Heisman Watch Week 1: Hello, Saquon Barkley

Penn State’s Saquon Barkley (26) hurdles Akron’s Alvin Davis (1). (AP Photo/Chris Knight)

Each week throughout the season, Dr. Saturday will highlight the five players we think are the top Heisman contenders. The list will change often early in the season before the true candidates separate themselves from the pack.

Yes, Sept. 6 is too early to really have a good barometer of the players who will truly be in contention for the Heisman Trophy at the end of the year. Still, many players we expect to be in the mix showed out for their teams in Week 1.

1. Saquon Barkley, RB, Penn State

Every time Saquon Barkley touches the ball is must-see TV. The Penn State junior needed only 14 carries to put up 172 yards and two touchdowns in PSU’s Week 1 52-0 win over Akron. Barkley would have had three touchdowns, too, but was ruled to have stepped out at the 7-yard line on what would have been an 87-yard score. Still, it’s hard to be disappointed with an 80-yard run.

Barkley also had three catches for 54 yards, including this ridiculous effort for extra yardage:


2. Lamar Jackson, QB, Louisville

Everybody knows Lamar Jackson didn’t play at the same level late in the 2016 season he did earlier in the year. Still, his cumulative play was enough for him to earn the Heisman. In the 2017 opener against Purdue, Jackson was back up to his old tricks. In a closer-than-expected 35-28 win, Jackson completed 30-of-46 passes for 378 yards and two touchdowns without an interception while adding 107 yards rushing. Expect another big game from Jackson on Saturday against North Carolina.

3. Josh Rosen, QB, UCLA

All Josh Rosen did Sunday night was orchestrate one of the biggest comebacks in college football history. Rosen was beat up in the first half and his Bruins trailed Texas A&M 44-10 late into the third. Rosen kept taking hits, getting up and playing, and good things eventually began to happen. Rosen was 9-of-23 for 114 yards in the first half before exploding for 377 yards and four touchdowns in the second half. All four of those TD throws came in the fourth quarter as the Bruins stormed back to win 45-44. His final touchdown throw came after a fake spike — a fitting end to his Houdini comeback.

4. Baker Mayfield, QB, Oklahoma

Baker Mayfield needed only one half of action to put up impressive numbers on Saturday. In a 56-7 win over UTEP in Lincoln Riley’s debut as head coach, Mayfield set a program record by completing his first 16 passes of the game. The Oklahoma senior ultimately finished 19-of-20 for 329 yards and three touchdowns, showing why he was the nation’s most-efficient quarterback and a Heisman finalist last fall. He’ll have a much tougher task in Week 2, however, as the Sooners travel north to Columbus to square off with No. 2 Ohio State.

5. Sam Darnold, QB, USC

After an offseason of hype, Sam Darnold didn’t have one of his better performances in USC’s Week 1 matchup with Western Michigan. And even though he didn’t have a great game — he threw two interceptions without a touchdown — Darnold still completed 23-of-33 passes for 289 yards and had a rushing touchdown in a 49-31 win. Darnold entered the season as the Heisman favorite among oddsmakers. Throwing for nearly 300 yards to a cast of new receivers behind a rebuilt offensive line isn’t enough to banish him from Heisman consideration.

Also considered: Oklahoma State QB Mason Rudolph, Ohio State QB J.T. Barrett, LSU RB Derrius Guice, USC RB Ronald Jones

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Sam Cooper is a writer for the Yahoo Sports blogs. Have a tip? Email him or follow him on Twitter!