- 1. Lamar Jackson, Louisville quarterback
- 2016: 1,625 passing yards, 688 rushing yards, 28 total touchdowns
Jackson did not accumulate a single yard or touchdown in week six. Instead, his Louisville Cardinals took a bye week following a heartbreaking loss to Clemson on Oct. 1. Even with a blemish on his team’s record, Jackson’s 2016 has been phenomenal. The sophomore ranks 19th in the nation in passing yards, 10th in rushing yards (first among quarterbacks) and has only played five games.
Jackson has created himself a habitat in end zones, leading the nation with 14 rushing touchdowns—the next closest is 10. The Heisman frontrunner will captain the top-ranked Louisville offense—58 points per game—against Duke this Friday.
- 2. Jabrill Peppers, Michigan outside linebacker
- 2016: 249 punt return yards, 10 tackles for loss, 3 total touchdowns
Peppers has been the epitome of versatility this season. In Michigan’s 78-0 annihilation of Rutgers, Peppers shined with two tackles, 74 rushing yards and two touchdowns. In the early stages of the demolition, Peppers returned one of Rutgers’ 16 punts 44 yards for another score, but it was negated due to a penalty. Even with that score wiped, the junior playmaker still leads the nation in punt return yardage.
He has two sacks and plays a steady role in a Michigan defense that allows a nation-best 10.3 points per contest.
As one of the few that makes an impact on offense, defense and special teams, Peppers is writing a solid résumé to become the first defensive Heisman winner since fellow Wolverine Charles Woodson in 1997.
- 3. Deshaun Watson, Clemson quarterback
- 2016: 1,572 passing yards, 244 rushing yards, 18 passing touchdowns
Watson earned a trip to New York for the ceremony in 2015, but got off to a rocky start this season.
But with a statement victory over then-No. 3 Louisville, Watson has fired himself into college football’s elite once again.
The junior passed for a season-high 306 yards, rushed for 91 yards and scored five touchdowns in week five against the Cardinals and followed through against Boston College last Thursday night. In the 56-10 win over the Eagles, Watson produced 270 passing yards, four touchdowns and no interceptions.
This Saturday, he will face a rising North Carolina State squad, the same team he threw for 383 yards and five touchdowns against in 2015.
- 4. Jake Browning, Washington quarterback
- 2016: 1,418 passing yards, 23 passing touchdowns, 72.2 completion percentage
The sophomore torched the Pac-12 frontrunners of yesteryear in his last two games, beating Stanford and Oregon by a combined score of 114-27. In these contests, Browning threw nine touchdowns (six against Oregon) and zero interceptions. His impressive decision-making skills contribute to his 23-to-2 touchdown-to-interception ratio.
His Huskies average a 49.5 points per game, the fifth-best mark in the nation, and are the clear Pac-12 favorites at midseason. Browning does not take the field again until a week eight matchup with Oregon State.