Notre Dame: Adams is still very much in the mix, but he barely saw any action during Notre Dame’s win over Wake Forest. The NBC broadcast said Adams was in concussion protocol, which he cleared, but coach Brian Kelly said after the game Adams wasn’t quite feeling right, so the bruising junior was held out the rest of the game. He rushed only five times for 22 yards in a win where the Irish put up more than 700 yards of offense.

On the year, Adams has rushed for 1,191 yards and nine touchdowns while averaging 8.7 yards per carry. He has the chance to leapfrog several other Heisman contenders when the third-ranked Irish travel South to face No. 7 Miami.

Lamar Jackson, QB, Louisville: Louisville had a bye, but it’s still worth pointing out the ridiculous numbers the 2016 Heisman winner has put up this year, albeit on a pretty underwhelming Cardinals team. Jackson has thrown for 2,808 yards (No. 10 nationally) and 18 touchdowns while rushing for 1,029 yards and 14 more scores (No. 5 nationally).

Rashaad Penny, RB, San Diego State: Penny hit a bump in the road against two of the better Mountain West defenses, going for a combined 122 yards against Boise State and Fresno State. In the last two weeks against Hawaii and San Jose State, Penny has combined for 487 yards and five touchdowns. As previously mentioned, he now leads the nation with 1,602 rushing yards.

J.T. Barrett, QB, Ohio State: What a difference a week makes. J.T. Barrett’s performance against Penn State made it look like he was poised to make a run for the hardware, but things came crashing down to Earth in Iowa City. Barrett entered the weekend with just one interception. Against Iowa, he shockingly threw four in a 55-24 loss. It was just a brutal all-around performance from the Buckeyes, and it started with their senior quarterback.

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Sam Cooper is a writer for the Yahoo Sports blogs. Have a tip? Email him or follow him on Twitter!