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Heisman race a stagnant chase: leaders still in place

Dan Sanger/Icon Sportswire

It feels like we’re waiting for the next shoe to drop in the Heisman Trophy race… or maybe it resembles the 102nd lap at a NASCAR race. There’s plenty of action, but not much is changing.

The only real movement involves some of the bigger names in the preseason — is that you down there, Mr. Fournette and Mr. McCaffrey? — while the perceived leaders have seemingly settled into a rhythm.

Let’s not forget the bottom line here. There’s a lot of football to be played before the 82nd Heisman Trophy is presented on Dec. 10.

My top five:

1. LOUISVILLE QB LAMAR JACKSON: When the Cardinals defeated Duke by the pedestrian score of 24-14, there was shock. There was horror.

True, Louisville was a 35-point favorite, but it was just one of those games. Jackson had 144 yards rushing and 181 yards passing, along with two touchdowns… and it was perceived that he had a BAD performance.

Jackson has set the bar that high.

He’s fine. In fact, he’s better than fine.

He’s still my Heisman favorite.

THE LATEST: For the season, Jackson has accounted for 30 touchdowns — 15 passing, 15 rushing. He should easily join the 20/20 club of Florida’s Tim Tebow (2007), Auburn’s Cam Newton (2010) and Texas A&M’s Johnny Manziel (2012). Note: Each of them won the Heisman.

Jackson has completed 58.2 percent of his passes for 1,806 yards, 15 touchdowns and four interceptions. He has rushed for 829 yards and 15 scores.

NEXT UP: Louisville (5-1) hosts N.C. State (4-2), which nearly upset Clemson, but fell 24-17 in overtime.

Heisman uncertainty: 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 uncertainty: 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: Watson was a clear preseason Heisman favorite, based on his outstanding 2015 campaign, when he led the Tigers to a national runner-up finish. He has done a good job — not a great one yet — but the quarterback of a national-championship hopeful will generally be in the Heisman hunt.

THE LATEST: Watson was forced into the passing game and largely delivered during a 24-17 overtime victory against N.C. State. He was 39 of 52 passing for 378 yards, two touchdowns and one interception. He also rushed for 35 yards and one score.

For the season, Watson has completed 63.6 percent of his passes for 20 touchdowns and eight interceptions. He has rushed 71 times for 274 yards.

NEXT UP: Clemson (7-0) has a bye week before traveling to Florida State (5-2) in what was supposed to be the ACC’s ultimate game this season. FSU’s struggles have taken away some shine, but it’s still a very big game.

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 he found himself in a QB rotation with Cardale Jones last season. Now he’s back as the unquestioned starter.

THE LATEST: In a 30-23 overtime victory at Wisconsin, Barrett tossed the 7-yard winning touchdown pass to receiver Noah Brown. Overall, Barrett was 17 of 29 for 226 yards, with one touchdown and one interception. For the season, he has completed 63.2 percent of his passes for 16 touchdowns and four interceptions. Barrett, who ran 21 times for 92 yards and two touchdowns against the Badgers, also has made a significant impact in rushing (91 carries, 434 yards, six touchdowns).

NEXT UP: Ohio State (6-0) travels to Penn State (4-2). The Buckeyes are seeking their 21st consecutive true road game victory.

4. WASHINGTON QB JAKE BROWNING: Browning had a decent freshman season for the Huskies and he was among those “others to watch’’ in the preseason Heisman race, but thunderous victories against Stanford and Oregon have placed him front and center.

THE LATEST: Washington had a bye week. For the season, Browning has completed 72.2 percent of his passes for 23 touchdowns and just two interceptions.

NEXT UP: Washington (6-0) will host Pac-12 Conference opponent Oregon State (2-4).

5. FLORIDA STATE RB DALVIN COOK: Cook was one of the preseason Heisman favorites after a 1,691-yard rushing season in 2015 (that somehow did not earn him a trip to New York).
After some light rushing activity through most of September, Cook has seemingly hit his rhythm.

THE LATEST: Following three stellar games of all-purpose yardage — 329 yards against USF, 246 against North Carolina and 209 against Miami — Cook rushed for 115 yards against Wake Forest. He has rushed for 900 yards in seven games.

NEXT UP: FSU (5-2) has a bye week before hosting ACC Atlantic Division front-runner Clemson (7-0) on Oct. 29.

NEXT FIVE: Michigan LB/DB Jabrill Peppers, San Diego State RB Donnel Pumphery, Houston QB Greg Ward Jr., Oklahoma QB Baker Mayfield, Stanford RB Christian McCaffrey.

HEISMAN TRIVIA: The last Heisman winner to not play in a bowl game was Houston QB Andre Ware (1989). The Cougars were on probation.

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