After nine weeks of play, the Heisman race has been narrowed down greatly and we all know the few players most likely to get the invite to New York. This does not mean, however, that we should overlook the dark horses that could still play their way to an invite.
1. Lamar Jackson, Quarterback, Louisville. The heavy favorite in the betting market, and for good reason. He’s responsible for 38 touchdowns entering this weekend, and here’s another unbelievable stat: he’s averaging nearly a first down per passing attempt. With Boston College and Wake Forest the next two weeks, there shouldn’t be any issues. Then there’s a date with Houston on November 17, an opportunity to show out yet again on a national stage. With Louisville inching closer to a possible playoff berth, the only thing that can seemingly derail him is an injury or a loss (or maybe even two).
2. DeShaun Watson, Quarterback, Clemson. He’s the consensus second choice right now, and there isn’t a lot of time left to make a statement. Clemson closes with 4 below-average teams before the ACC title game, so last week’s win vs Florida State was the last real game on a national stage for a month. Also, Clemson’s balance (they have the #1 defense in the conference and a strong running game led by Wayne Gallman) is most likely acting as a detriment to Watson because he doesn’t have to do it all himself for the team to be successful. If he continues to put up strong numbers, and Lamar Jackson and Louisville slip up, the race could tighten.
3. Dalvin Cook, Running Back, Florida State. He couldn’t have played any better in the loss to Clemson on Saturday: 169 yards and four touchdowns. That performance is also the 5th game in a row he’s gone over 100 yards. His biggest issue is that the two players ahead of him have more notoriety and both of their teams beat the Seminoles this season. He does have one more chance on a big stage against a possible top-10 Florida team later this season.
4. James Conner, Running Back, Pittsburgh. Because who doesn’t love a great comeback? By now you most likely know the story: While rehabbing a knee injury, doctors diagnosed him with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. He made a full recovery, returned this season, and last week rushed for 141 yards and three touchdowns against a good Virginia Tech team, his most complete performance since his return. He has now scored 12 total TD’s this season, second only to Lamar Jackson in the ACC. He has two tough games coming up, at Miami, and then at Clemson, the #1 ranked defense in the conference. If he plays well against those two teams, his stock can go way up.
5. Eric Dungey and Amba Etta-Tawo, Syracuse. The Heisman race is pretty much restricted to three players in terms of the ACC, but it’s hard to overlook what has happened to the Syracuse offense, especially with Dungey and Etta-Tawo performing at such a high level. Here, we will give credit to both players, understanding the relative insignificance of the 5th spot on the list at this late point in the season. We know that they would not both be invited, but Dungey and Etta-Tawo lead the conference in passing yards and receiving yards, respectively, and this cannot be left unmentioned. In Etta-Tawo’s case, he is more than 300 yards ahead of the next player. Syracuse will unfortunately get Clemson Saturday, which means tough sledding for the high-octane attack, but these two could make a final push for a call to New York with a big performance.