I've gained clearance from Jim Miesle who has agreed that the time has passed for too much early hype in the Heisman race. We're well into the thick of conference play and a collection of the nation's best playmakers has emerged for the award Manti Te'o finished 2nd for back in 2012.
How am I ranking the players? I'm going by what I think are the odds of the player actually winning the Heisman not necessarily who would win the award right this very second. Let's get it.
No. 15 Greg Ward, QB, Houston
The Cougars are currently 7-0 and one of the favorites to win the AAC. They might not stay undefeated but if they do Greg Ward is one of the best dual-threat quarterbacks in the country. He's over 1,700 passing yards with almost 700 rushing yards to go with 25 total touchdowns and only 2 interceptions.
No. 14 Josh Doctson, WR, TCU
With the unfortunate neck injury to Baylor quarterback Seth Russell it's the Horned Frogs as the only school with 2 players on my list. Doctson has been overshadowed a little bit by another Big 12 receiver below but he's already put up a great season for a receiver in just 7 games: 60 receptions, 1,067 yards, and 12 touchdowns. His quarterback likely prevents him from winning or even being invited, though.
No. 13 Dak Prescott, QB, Mississippi State
Prescott went from a prime candidate in the middle of last year, to a darkhorse this off-season, to an afterthought a few weeks into 2015. While the Bulldogs already have 2 losses in the division Prescott still has a chance if they keep winning and some carnage happens within the SEC. He's coming off a 465-yard, 6 touchdown performance this weekend and has 21 total touchdowns to just 1 interception on the season.
No. 12 Baker Mayfield, QB, Oklahoma
With Russell's injury it opens the door to Mayfield who admittedly is coming off a modest performance in a blowout over Texas Tech this weekend. He hasn't been overshadowed by teammate Samaje Perine and has 21 touchdown passes to just 4 picks. The trio of games to finish the regular season (@ Baylor, TCU, @ Okie State) will provide a great opportunity to move up the rankings.
No. 11 Dalvin Cook, RB, Florida State
Cook's odds just shot down this past weekend thanks to this...
He was also held under 100 yards rushing for the third time this season and his lingering hamstring injury casts some doubt on his ability to finish the season strong, plus he missed most of the Wake Forest game. Still, Cook has a pair of 200+ yard games and a strong resume: 1,037 rushing yards, 8.17 average, and 12 total scores. Road games at Clemson and Florida coming up offer high visibility for Heisman moments.
No. 10 C.J. Prosise, RB, Notre Dame
I'll slide our own Prosise ahead of Cook based on some momentum and having a better loss so far. Obviously, we know how special the season has been for him and the numbers are there too with 922 rushing yards, 7.15 average, 1,141 yards from scrimmage, and 12 total touchdowns. Will Fuller could steal some Heisman moments, although Prosise has been the better player so far in 2015.
No. 9 Connor Cook, QB, Michigan State
Until this past week the Spartans offense had been so-so and finally went over 40 points for the first time in a 52-26 win over Indiana. Cook's inaccuracy (57.5% completions) has really hurt him as he's 37th nationally in passer rating despite 17 touchdown passes and only 2 interceptions. But as long as Michigan State is undefeated Cook will remain in the race. He hasn't done anything to lose the Heisman yet which sometimes is just as important as impressing everyone. The matchup with Ohio State will provide a boost to his resume.
No. 8 Paxton Lynch, QB, Memphis
Memphis is averaging 48.9 points per game (3rd nationally) and it's mostly due to the 6'7" Paxton Lynch. He barely played in Memphis' opener as they dominated Southwest Missouri State and over his last 6 games is averaging 381 passing yards. He's got a few quality wins already, led by the upset over Ole Miss. His ability to pad his resume in big games won't be as great as some other players but an undefeated Memphis faces the top 3 teams in their conference coming up late in the season. With 17 touchdown passes and only 1 interception there will be a nice campaign if the stats and wins continue.
No. 7 Derrick Henry, RB, Alabama
Alabama remains firmly in the National Title race and that means their top offensive player is a prime candidate for the Heisman. Henry, whose numbers exceed Mark Ingram's Heisman campaign through this point in the season, is coming off 2 more touchdowns this past weekend against Tennessee, including the game-winner with 2:24 left in the game.
Things that go together: PB & J. Batman & Robin. Beating Tennessee & cigars. (via Derrick Henry/Instagram) pic.twitter.com/zH0Zu7hkGG— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) October 25, 2015
Henry is up to 1,044 rushing yards, 5.80 average, with 14 touchdowns. After a bye week coming up a major showdown with LSU is going to be a huge tipping point for Henry's Heisman resume.
No. 6 Corey Coleman, WR, Baylor
Last year Colorado State's Rashard Higgins led the country with 17 receiving touchdowns. Alabama's Amari Cooper was a Heisman finalist with 16 receiving touchdowns. Corey Coleman already has 18 receiving touchdowns in 7 games this season. It'll be interesting to see how the loss of quarterback Seth Russell affects his production but if he continues to score 2 to 3 touchdowns per game, with OU, Oklahoma State, TCU, and Texas to finish the season, it'll be hard to keep Coleman out of the finalists.
No. 5 Christian McCaffrey, RB, Stanford
McCaffrey got off to a slow start (124 yards versus Northwestern and UCF) but over his last 5 games has gained at least 100 rushing yards in each contest. He's been the focal point of a Stanford offense that has hit its stride and looks to be the favorite to win the Pac-12 right now. McCaffrey's biggest selling point right is his 259.7 all-purpose yards which leads the country by a healthy 30 yards per game. Stanford's schedule isn't as strong down the stretch as thought during the pre-season but he'll have the Notre Dame game plus a possible Pac-12 title game to impress voters.
No. 4 Deshaun Watson, QB, Clemson
Clemson had a really quiet early season but after besting the Irish they've gone on to soundly defeat 3 teams in the ACC including handing Miami their worst loss in school history on Saturday. With the loss by the Seminoles the Tigers have moved to the top of the ACC and get to host Florida State in a couple weeks. Watson has thrown too many interceptions (7 through Saturday) but is on pace for almost 2,900 passing yards, 616 rushing yards, and 33 total touchdowns. Statistically, probably not enough to win unless Clemson stays undefeated through the ACC Title Game and he delivers some special moments.
No. 3 Ezekiel Elliott, RB, Ohio State
The Buckeyes offense has sputtered at times this year but the same can't be said for Ezekiel Elliott. He's rushed for at least 100 yards in every game this year (currently on a 13-game streak stretching back to last year) and is 3rd nationally heading into this weekend with 1,130 yards. With 13 rushing scores Elliott will surely be approaching the 20 touchdown mark at the end of the season when Michigan State, Michigan, and the Big Ten Title Game come knocking.
No. 2 Trevone Boykin, QB, TCU
With the injury to Seth Russell it's now Boykin who leads all Power 5 quarterbacks in passing touchdowns (25) and yards per attempt (10.2) while averaging a gaudy 362 passing yards per game. Oh yeah, and there's 440 rushing yards plus an additional 5 rushing scores on his resume already. Like all other Big 12 candidates he'll have plenty of opportunities late in the season to win the award. If TCU remains unbeaten Boykin is going to have a very, very strong case for the Heisman.
No. 1 Leonard Fournette, RB, LSU
I promised myself I wouldn't look at any other Heisman lists before writing. Then I took a quick look and I'd estimate about 40% of the national media already think Fournette has the Heisman in the bag.
Leonard Fournette = https://t.co/OvxNcIW4Nb— ESPN CollegeFootball (@ESPNCFB) October 19, 2015
I'm not going to argue with that. If the Tigers make the SEC Title Game and play 7 more games Fournette is on pace to set the NCAA single-season rushing record. Right now, he's averaging 45 more yards per game than anyone else in America. If LSU beats Alabama in a couple weeks and Fournette plays modestly well the award is over. Heck, he might be able to lose to the Tide and still win the award if he gains 125 yards and scores a couple times.