As we delve into the third week of the college football season, the Heisman Trophy race is heating up, and this year, it’s all about the quarterbacks. Running backs and wide receivers find themselves taking a back seat as we witness some outstanding performances under center. Before we delve into the top 10 Heisman candidates, let’s set the stage and discuss what makes this year’s race so captivating.
The Heisman Trophy-A Shift Towards Quarterbacks
In this season dominated by quarterbacks, the Heisman spotlight has dimmed on running backs, and wide receivers barely make a blip on the radar. If you were to be asked about the nation’s leading rusher, would you know the answer? Well, it’s Notre Dame’s Audric Estime with 521 rushing yards, but he’s had the benefit of four games to accumulate that total. On the other hand, Appalachian State’s Nate Noel leads the way with an impressive 151 rushing yards per game.
As we approach conference play and brace for high-profile matchups in the coming weeks, all eyes are on quarterbacks who have the chance to shine when the entire nation is watching. It’s not enough to rack up big numbers on obscure networks; you must be the standout star of the season when the spotlight is at its brightest.
A Snapshot, Not a Prediction
Before we delve into the top 10 Heisman candidates, it’s essential to clarify that this is not a prediction of the eventual Heisman winner. Instead, it’s a snapshot of how the Heisman voting might look if the season were to end right now. It’s vital to remember that the Heisman race is fluid, and much can change as the season unfolds.
With that said, let’s get into the rankings for Week 3.
1. Shedeur Sanders, QB Colorado
Shedeur Sanders secures the top spot on our list as the frontrunner in the Heisman race. Despite the buzz and the controversies surrounding the Colorado program, there’s no denying the heart and toughness of Sanders and his Colorado team. In a memorable game against Colorado State, Sanders orchestrated a remarkable comeback, throwing a 45-yard touchdown pass to Jimmy Horn and later finding Michael Harrison for two crucial scores, tying the game. Sanders then added two more touchdown passes in overtime to secure the win.
However, a potential stumbling block looms for Sanders. Some voters may be put off by the controversies surrounding the Colorado program and might hesitate to cast their vote in his favor. Nevertheless, if he continues to deliver high-level performances, particularly against Oregon and in a showdown with Caleb Williams and USC, he could firmly establish his candidacy for the Heisman.
2. Caleb Williams, QB USC
Caleb Williams leads the nation by a significant margin in quarterback rating and has made his presence known through frequent ads during college football Saturdays. As long as he continues to deliver outstanding performances, the hype surrounding him will continue to escalate. USC fans are anxiously awaiting his performance against Arizona State and the pivotal matchup against Colorado.
3. Michael Penix Jr., QB Washington
Michael Penix Jr. is putting up astonishing numbers, averaging 444 passing yards per game. That’s 27 yards per game more than Shedeur Sanders and a staggering 110 yards more than Cameron Ward of Washington State, the number three quarterback in this category. Unfortunately, his showdown against Michigan State was relegated to Peacock, and too many missed his incredible 473-yard, four-touchdown performance. Nevertheless, with many more thrilling Pac-12 games ahead, Penix Jr. has ample opportunities to make his presence felt.
4. Quinn Ewers, QB Texas
Quinn Ewers made a lasting impression with his performance against Alabama, which overshadowed a somewhat underwhelming 11-of-21, 131-yard, two-touchdown game against Wyoming. Fortunately for Ewers, the Wyoming game aired on the Longhorn Network, attracting less attention. With significant moments on the horizon, including a matchup against Oklahoma, Texas fans are eagerly anticipating Ewers’s next moves.
5. Sam Hartman, QB Notre Dame
Sam Hartman has been nothing short of perfect so far, delivering precisely what Notre Dame needed with 13 touchdown passes and zero interceptions, all while averaging nearly 15 yards per attempt. He managed to deliver under pressure against NC State, but he’s yet to face significant drama. The trajectory of his Heisman campaign hinges on his performance in the upcoming game against Ohio State.
6. Drake Maye, QB North Carolina
Drake Maye boasts an impressive 73% completion rate and threw for 414 yards against Minnesota. However, his four touchdown passes and four interceptions this season leave room for improvement. He earns a place on our list because this ranking is a snapshot of where candidates would stand if the season concluded today. Maye’s potential as an NFL prospect also factors into his ranking. North Carolina’s next game pits them against Pitt.
7. Jordan Travis, QB Florida State
Jordan Travis had a rocky outing against Boston College, but he’s far from being counted out. His 222 yards and two touchdowns, while not mind-blowing, demonstrate his talent. Everyone witnessed his exceptional performance against LSU, and he’s about to take center stage again in an upcoming critical game. Florida State’s next challenge is against Clemson, a game that could either bolster or hinder Travis’s Heisman aspirations.
8. Jayden Daniels, QB LSU
Jayden Daniels makes an impressive debut on our list after completing an astonishing 30-of-34 passes for 361 yards and two touchdowns, along with rushing for 64 yards and two scores in the win over Mississippi State. Sporting stats that include a 74% completion rate, 8 touchdowns, and just 1 interception, Daniels is emerging as a formidable contender. LSU’s upcoming showdown with Alabama on November 4th could be a defining moment for his campaign.
9. JJ McCarthy, QB Michigan
JJ McCarthy, known as one of the most accurate quarterbacks entering last week, hit a bit of a rough patch with three interceptions against Bowling Green. Now trailing Oklahoma’s Dillon Gabriel by a mere 0.1%, McCarthy needs to focus on building up his stats to bolster his Heisman candidacy. His next challenge awaits against Rutgers.
10. Riley Leonard, QB Duke
Kicking off the list at number 10 is Riley Leonard, even though he’s had a somewhat uneventful couple of weeks. He burst onto the scene with a dazzling performance against Clemson in Week 1, but subsequent games against Lafayette and Northwestern pushed him out of the limelight. To date, he’s thrown for 530 yards and one touchdown, adding three rushing scores to his name. His next matchup against UConn provides an opportunity to regain prominence.