Press Box Perspective: Heisman Hopefuls

By Seth Rivello

The 2017 college football season has finally kicked off and it was a very satisfying first weekend to say the least. Yes, there were some blowouts, but a handful of games went down to the wire. Before the season, I always pick my one Heisman Trophy favorite but this year it feels like a four or five guy toss-up.

The Heisman Memorial Trophy (usually known colloquially as the Heisman Trophy or The Heisman), is awarded annually to the most outstanding player in college football in the United States whose performance best exhibits the pursuit of excellence with integrity.

Last year’s Heisman winner, quarterback Lamar Jackson from the University of Louisville, put up great numbers against an always stale Purdue Boilermaker team on Saturday afternoon. Jackson completed 30 passes for 378 yards and two touchdowns in a 35-28 scrape-by win.

His arm wasn’t the only thing that helped Louisville as he led the team in carries with 21 and rushing yards with 107. Jackson is a Swiss Army knife player which is what Heisman voters love to see. If he can post another 5,000-plus-yard season with over 50 touchdowns like he did last season, he’ll be the first player since Ohio State’s Archie Griffin to win back-to-back Heismans.

The Penn State Nittany Lions’ workhorse running back, Saquon Barkley, got no respect last year in the Heisman voting. This year, he’s on everyone’s radar. His 2016 campaign consisted of him coming two yards short of 1,900 total yards and totaling 22 touchdowns. On Saturday, the No. 6 ranked Nittany Lions’ took on the Akron Zips. The Zips were completely obliterated 52-0. Barkley only touched the ball 17 times but totaled 226 yards (172 rushing 54 receiving) and ran for two scores. Don’t be surprised if he does this week after week.

When December rolls around, Las Vegas might be very upset Barkley had 15-1 odds to win the Heisman.

The UCLA Bruins have been patiently waiting for quarterback, Josh Rosen, to break out for a couple years now and their wait might be over. The Texas A&M Aggies had its heads held high going into the third quarter of Saturday’s game with a 38-10 lead over UCLA. Rosen was cold the whole game until the fourth quarter began. In the fourth quarter alone, Rosen lit up A&M for 292 of his 491 passing yards and all four of his touchdowns, including the go-ahead TD strike that he threw with 43 seconds left in the game.

Rosen is a very up-and-down player and when he hits a low point, he hits hard. He has a lot of talent but sometimes his hard-headedness doesn’t let him put it to good use. Regardless, after this Week One showing, it doesn’t seem like he’s a dark horse to be in the Heisman race anymore. He could possibly be the first quarterback taken in next year’s NFL draft.

Lastly, the Oklahoma Sooners have had a gunslinger at quarterback for the past couple years now. Baker Mayfield has been putting up Heisman numbers ever since he put on the jersey in 2015. He has led the NCAA and Big-12 in multiple passing statistical categories. He led passing touchdowns, yards per attempt, passing efficiency rating, and total yards per play. Oklahoma played a cupcake team in the University of Texas- El Paso in Week One of the season.

Long story short, UTEP scored on the first drive and never again while Oklahoma went on to score eight more times for a score of 56-7. Mayfield went on to put up excellent numbers like he usually does. He went 19-for-20 for 329 yards and tossed three touchdowns. If Mayfield wants to stay in the Heisman race, he’ll have to show out next week as the Sooners travel into Columbus to take on The Ohio State Buckeyes. A big game for both sides.

All these players will need more great performances to keep up this pace.