Heisman statement: Louisville quarterback Lamar Jackson (8) during 1st half action between the Clemson Tigers and the Louisville Cardinals at Memorial Stadium in Clemson, SC. (Photo by Doug Buffington/ Icon Sportswire).
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Smoke signals: Quarterbacks lead Heisman race

Photo by Doug Buffington/Icon Sportswire

As the Heisman Trophy race careens toward mid-October, it looks like a diverse, crowded competition.

Some preseason favorites are asserting themselves, while others are fading a bit. It’s still extremely early, so anything can happen.

After all, the 82nd Heisman Trophy won’t be presented until Dec. 10. There’s lot of football to played and some especially meaningful games are set for this weekend.

My top five:

1. LOUISVILLE QB LAMAR JACKSON: Yes, the Cardinals were defeated by Clemson in an epic 42-36 ACC showdown. That outcome really doesn’t matter in the case of Jackson’s Heisman candidacy. He remained singularly brilliant — even in a loss — and his offensive numbers continue to astound. He’s still the front-runner.

THE LATEST: Jackson did everything at Clemson — except win the game.
He was 27 of 44 for 295 yards, one touchdown and one interception. He rushed 31 times for 162 yards and two touchdowns.

For the season, Jackson has accounted for 28 touchdowns. He has completed 59.4 percent of his passes for 1,625 yards, 14 touchdowns and four interceptions. He has rushed for 688 yards (7.5 yards per carry) and 14 scores.

NEXT UP: The Cardinals (4-1) have an off-week —and we could use a break to clear our minds and further contemplate Jackson’s assault on college football — before the Duke Blue Devils (2-3) visit for a Friday night game on Oct. 14.

Heisman surge: Clemson quarterback Deshaun Watson (4) runs the ball during 2nd half action between the Clemson Tigers and the Louisville Cardinals at Memorial Stadium in Clemson, SC. (photo by Doug Buffington/Icon Sportswire).

Heisman surge: Clemson quarterback Deshaun Watson (4) runs the ball during 2nd half action between the Clemson Tigers and the Louisville Cardinals at Memorial Stadium in Clemson, SC. (photo by Doug Buffington/Icon Sportswire).

2. CLEMSON QB DESHAUN WATSON: Many people thought Watson, who guided Clemson to a national runner-up finish in 2015, was the preseason Heisman Trophy favorite. He had an okay four-game stretch in September — nothing startling — but the victory against Louisville has put him on an upward trajectory.

THE LATEST: Watson had his second consecutive 300-yard passing game, going 20 of 31 for 306 yards with five touchdowns and three interceptions against Louisville. He also had his best rushing game this season (14 carries for 91 yards).

For the season, Watson has completed 60.8 percent of his passes for 14 touchdowns and seven interceptions. He has rushed 49 times for 211 yards (9.3-yard average).

NEXT UP: Clemson (5-0) goes to Boston College (3-2) on Friday night, giving a Watson an opportunity for more focused exposure.

3. OHIO STATE QB J.T. BARRETT: He already has some experience in this competition. In 2014, after producing 45 total touchdowns but fracturing his ankle in the regular-season finale against Michigan, Barrett finished fifth in the Heisman Trophy voting. Barrett could only watch as Ohio State won the national championship, then found himself in a QB rotation with Cardale Jones last season. Now he’s back as the unquestioned starter.

THE LATEST: In a 58-0 win against Rutgers, Barrett was 21 of 29 for 238 yards, four touchdowns and one interception. For the season, Barrett has completed 68.6 percent of his passes for 888 yards, 14 touchdowns and two interceptions. He has also rushed 44 times for 205 yards and three touchdowns.

NEXT UP: Ohio State (5-0) faces Indiana (3-1) on Saturday as Big Ten play continues.

4. HOUSTON QB GREG WARD JR: The buzz over Houston and Ward has cooled somewhat since the season-opening victory against Oklahoma, but the Cougars have a shot at an unbeaten regular season — there’s a Nov. 17 visit by Louisville — and that should keep him in the hunt.

THE LATEST: In a home victory against Connecticut, Ward was 32 of 38 for 389 yards and three touchdowns. He also rushed 12 times for 65 yards, a season-high. For the season, Ward has completed 70.7 percent of his passes for 1,325 yards, eight touchdowns and two interceptions. He has five rushing touchdowns, but hasn’t really gotten had a huge rushing game.

NEXT UP: Houston (5-0) travels to Navy (3-1) on Saturday for what should be one of its most competitive American Athletic Conference games.

5. STANFORD RB CHRISTIAN MCCAFFREY: McCaffrey and Stanford took a big hit, losing 44-6 at Washington last Friday night, but it would be unwise to dismiss McCaffrey — or Stanford, for that matter. Last season, McCaffrey set an NCAA record for all-purpose yards (3,864). He continues to show an ability to affect the game by rushing, receiving, returning kicks and even passing.

THE LATEST: Washington did a sound job containing McCaffrey from scrimmage. He rushed 12 times for 49 yards and caught five passes for 30 yards. He had a productive game on kickoff returns with 144 yards on five attempts, giving him 223 all-purpose yards. In four games this season, McCaffrey has 858 all-purpose yards.

NEXT UP: Stanford (3-1) continues its Pac-12 Conference slate on Saturday by hosting Washington State (2-2).

NEXT FIVE: North Carolina QB Mitch Trubisky, San Diego State RB Donnel Pumphery, Florida State RB Dalvin Cook, Miami QB Brad Kaaya, LSU RB Leonard Fournette.

HEISMAN TRIVIA: Notre Dame’s Paul Hornung was the only player to win the Heisman while playing for a losing team. The 1956 Fighting Irish were 2-8.

Smoke signals: Quarterbacks lead Heisman race
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