Last season Lamar Jackson came outof nowhere to run away with the most prestigious award on college football: The Heisman Trophy, despite early-season favorites Deshaun Watson, Christian McCaffrey and Dalvin Cook all having good seasons.
[divider]CHURCHILL: Predicting the Champion of Every Power 5 Conference
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50 STATES: Best CFB Team in Every State
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COMPARISONS: Players | Teams[divider]
Who are this year's favorites? Darkhorses?
Lamar Jackson, QB — Louisville
Sam Darnold, QB — USC
Baker Mayfield, QB — Oklahoma
J.T. Barrett, QB — Ohio State
Saquon Barkley, RB — Penn State
Deondre Francois, QB — Florida State
Jake Browning, QB — Washington
Darnold is the hot name, Jackson is looking for back-to-back Heismans and Mayfield, Barrett, Browning and Francois all will be leading national contenders.
Barkley is in a tough spot as one of the favorites because he has another legit candidate on his team and Penn State likes to throw the football a lot.
The Next Group
Mason Rudolph, QB — Oklahoma State
Josh Rosen, QB — UCLA
Derrius Guice, RB — LSU
Jalen Hurts, QB — Alabama
Trace McSorley, QB — Penn State
Kamryn Pettway, RB — Auburn
Bo Scarbrough, RB — Alabama
Luke Falk, QB — Washington State
Derwin James, DB — Florida State
Jarrett Stidham, QB — Auburn
Hurts is at the helm of the nation's top program seeking another trip to the title game and may be a bigger part of why they return than he was a year ago as a freshman. Guice is out from underneath Leonard Fournette's shadow; a monster year gets him an invite to New York.
Falk's Cougars probably have to win two of three versus USC, Stanford and Washington for him to garner the necessary attention. James will have to make it clear he's the elite player in America with turnovers, scores and probably an undefeated season.
Nick Fitzgerald, QB — Mississippi State
Trayveon Williams, RB — Texas A&M
Christian Kirk, WR — Texas A&M
Justin Herbert, QB — Oregon
Myles Gaskin, RB — Washington
Ronald Jones II, RB — USC
Mike Weber, RB — Ohio State
Mark Walton, RB — Miami
Eric Dungey, QB — Syracuse
All of the above will put up numbers. Will there teams win enough to get them noticed? Weber's Buckeyes probably will, but he isn't starting the season as his team's top candidate. Same goes for Gaskin and Jones. Williams may be the most underrated back in the country and for my money is a better candidate than Kirk, an all-purpose player, who may not get enough touches to be considered strongly.
Dungey can really play but would have to go all Marshall Falk on the ACC to earn a spot in NYC. Walton has the talent to surprise some people and compile big games led by big plays in a big-time conference.
Fitzgerald is perhaps the most intriguing name here, though Williams isn't even listed in any sportsbook's Heisman odds, which may make him the more interesting wager.
Fitzgerald threw for 2,423 yards and 21 TDs last season and ran for another 1,375 and 16 TDs. Mississippi State probably needs a few signature wins with Fitzgerald leading the way, but he'll have those opportunities, namely a three-week stint early in the year:
The Bulldogs also visit Texas A&M October 28 and host No. 1 Alabama November 11.