Heisman Watch: LSU QB Joe Burrow can begin his climb vs. Florida

Each week for the rest of the season, we will highlight the five players we think are the top Heisman Trophy contenders. The list could change weekly as new players emerge and the true candidates separate themselves from the pack.

Previously: Preseason, Week 5

Joe Burrow and the LSU offense keep on cruising.

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Burrow overcame an early interception to throw for 344 yards and five touchdowns in a 42-6 win over Utah State. Burrow also added 42 yards and a score on the ground, which improved the fifth-ranked Tigers’ record to 5-0.

In the win, Burrow added to his Heisman resumé by becoming the first LSU quarterback to throw for more than 300 yards in four straight games.

Burrow already has a tremendous road performance in a win over Texas under his belt this season, but he can do much, much more to vault up the radar of Heisman voters in the coming weeks. LSU’s schedule is about to ramp up significantly, beginning this coming weekend when No. 7 Florida visits Death Valley.

Florida is on the heels of an impressive 24-13 win over previously unbeaten Auburn. UF’s defense limited Auburn to just 269 yards and forced four turnovers. Burrow is in for a serious test against the Gators and against Auburn, now ranked No. 12, and No. 1 Alabama in the coming weeks.

The senior will have plenty of chances to let the nation know he is one of the best quarterbacks in college football.

(Paul Rosales/Yahoo Sports)
(Paul Rosales/Yahoo Sports)

1. Jalen Hurts, QB, Oklahoma

Jalen Hurts had another big game for Oklahoma. Even after a bit of a slow start, the Sooners cruised to a 45-20 win over Kansas in Lawrence on Saturday. Hurts completed 16 of 24 passes for 228 yards while adding 56 yards rushing. He had four total touchdowns — two through the air and two on the ground — in the win.

For the year, Hurts is up to 1,523 yards and 14 touchdowns passing with 499 yards and seven scores rushing. His completion percentage, 75.2, ranks No. 5 in the nation. Hurts and the Sooners, now 5-0 and ranked No. 6 in the nation, have a big one this weekend as Hurts gets his first taste of the Red River Rivalry against No. 11 Texas in Dallas — a game that could have a major impact on the Big 12 title race. It’s a game that will be Hurts’ biggest test in an OU uniform, too. A stellar outing on a big stage would do be a big boost for his Heisman candidacy.

(Last week: 1)

2. Tua Tagovailoa, QB, Alabama

The top-ranked Crimson Tide had a Week 6 bye, giving Tua Tagovailoa and the offense some extra time to prepare for the 12th Man at No. 24 Texas A&M. At 3-2, the Aggies have been a bit underwhelming to this point, but the trip to Kyle Field will be the toughest test of the season so far for Tagovailoa.

In five games, Tagovailoa — last year’s Heisman runner-up — has completed 113-of-148 passes (76.4 percent) for 1,718 yards and 23 touchdowns without an interception. His 23 TDs lead the country while his yardage and completion percentage both rank fourth.

(Last week: 2)

3. Joe Burrow, QB, LSU

Burrow continues to feast on overmatched defenses. Following his performance against Utah State, Burrow is up to 1,864 yards and 22 touchdown passes on the season. The yardage is second in the country, behind only Washington State’s Anthony Gordon. Burrow and Gordon are second behind Tagovailoa in TD tosses.

Perhaps most impressive about Burrow’s output this season has been his efficiency and accuracy. Burrow is completing 78.4 percent of his passes, best in the nation. And it’s not like these are dink-and-dunk throws, either. His 11.5 yards per attempt is fourth-highest in the country. But now he has his biggest challenge yet going against the Florida defense, which is allowing only 183.4 passing yards per game.

(Last week: 3)

Through six weeks, LSU quarterback Joe Burrow is second in the country with 1,864 passing yards. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)
Through six weeks, LSU quarterback Joe Burrow is second in the country with 1,864 passing yards. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)

4. Jonathan Taylor, RB, Wisconsin

Kent State isn’t exactly the best competition, but it’s hard not to notice a performance like Jonathan Taylor had on Saturday. In a 48-0 win, Taylor scored five touchdowns — four rushing and one on an 18-yard pass from Jack Coan late in the first half. His four scores on the ground went six, 19, four and 48 yards. In all, Taylor went for 186 yards on 19 carries.

Through five games, Taylor has 745 yards and 12 touchdowns on 103 attempts — an average of 7.23 yards per carry. Taylor has had at least 100 yards in every game for the undefeated Badgers. Wisconsin has scored on every opening drive this season, all ending with Taylor TD runs.

(Last week: 5)

5. J.K. Dobbins, RB, Ohio State

J.K. Dobbins has rounded back into the explosive form he showcased as a freshman. Last year, Dobbins rushed for 350 fewer yards than he put up in 2017. Through six games in 2019, Dobbins looks better than ever. Dobbins has the top-end speed to break long runs any time he touches the ball, but he’s also the kind of back who is not afraid to barrel through defenders and break tackles.

In Saturday’s win over Michigan State, Dobbins rushed for 172 yards on 24 carries, including a 67-yard scoring burst late in the first half. It marked Dobbins’ third run of 50-plus yards so far this season. Dobbins is up to 826 yards (No. 2 nationally) and six scores on the year, and is averaging 7.12 yards per rush.

(Last week: Unranked)

Also considered:

Chuba Hubbard, RB, Oklahoma State: Oklahoma State is going to ride or die with Chuba Hubbard. After putting up 156 yards and three touchdowns on 34 carries in a disappointing loss to Texas Tech, Hubbard leads the nation in rushing yards (1,094), rushing touchdowns (13) and attempts (162). Among the 18 FBS backs with at least 100 carries, Hubbard’s 6.8-yard average ranks third behind only Taylor and Dobbins.

Justin Fields, QB, Ohio State: For the first time at Ohio State, Justin Fields had some shaky moments. In the first quarter of the 34-10 win over Michigan State, Fields was just 3-of-6 passing for just 16 yards. He was also sacked twice in that span before getting settled on OSU’s first drive of the second quarter — a drive that culminated with a 60-yard touchdown pass to a wide-open Binjimen Victor. Fields finished the night 17-of-25 for 206 yards, two scores and his first interception of the year.

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