The 2018 Heisman Trophy race has been exceptionally fluid since the start of the season, but things got shook up in a big way after Week 5.
With the slate of college football games we were faced with for Week 5 of the regular season, it figured that we could see some movement in the 2018 Heisman Trophy rankings. There were four matchups between top-25 teams on Saturday, including two between top-10 opponents. As such, it was a big day for players to prove themselves and try to shake up the rankings. They certainly brought that to fruition.
Whether it was Ohio State Buckeyes quarterback Dwayne Haskins struggling in the first half against the Penn State Nittany Lions, Will Grier looking shaky in the second half for the West Virginia Mountaineers against the Texas Tech Red Raiders, or something else, things definitely look quite different in the Heisman Trophy race after this week. And really, this could be the norm moving forward in 2018.
It’s worth mentioning that Notre Dame Fighting Irish quarterback Ian Book, who took over for Brandon Wimbush last week, might actually be in this conversation had he been starting since Week 1. He was masterful in his destruction of the Stanford Cardinal on Saturday night, giving him two fantastic performances to start his reign over the offense. However, with those missed games, he’s simply not done enough to crack the top 10.
With that said, there are still plenty of other players with bigger bodies of work that have their case for the award after five weeks of action. And with that, let’s get into the 2018 Heisman rankings after Week 5 of the regular season, starting with No. 10 and working our way to the leader of the race at this point — a new face at the top.
10. Cole McDonald
Full disclosure, I was expecting to move Hawaii Rainbow Warriors quarterback Cole McDonald up in these rankings when looking at his matchup with San Jose State in Week 5. However, he drops a bit for his performance in the clutch against the Spartans in their five-overtime thriller, ultimately a 44-41 win for the Warriors. However, McDonald performing better in the extra frames could’ve ended it a lot sooner.
Even still, the sophomore signal-caller still finished the night going for 341 yards, four touchdowns and just one interception, giving him over 2,000 yards, 24 touchdowns and just two picks on the year. Overall, there’s no denying his productivity and ability. However, for him to be taken seriously in the Heisman race, he needs to step up in big moments, which he failed to do on Saturday night.
9. Jonathan Taylor
Jonathan Taylor and the Wisconsin Badgers had an off week on Saturday, meaning that there’s nothing to speak of in terms of his performance in Week 5. Having said that, the running back is an interesting case study at this point in the Heisman rankings. Because though his numbers are impressive, there’s a reason he’s just ninth right now.
Through Taylor’s first four games, the sophomore running back has topped 100 yards in each game and has 628 yards and five scores on the year. What matters, however, is that he’s been lesser in the team’s two biggest games of the year. In the upset loss to BYU, he had just 117 yards and not scores, following that up with 113 yards and no touchdowns against Iowa. In such a loaded race, those types of performances in big games just aren’t going to get it done.
8. Justin Herbert
Justin Herbert finally makes an appearance in the 2018 Heisman rankings this week as it’s becoming increasingly impossible to deny his performance this season. In truth, the Oregon Ducks quarterback really doesn’t have the statistics that many of his peers at this level do after five weeks of the season. On Saturday, he finished the win at Cal with 225 yards passing and two touchdowns, but that doesn’t tell the whole story.
As was the case in the tough loss to Stanford last week, Herbert has consistently been the best player on the field when Oregon is playing. Yes, he might not be throwing for 400 yards and five touchdowns each week, but what you see on the field has to start mattering at some point if Herbert is playing well enough. That’s where we’re at now, and he deserves some respect.
7. Benny Snell
After the Kentucky Wildcats moved to 4-0 with an upset victory over Mississippi State last week, it became clear that we have to take this team very seriously. And if there were people still doubting that, the Wildcats again made a statement in Week 5 with a dominant performance over a good South Carolina team. And at the heart of Kentucky’s success remains running back Benny Snell.
In truth, Snell didn’t have the biggest night at the office on Saturday. When clock hit triple zeroes, the junior back had just 99 yards on 28 carries for one touchdown, also adding a reception for 14 yards. However, he was the chain-mover and game-controller once again for the Wildcats while also adding to his impressive totals for the season (639 yards, eight scores through five games). He’s been the best running back in the country to this point.
6. McKenzie Milton
It feels as if there’s almost a malaise of sort in regards to the UCF Knights in the 2018 season, despite the fact that they are looking just as impressive as they did last season and are continuing to win, beating the Pittsburgh Panthers on Saturday to move their winning streak to 17 games now. As a result of that, quarterback McKenzie Milton seemingly isn’t getting the amount of love that he ultimately deserves, but we’re going to give it here.
Milton was unstoppably against Pitt on Saturday. Though the efficiency wasn’t necessarily there (18-of-34), he made it happen when it mattered, finishing the game with 328 yards and four touchdowns through the air and adding another two touchdowns and 51 yards on the ground. Through four games, that gives Milton 18 total touchdowns and just three interceptions on the year. He may not crack the top five unless someone falls off, but he’s still put forth a superb effort thus far in 2018.
5. Trace McSorley
It’s perfectly acceptable for anyone who watched the Penn State Nittany Lions on Saturday night against Ohio State to question the final play call. On fourth-and-5 with the game on the line, they decided to run a zone read to Miles Sanders. Not only is running the ball there an odd decision, but it also took the ball out of the hands of quarterback Trace McSorley, who, even in a loss, cemented his Heisman candidacy with a big-time performance.
The enigmatic signal-caller was a beast on Saturday in a top-10 matchup, throwing for 286 yards and two touchdowns, but also amassing 175 yards rushing on 25 carries, gashing the Buckeyes defense consistently throughout the night. It would have been wonderful to see him have an opportunity at a Heisman moment and at late-game heroics, but it wasn’t in the cards. Still, McSorley certainly did enough to stay firmly in the conversation for the award.
4. Will Grier
Just looking at the box score, you’re probably questioning why West Virginia quarterback Will Grier has dropped three spots from the top of these Heisman Trophy rankings after this week. After all, the Mountaineers gunslinger finished the win over the 25th-ranked Texas Tech Red Raiders with 370 yards passing, three touchdowns and no interceptions. That all looks good, but Grier did not in the second half of this game.
Grier came out of the gates on fire in this game and put his team in a commanding lead. However, with Texas Tech having an injury at quarterback, Grier seemed to let off the gas almost entirely in the third and fourth quarters, which almost allowed the Red Raiders to come back. At the very least, the lackluster play of Grier made that possible and he has to be penalized in such a tight race after a performance like that.
3. Dwayne Haskins
Much like is the case with Grier, when you look at the final stat-line for Ohio State quarterback Dwayne Haskins in their comeback win over Penn State, it looks quite good. The redshirt sophomore finished the night going 22-of-39 for 270 yards with three touchdowns and just one interception. However, as is sometimes the case in football, what the box score says doesn’t give you the whole story.
Haskins, to put it simply, was awful in the first half against Penn State. The Nittany Lions got pressure on him and he was clearly rattled. While he improved in the second half, it’s also worth noting that a lot of his yardage actually came as yards after the catch with great plays by his receiving corps. So yes, he led the comeback, but his stock in this race takes a slight hit after this game.
2. Tua Tagovailoa
There is 100 percent no denying how good Alabama Crimson Tide quarterback Tua Tagovailoa has been this season. At the same time, however, there’s also no denying the fact that his team is so good that he often has games where he simply doesn’t have to do much. And even if he does his little work well, too many of those games ultimately hurt his candidacy for the most prestigious individual award in college football.
Week 5 was one of those games for Tua as the Tide throttled the Louisiana Ragin’ Cajuns on Saturday. Tagovailoa only had to throw eight passes on the day before getting to rest. He indeed completed all of them for 128 yards and two touchdowns, putting up 12 rushing yards too. And while he and that line is impressive, it’s not enough to get him to No. 1 after this week.
1. Kyler Murray
For Kyler Murray to vault into the lead in the 2018 Heisman Trophy race, two things needed to happen for the Oklahoma Sooners quarterback. First, he needed guys like Grier, Haskins and Tua to have some sort of “off” day in their performances. As we’ve already discussed, that’s pretty much what happened on Saturday. However, the second part was that Murray needed a monster day, and that also happened on Saturday in a 66-33 victory over Baylor.
The two-sport star was an absolute menace on the gridiron on Saturday afternoon. Despite not starting and not playing the first two series, he made up for it. The junior only threw the ball 21 times on the day, but finished with 17 completions for 432 yards and a ridiculous six touchdowns, adding a rushing touchdown to his credit as well. He was dominant in helping his team be dominant as well and, if he can continue at this level against Texas in Week 6, he can stay atop these rankings.