1. Derrick Henry, Alabama RB
2015: 1,797 yards on 295 carries, 22 TDs
This week: vs. Florida, SEC Championship in Atlanta
Henry tightened his hold on the trophy with a nice performance against Auburn. He finished with 271 yards and one touchdown, while helping the Crimson Tide to a victory in the Iron Bowl. He’ll be going up against a stout Gator run defense this week, but his physicality and speed will likely help him lead Alabama to a win in the title game and a spot in the playoffs. If that happens, I fully expect him to win the Heisman.
2. Deshaun Watson, Clemson QB
2015: 261-of-371, 3,223 yards, 27 TDs, 10 INT; 756 rushing yards, 9 TDs
This week: vs. North Carolina, ACC Championship in Charlotte
Watson closed the gap in the Heisman race with a great game against South Carolina. He threw for 279 yards and a touchdown with just seven incomplete passes and added 114 yards and three scores on the ground. This week’s matchup against the Tar Heels will be a tough one, but I think Watson will come in hungry and lead the Tigers to an ACC title and the top seed in the playoffs, leaving him with a good shot to win the trophy.
3. Baker Mayfield, Oklahoma QB
2015: 243-of-354, 3,389 yards, 35 TDs
This week: Bye
Oklahoma’s regular season ended a week before other teams headed for the playoffs is good for its title hopes, but not for Mayfield’s Heisman chances. He had a solid, three touchdown performance to lead his team to the Big 12 championship last week, but Henry and Watson were better. And without a final game to show off his skills, I don’t think Mayfield will be hoisting the trophy this year. However, his improvement and importance to his team’s success this season has been tremendous and he deserves to be a finalist.
4. Christian McCaffrey, Stanford RB
2015: 1,640 yards on 287 carries, 7 TDs; 435 yards on 37 receptions, 3 TDs
This week: vs. USC, PAC-12 Championship in San Francisco
McCaffrey had a golden opportunity to rise in the Heisman race when Stanford played Notre Dame last week, but the Fighting Irish worked hard to contain the explosive sophomore. He ran for 94 yards, had just three receptions and never found his way into the end zone. McCaffrey’s 228 all-purpose yards brought his season total to 3,035, making him just the third player in FBS history to surpass 3,000 all-purpose yards and putting him in position to break Barry Sanders’ all-time record. With a big game against a hot USC squad, he could make this race a lot more interesting.
5. Dalvin Cook, Florida State RB
2015: 1,658 yards on 211 carries, 18 TDs
This week: Bye
Derrick Henry might want to ask Cook for some tips before Alabama’s game against Florida. The Gators have the seventh-best rushing defense in the nation, but Cook ran all over them for 183 yards and two touchdowns in the Seminoles’ win. He has improved significantly throughout the season and although I don’t expect him to win the trophy this year, he’ll be a strong contender next season.