Heisman Watch: My Top 3, who’s rising, who’s falling entering Week 8

I’m looking really hard. Trust me, I am. However, I simply can’t find an SEC player with a genuine chance to win the Heisman Trophy.

Some of the leading candidates back in preseason suit up for the best conference in America. The running back position in particular was supposed to be loaded, arguably as talented a crop as the league has ever produced.

But Leonard Fournette has been hurt. Nick Chubb has bounced back and forth between effective and not so much. Jalen Hurd hasn’t seemed right for most of the campaign. Unfortunately, the quarterbacks haven’t picked up the slack, either. Chad Kelly, another once-upon-a-time contender, sports a 3-3 record.

Is there a dark horse or two out there in the SEC capable of making a run at the stiffarm? Winning Saturday’s slugfest between Alabama and Texas A&M might bolster the résumé for Jalen Hurts or Trevor Knight, respectively.

Here’s how I’m handicapping the Heisman race thus far. A few names continue to separate themselves from the rest of the pack.

top 3

1. Louisville QB Lamar Jackson

Week 7: 13-26-181-1-0 passing, 21-144-1 rushing

2016: 114-196-1,806-15-4 passing, 113-832-15 rushing

Perhaps for the first time all season long, Jackson wasn’t the living embodiment of a video game gone wild.

Still, even in a 24-14 snoozer of a victory over Duke, Jackson threw for 181 yards and rushed for 144 more. He’s the 13th-most efficient passer in the country and fifth leading rusher in the land. Quite the dual threat indeed.

Despite being thought of as more runner than thrower, Jackson’s TD-to-INT ratio is approaching 4-to-1 through six games.

2. Ohio State QB J.T. Barrett

Week 6: 17-29-226-1-1 passing, 21-92-2 rushing

2016: 96-152-1,207-16-4 passing, 91-434-6 rushing

The Buckeyes struggled with Wisconsin in Week 7, but Barrett ran for 2 scores and threw for another to force overtime.

Oct 15, 2016; Madison, WI, USA; Ohio State Buckeyes quarterback J.T. Barrett (16) rushes with the football as Wisconsin Badgers linebacker T.J. Watt (42) dives from behind during the fourth quarter at Camp Randall Stadium. Ohio State won 30-23. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

Credit: Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

In the extra frame, he won the contest with a beauty of a back-shoulder fade to receiver Noah Brown from the 7-yard line. No matter the situation, Barrett exhibits a calm in the pocket and always seems to be in control.

With the Big Ten currently challenging the SEC for bragging rights among conferences, Barrett gets plenty of air time in high-profile games.

3. Florida State RB Dalvin Cook

Week 6: 25-115-0 rushing, 1-11-0 receiving

2016: 159-900-7 rushing, 21-356-1 receiving

For the second consecutive season, Cook appears to be getting overlooked by voters despite his week-to-week productivity.

Facing an underrated Wake Forest defense, Cook ran for 115 yards to make it four straight games over the century mark. He’s also proven to be a workhorse, getting no fewer than 25 carries per week during that stretch.

No player in the country has more yards from scrimmage than Cook’s 1,256. He averages 5.7 yards per carry and an even 17 per reception.

on the rise

San Diego State RB Donnel Humphrey

Doing his best Marshall Faulk impression for the Aztecs in 2016, Humphrey is the nation’s leading rusher by a wide margin with 1,111 yards. He’s run for 220 or more in half of his games and scored at least one TD in each.

It’s hard for non-Power 5 players to get attention. Unfortunately, Humphrey won’t face another Power 5 team the rest of the way, either.

Arkansas RB Rawleigh Williams III

Believe it or not, but Williams is the leading rusher in the SEC to this point with 785 yards in seven games. He’s coming off a 27-carry, 180-yard outing against an Ole Miss defensive front loaded with freakish athletes.

Oct 15, 2016; Fayetteville, AR, USA; Arkansas Razorbacks running back Rawleigh Williams III (22) scores a touchdown in the third quarter against the Ole Miss Rebels at Donald W. Reynolds Razorback Stadium. Arkansas defeated Ole Miss 34-30. Mandatory Credit: Nelson Chenault-USA TODAY Sports

Credit: Nelson Chenault-USA TODAY Sports

Williams has now rushed for 121 yards or more four times. He faces Auburn, Florida and LSU next, so the stage is set for him to shine.

USC QB Sam Darnold

Wrestling the job away from Max Browne in Week 4, Darnold has thrown 11 touchdowns against only 1 interception in his last three games. In each of his four starts, he’s completed at least 62.5 percent of his passes.

With Cal and Oregon up next, Darnold should continue to thrive. If he beats red-hot Washington after that, you never know.

falling fast

Clemson QB Deshaun Watson

Probably the No. 1 contender for the award coming into the season, Watson has been good. He hasn’t been great, though. In terms of efficiency, he’s only No. 37 nationally. His 20 TD passes have been watered down by 8 INTs.

His 2016 resembles Jameis Winston’s 2014, the year after he won it all. Watson has let mediocre competition hang around too long.

Georgia RB Nick Chubb

Chubb’s 222-yard performance in the season opener seems like an eternity ago. In the six games since, he’s only cracked triple digits once. He was a non-factor in last week’s loss to Vanderbilt: 40 yards on 16 attempts.

Oct 15, 2016; Athens, GA, USA; Georgia Bulldogs running back Nick Chubb (27) runs against Vanderbilt Commodores defensive end Jonathan Wynn (49) during the second half at Sanford Stadium. Vanderbilt defeated Georgia 17-16. Mandatory Credit: Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

Credit: Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

This guy averaged 7.1 yards per carry as a freshman and 8.1 as a sophomore. But as a post-knee injury junior, Chubb is down to 5.1.

BYU RB Jamaal Williams

The second-leading rusher in America coming into this past Friday’s showdown with Mississippi State, Williams was held to 76 yards on 26 carries. He also failed to find the end zone for the first time since Sept. 10.

Credit the Bulldogs defense for slowing Williams down dramatically. A national-TV audience couldn’t have been overly impressed with him.

John Crist is the senior writer for Saturday Down South, a member of the FWAA and a voter for the Heisman Trophy. Send him an e-mail, like him on Facebook or follow him on Twitter.

Source: Saturday Down South

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