This past week in college football saw the College Football Playoff landscape turned almost upside down. No.2 Ohio State, No.3 Clemson and No.7 Louisville were all on the brink of losses but somehow managed to sneak by their opponents and keep their playoff hopes alive for another week. As per usual, J.T Barrett and Lamar Jackson were the catalysts for their respective teams and turned in performances that will keep them 1-2 in the Heisman Race.
There were also some disappointing performances by Heisman hopefuls. Despite throwing for 378 yards Deshaun Watson looked average against a good NC State defense. For all intents and purposes, Clemson should have lost that game - if not for a missed 33-yard field goal at the end of regulation. Another disappointment this past weekend was the absence of Christian McCaffrey. McCaffrey sat out his team's win at Notre Dame and all but killed his chances at winning the Heisman come January.
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Before I get to my Top-5 Boom or Bust candidates, I want to give an honorable mention to Houston QB Greg Ward Jr. He helped his Cougars team to a 6-1 record after a 38-31 victory against Tulsa. Ward Jr. threw for 254 yards and ran for another 142. He turned the ball over twice but ultimately looked sharp all game long. Should Houston finish the season with one loss, and get some help from the Top-4 teams losing a game, he might just be the best sleeper pick in the Heisman race at his odds (+3300).
I am going to add a new feature to this article and move away from odds and stat recaps. I will provide a "Boom or Bust" rating out of five based on the player's upcoming opponents. This will allow you to better understand if a Heisman candidate will exceed or fall short of expectations.
Thanks to our friends at Bovada for the best lines.
Lamar Jackson (-190)
Boom Potential: 3 out of 5.
Last week wasn't quite the typical Lamar Jackson performance we've all come to expect this season, but it was good enough to secure a win over Duke and keep him in the pole position for the Heisman Trophy. Jackson was only able to complete 50 percent of his passes but still threw the ball for 181 yards and a touchdown. He did the majority of the damage with his feet, rushing for 144 yards on 21 carries and one score. While the offense looked fresh and in-sync, the game was up for grabs until a boneheaded roughing the kicker penalty on Duke gave the Cardinals a fresh set of downs and an opportunity for Jackson to kill the game.
Up next for Jackson and Co. is a date with the NC State Wolfpack. This Wolfpack squad is solid defensively - allowing only 18.7 points per game. They were able to keep high-flying Clemson in check last week, and barring a major defensive collapse they have all the tools to keep Jackson under control as well. NC State allows only three yards per rush and just a bit over 300 yards per game. Jackson needs to be at his best in order to maintain his lead in the Heisman race.
J.T. Barrett (+750)
Boom Potential: 5 out of 5
The last time I spoke of Barrett, he was getting ready for a home date with Indiana. That game won't exactly win Barrett the Heisman Trophy, but it was another OSU win and that's what matters. Barrett threw for just 93 yards and one touchdown while adding 137 yards on the ground and one score. The big test came in the form of a great Wisconsin team just three days ago. Barrett and Co. found themselves down 16-6 at halftime, which set them up for a dramatic 30-23 overtime win. Barrett had a solid second half and finished the game with 226 yards passing on 58.6 percent completions and one touchdown toss. He added 92 yards on the ground and two more touchdowns. Big win for OSU. Solid resume-building performance for Barrett.
Up next for the Buckeyes' signal caller is a trip to Happy Valley to take on Penn State. The Nittany Lions have played better of late, winning their last two games, but I don't think this game will be very close. The Nittany Lions are giving up almost 30 points per game and nearly six yards per rushing attempt. That bodes well for Barrett, who can hurt you more so with his feet than with his arm. They will be outmanned in terms of talent all over the field, and it will show up in Barrett's stats and on the scoreboard. OSU wins this game going away.
Jake Browning (+1000)
Boom Potential: 5 out of 5
Browning is making his first appearance on the Heisman report thanks in large part to Christian McCaffrey's injury, which all but takes him out of the Heisman conversation. Browning and his Washington Huskies had a bye week last week, but they are 6-0 and just finished putting up 70 on Oregon two weeks ago. In that game, Browning completed 78.6 percent of his passes and threw for 304 yards and six touchdowns. If that's not enough for you, he ran also ran for 21 yards and two more touchdowns. Does that performance remind you of anyone? (Lamar Jackson -Week 1). Browning ranks second amongst FBS QBs in passing touchdowns, and if he can keep the Huskies perfect his stock will just continue to climb.
The Huskies will host lowly Oregon State this coming Saturday in what many figure to be a lopsided affair. Last year's meeting between these two saw the Huskies win 52-7 - that's a problem for Oregon State since they were a better them last year than they are this year. Oregon State is surrendering 30.8 points per game and over 400 yards per game on defense. They give up over five yards per rush and pass attempt, which means they will be in for a long night. Browning has a talented supporting cast and he should be able to get the Huskies to 7-0 and make a move up the Heisman ladder.
Dalvin Cook (+3300)
Boom Potential: 1 out of 5
Cook had a slow start to this season and many talking heads were wondering what exactly was wrong with the diminutive running back after three games. He's responded with four straight 100-yard rushing games and figures to be just what the doctor ordered for a less-than-stellar Florida State team. Over the last four games, Cook has accumulated 672 rushing yards and five touchdowns. He currently sits third overall in the FBS in rushing yards. A few more big games and we could see Cook's Heisman stock rise come November.
Unfortunately for Dalvin Cook and Florida State fans, they are set to face No.4 Clemson in Week 9. Both teams will be fresh off their bye, and that could be a bad thing for the Seminoles. After a lackluster performance against NC State, Dabo Swinney is sure to have his team ready to go for this ACC showdown. Clemson's defense is a solid unit, and it could be tough sledding for Cook to get anything going. He's has a very low boom potential in this matchup.
Donnel Pumphrey (+5000) (Must ask your book for this line)
Boom Potential: 5 out of 5
Pumphrey just might be the nation's best-kept secret. He continues to put in work for San Diego State as he recorded 220 yards rushing and two touchdowns last week against Fresno State. That performance extended his lead in the FBS rushing title race to 169 yards over Jamaal Williams, in second place. Pumphrey is the first player to reach 1,000 yards as he currently sits at 1,111 on the season. Despite playing in the Mountain West Conference, you have to respect what he's doing. He's No.8 in rushing yards in NCAA history.
Pumphrey will be looking to add to those numbers this coming weekend against the visiting San Jose State Spartans. The Spartans are allowing over 35 points per game, which is the reason they are 2-5. They allow teams to go up and down the field at will, giving up 444.4 yards per game, 5.4 yards per rush attempt and 8.9 yards per passing attempt. Pumphrey is the bell cow for the Aztecs and he will be salivating at the thought of going up against a defense as poor as this one. He's sure to break another 150 yards rushing in this game.
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