Prior to the Houston game, the trophy essentially belonged to Lamar Jackson. The Louisville signal caller still leads for college football’s premier award, but the OSU-Michigan and Auburn-Alabama games are a little more relevant to the contest given the narrower lead held by Jackson.
10. RB D’onta Foreman (Texas)—Outside of Lamar Jackson, Foreman enjoys the best individual season. If his team were even competitive in the Big 12, the Longhorn feature back would be a real contender. With his team’s record being 5-6, Foreman may watch the ceremony from home.
9. DE Jonathan Allen (Alabama)—Allen is unquestionably an elite defender, and real buzz is starting to build. Still, I think the Alabama/SEC support is going to go to Hurts.
8. QB Sam Darnold (USC)—If there’s going to be a big school hero from the west, it’ll be Darnold who leads a Trojan resurgence.
7. QB Baker Mayfield (Oklahoma)—Leading one of the nation’s hottest teams, Mayfield has been at the center of the Sooners’ rebound.
6. ATH Jabrill Peppers (Michigan)—I haven’t exactly been bullish on Peppers’ chances, but he has a chance for a big game against OSU.
5. RB Donnel Pumphrey (San Diego State)—Seriously challenging for the career NCAA rushing title, Pumphrey is positioned for an invite despite a season-low output against Wyoming.
4. QB JT Barrett (Ohio State)—It’ll take a really, really strong game against Michigan for Barrett to be a factor, particularly after a rough day throwing the ball against the Spartans.
3. QB Deshaun Watson (Clemson)—For nine straight games, Watson has completed over 60% of his passes. The numbers are not what they were, and he will struggle to be a real factor, but he’s still the reason the Tigers are likely to make the playoff.
2. QB Jalen Hurts (Alabama)—If fans of the Tide want Hurts to emerge as a real threat to Jackson, they need to root for a close game against Auburn—one where a heroic effort by Hurts makes the difference. He’s a longshot, but there still is a shot for the freshman.
1. QB Lamar Jackson (Louisville)—No longer inevitable, Jackson still is the frontrunner. Fortunately for the dynamic playmaker, there really is not a particularly strong #2.