2016-09-02 14:22:031 Oct 2018 01:53 AM EST
-by Daniel Mogollon, Staff Writer; Image: Clemson quarterback Deshaun Watson attempts pass in the Championship Game. (Image Source: Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
Here’s a look at the Heisman Trophy favorites and sleepers playing in marque matchups this week:
QB Deshaun Watson, Clemson @ Auburn (9:00/ESPN)
One of two Heisman Finalists back, Stanford’s Christian McCaffrey is the other, Deshaun Watson enters the season as the favorite to be the No. 1 overall pick in the 2017 NFL Draft. He is expected to lead Clemson back to the College Football Playoffs and it starts where last season ended, against an SEC team from the state of Alabama. With star wide out Mike Williams back the offense can be even more explosive this season, so don’t expect any drop off from Watson as a junior. Auburn has talent but is young at corner, starting a freshman and a sophomore.
RB Leonard Fournette, LSU vs. Wisconsin (3:30/ABC)
If there’s a co-favorite along with Deshaun Watson and Christian McCaffrey, it’s Leonard Fournette who looked like he was going to be the one invited to New York at midseason a year ago. You want to know who NFL execs and opposing coaches are comparing Fournette to? How Jim Brown? Ever heard of him? Herschel Walker and Bo Jackson, a pair of Heisman winners from the SEC. Adrian Peterson and Todd Gurley, arguably the best two backs to come out of college in the past decade. In Week 1, Fournette takes on a stout Wisconsin defense led by Vince Biegel that allowed just 3.13 yards per carry last season. It was a defense led by current LSU defensive coordinator Dave Aranda, so the Tigers will have some insight on how to attack.
RB Dalvin Cook, Florida State vs. Ole Miss (8:00/ESPN/Monday)
The ‘Noles close out Week 1 of the college football season against Ole Miss. As good as Christian McCaffrey is, as good as Leonard Fournette is, Dalvin Cook is my guy. I’m not the only one. When speaking to former Heisman Trophy Ricky Williams last December, he agreed that Cook was the best back in college football. No one is more explosive with the pigskin in his hands than the Florida State product, who averaged a whopping 7.4 yards per carry. He’s a threat to take it to the house every time he touches the ball. The Ole Miss defense should be strong but is replacing four of their top six tacklers from last season.
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QB Baker Mayfield, Oklahoma vs. Houston (12:00/ABC)
Like Deshaun Watson, Baker Mayfield returns after leading his team to the College Football Playoffs last season and many expected the Sooners to be back (OU is ranked third in both of the polls). Mayfield proved to be a combination of a playmaker (3,700 yards, 9.37 yards per pass, 36 touchdown passes) and a game manager (68.1 completion percentage, 7 interceptions) in his first season in Norman. He’s most exciting and the Sooners are most dangerous when the play breaks down and Mayfield is forced to improvise. Houston is considered the best “Group of Five” team heading into the season, but the Cougars will be breaking in an entirely new secondary.
QB Chad Kelly, Ole Miss vs. Florida State (8:00/ESPN/Monday)
If the Rebels are to keep up with Dalvin Cook & Company, Chad Kelly will have to have a big day. This is an opportunity for him to be the name on the tips of everyone’s tongue coming out of Week 1.
QB Josh Rosen, UCLA @ Texas A&M (3:30/CBS)
This might be the toughest true road test of any Heisman hopeful, as Josh Rosen will have to keep an eye on defensive end Myles Garrett while keeping the Kyle Field faithful out of his ears. He’s as talented as any passer in college football.
QB Greg Ward Jr., Houston vs. Oklahoma (12:00/ABC)
If Greg Ward Jr. is going to crash the Heisman Trophy party, it has to begin here. The Group of Five star must lead the Cougars to an upset of No. 3 Oklahoma and he must be the reason why Houston wins the game to join the conversation.
RB Bo Scarbrough, Alabama vs. USC (8:00/ABC)
Two of the past seven Heisman Trophy winners have been Alabama running backs, who always seem to be in the hunt for the award under Nick Saban, so why not Bo Scarbrough? Making his first start, the sophomore is about to explode on the scene.
Daniel Mogollon is a member of the Pro Football Writers of America and the Football Writers Association of America. He is also a voter for the Thorpe and the Rotary Lombardi Award, as well as the Latino Sports MVP Awards.
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