The first week of the new College Football Playoff rankings set up some intriguing matchups on Saturday. The games provided opportunities for teams to pick up signature wins, but it was also a chance for the top Heisman Trophy candidates to solidify their credentials.
Some seized the moment, but others may have taken themselves out of the Heisman race for good.
Going into Saturday’s games here were the top-5 Heisman favorites, according to Bovada:
- Leonard Fournette (LSU) -225
- Trevonne Boykin (TCU) +500
- Ezekiel Elliot (Ohio State) +800
- Deshaun Watson (Clemson) +900
- Derrick Henry (Alabama) +1400
Then Saturday happened.
Heisman winners can survive bad games, but it won’t be easy for Fournette and Boykin to bounce back from subpar performances on Saturday.
Fournette rushed for 150 yards or more in every game this season until he ran into the stout Alabama defense. Another dominant outing would have made the award Fournette’s to lose, but the sophomore rushed for just 31 yards in a 30-16 loss to the Crimson Tide.
It didn’t help Fournette’s case that one of his main Heisman competitors, Henry, rushed for 210 yards and three touchdowns. Fournette has outgained Henry 1383-1254 in rushing yards this season, but beyond stats, team success and the coveted “Heisman moment” also come into play.
This was a chance for both players to go head-to-head and Henry emerged on top. If Alabama wins out, Henry will get another chance to to shine in the SEC Championship Game.
LSU would need Alabama to falter down the stretch to win the SEC West. If Fournette gets back on track next week, he will likely end up in New York as a finalist, but Alabama’s team success may give Henry the edge.
Much like Fournette, TCU quarterback Trevonne Boykin hurt his chances with a bad showing in a signature game. He threw four interceptions against No. 14 Oklahoma State as the Horned Frogs lost for the first time this season.
Despite the performance, Boykin is first in the country with 441.6 total yards per game. He has also accounted for 37 touchdowns. Still, TCU will likely have to win out and hope No. 4 Baylor is still undefeated when it plays the Horned Frogs in the last game of the season. Boykin needs a big performance on a major stage to beat out the other contenders.
Ohio State’s Ezekiel Elliot and Clemson’s Deshaun Watson both helped their cases this weekend.
Elliot rushed for 100 yards for the 14th consecutive game and scored a touchdown to help the Buckeyes beat Minnesota. Elliot will have his opportunity to make an impression on voters with games left against No. 7 Michigan State and No. 17 Michigan.
Watson is in an enviable position of playing on the No. 1 team in the country, but his numbers may not be good enough to get to New York. However, Clemson has a relatively weak schedule down the stretch, so Watson may be able to improve in that department.
The downside? Clemson’s win over Florida State Saturday was likely Watson’s last chance to pick up a signature win before the ACC Championship Game.
The last few weeks of the season will be crucial for the all of the Heisman candidates. A breakout game late in the season could be the difference, as we saw with Henry and Fournette on Saturday.
The Heisman race starts with the first snap of the season, but in a way, the real race is just beginning.