Give this to Lamar Jackson: He’s at the very least making things interesting.The Louisville sophomore quarterback is still the clear leader in this Heisman Trophy race — and, if we’re being honest, he’s the only player with a legitimate chance to win — but back-to-back losses, and the timing of those setbacks, have given his challengers hope.
Jackson and the No. 13 Cardinals are sitting home this weekend awaiting word on their bowl fate while on the final weekend before ballots are due, No. 4 Washington’s Jake Browning, No. 1 Alabama’s Jalen Hurts, No. 9 Oklahoma’s Baker Mayfield and Dede Westbrook, and No. 3 Clemson’s Deshaun Watson are all playing.
It’s a stage that Jackson won’t have, and it’s one that has been key to Heisman pushes in recent years. In the past nine seasons, only two players have won that didn’t take the field on that final weekend. While that bit of history may seem to benefit those chasing him, there’s also this: Those two winners were Florida’s Tim Tebow (2007) and Texas A&M’s Johnny Manziel (2012), two of the three Power 5 players who had amassed 20 touchdowns passing and 20 rushing in the same season (the other was Auburn’s Cam Newton in 2010).
In last weekend’s loss to Kentucky, Jackson joined that club. Considering the lead he’d built up, and that no player is truly in position to knock him off amid setbacks vs. the Wildcats and Houston, Jackson is in line to join the club that Tebow and Manziel later joined with his own Heisman Trophy.
But that doesn’t mean that the players in action can’t do their part to eat into Jackson’s lead by giving voters a strong closing argument.
Instead of breaking down those who will rise and fall this week, let’s instead look at who can make the most of this weekend and whether they’ll be in or out to earn an invite to New York.
Remember, there is no set number on the amount of finalists — with as many as six and as few as three since they began inviting players in 1982 — it’s set on the natural break in points accumulated. No. 2 Ohio State’s J.T. Barrett, No. 12 Florida State’s Dalvin Cook, Texas’ D’Onta Foreman, No. 18 Stanford’s Christian McCaffrey and No. 5 Michigan’s Jabrill Peppers could factor in — and we’ll get into which of them, if any, can make the ceremony — but these are the players with the most to gain this weekend.