Heisman Watch Week 11: Wisconsin's Jonathan Taylor outpacing Adrian Peterson

Dr. Saturday
(Yahoo Sports)
(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, Week 10

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It’s hard to believe it’s already mid-November.

The season has flown by and it won’t be long until Heisman voters begin receiving their ballots (they went out Monday, Nov. 21 in 2016). With the regular season winding down, the Heisman picture is really taking shape.

There’s a clear favorite, a handful of contenders lingering not far behind and a few who have fallen by the wayside after strong starts to the season.

Let’s take a look at where we are after Week 11:

1. Baker Mayfield, QB, Oklahoma: As Oklahoma inches closer to a spot in the top four of the College Football Playoff rankings, Mayfield is leading the way. Mayfield was on point once again in the Sooners’ 38-20 win over No. 6 TCU on Saturday, completing 18-of-27 passes for 333 yards and three touchdowns. Each of his touchdowns came in the first half as OU jumped out to a huge lead over the Horned Frogs, the team with the best pass defense in the Big 12. Mayfield made it look easy against the TCU defense and also had 50 yards rushing in the win.

Mayfield leads the country in completion percentage (71.2), yards per completion (16.7), yards per attempt (11.9) and quarterback rating (202.1), is second in passing yards (3,559) and passing yards per game (355.9) and third in touchdowns (31). He can widen the gap between himself and the rest of the field in the coming weeks against lowly Kansas and 7-3 West Virginia before the Sooners likely compete in the Big 12 Championship Game on Dec. 2.

2. Bryce Love, RB, Stanford: Playing on an injured ankle, Bryce Love played a big role in Stanford’s upset victory over Washington on Friday night in a game that probably had more eyes on it than the average #Pac12AfterDark affair. He had only 43 yards on 13 carries in the first half against the steady UW defense, but exploded in the second half, finishing with 166 yards and three touchdowns on 30 carries. He nearly doubled what UW’s defense allowed per game on the ground to that point in the season. Despite having 48 fewer carries, Love, now with 1,622 yards moved back in front of San Diego State’s Rashaad Penny for the FBS rushing lead.

Because of its win over Washington, Stanford, despite having three losses, can win the Pac-12 North with a win over Cal and a Washington State loss to Washington. A big performance in the Pac-12 title game could pay dividends for Love’s Heisman candidacy.

3. Jonathan Taylor, RB, Wisconsin: Taylor is having one of the best freshman rushing seasons in college football history and it could end up being *the* best freshman rushing season in college football history. With 1,525 rushing yards on 219 carries in 10 games, Taylor is 400 yards away from Adrian Peterson’s record from his 2004 season at Oklahoma, when he rushed for 1,925 yards in 13 games. In fact, Taylor is ahead of Peterson’s pace from 2004. Through 10 games, Peterson rushed for 1,431 yards on 245 carries.

With Wisconsin guaranteed for at least four more games (and possibly more), Peterson’s record is in serious jeopardy. Yeah, Taylor is the real deal.

(Peterson has the official record; UW fans would argue it belongs to Ron Dayne (2,109 in 1996), but that was before bowl games were included in stats for some reason.)

In the Badgers’ win over Iowa on Saturday, Taylor rushed for 157 yards on 29 carries. It was the fifth-best game of his remarkable season (249, 223, 219, 283), but he did fumble twice, losing one. He’ll need to make sure that doesn’t happen as the Badgers march toward the postseason.

4. Lamar Jackson, QB, Louisville: It’s becoming increasingly clear that Lamar Jackson deserves another trip to New York City for the Heisman ceremony, despite Louisville’s lackluster season. Jackson helped the Cardinals clinch bowl eligibility over the weekend in a win over Virginia, accumulating 195 passing yards, 147 rushing yards and four total touchdowns. The fact that those yardage totals are below average statistics for Jackson shows what an incredible career he has had.

Oh, 342 total yards and 4 TDs? No big deal, right? Wrong. Those totals put him in a category of his ow in NCAA history. Jackson is now the only player in NCAA history to pass for 3,000 yards and rush for 1,000 yards in consecutive seasons. Jackson is up to 3,003 yards and 21 touchdowns passing (with a 60.2 completion percentage, up from 56.2 in 2016) and 1,176 yards and 15 touchdowns rushing through 10 games. With a bowl game now guaranteed (assuming he plays), he could end up with a better stats than his Heisman-winning year (3,543 yards and 30 TDs passing; 1,571 yards and 21 touchdowns rushing).

The dude is special.

5. Khalil Tate, QB, Arizona: Tate’s rushing totals continue to be ridiculous. With 206 yards in the win over Oregon State, Tate now has 1,207 yards (1,293 total at 11.6 yards per carry) and 11 touchdowns in six games as a starter. Better yet, the Wildcats are 5-1 in games Tate has started.

Tate is not a great passer (998 yards, 8 TDs, 6 INT), but he hasn’t needed to throw a whole lot to win. He has proven he can hit the deep ball, but has inconsistent accuracy. It’s something he’ll need to work on heading into his junior season, when he’ll surely be in the Heisman mix yet again. But it’s looking like he will be on the outside looking in this year (though he could find his way in New York with a few more ridiculous games).

Also considered:

Saquon Barkley, RB, Penn State: It’s been a struggle for Penn State to get the ball to Barkley with any room to run over the past month. It doesn’t mean he isn’t a great player, he’s still probably the best all-around offensive threat in the country, but it’s cost him a great chance at the Heisman. Barkley, with 899 rushing yards on the year, has a combined 142 rushing yards over PSU’s last three games, though he did twice reach the end zone in the win over Rutgers. He’ll likely cross the 1,000-yard mark as PSU finishes out the regular season against Nebraska and Maryland.

Mason Rudolph, QB, Oklahoma State: The only quarterback with more yards than Baker Mayfield is Oklahoma State’s Mason Rudolph. With his 376-yard, three-touchdown effort in the close win over Iowa State, Rudolph has 3,690 passing yards and 30 touchdowns. He’s having a great season.

Rashaad Penny, RB, San Diego State: SDSU had a bye last week, so Love surged ahead of him for the FBS rushing lead. In his last two games against Hawaii and San Jose State, Penny combined for 487 yards, giving him 1,602 on the year.

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

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