Louisville quarterback Lamar Jackson might not have lost his grip on the Heisman Trophy in a 41-38 loss to Kentucky on Saturday, but he certainly loosened it.
Jackson, who's been considered the front-runner for the award from the jump this season, has had his two worst performances of the season in consecutive weeks. After falling to Houston a week ago, UL was upset at home by rival Kentucky, 41-38, on Saturday, and Jackson committed four turnovers (three interceptions, fumble) in the loss. The Cardinals' November stumble has eliminated UL from contention for a College Football Playoff spot, another factor which could weigh in the minds of Heisman voters. Louisville now has three losses on the season; the last Heisman Trophy winner to lose three regular-season games was Robert Griffin III, who navigated the Bears to a 9-3 campaign in 2011. Louisville's other loss came against Clemson, 42-36, on Oct. 1.
The Heisman Trophy winner will be announced on Dec. 10.
Despite his struggles of late, Jackson's spectacular body of work in his sophomore season makes him hard to beat for the game's most prestigious award. He's accounted for 51 touchdowns, 30 passing and 21 rushing, and has posted a staggering 4,928 total yards in 12 games. Even in committing four turnovers against UK, he threw for 281 and ran for 171 on Saturday to push his season total near the 5,000 mark.
If Jackson has left the Heisman door cracked, Clemson QB Deshaun Watson is in the best position to take advantage. While Jackson won't play again until his bowl game, Watson will get another chance to impress Heisman voters next week in the ACC Championship Game, and he's not the only contender who will be on display next week. Here's a look at six players who figure to garner votes for the award.
» Clemson QB Deshaun Watson: Watson was a Heisman finalist a year ago, and while he's been less effective than he was as a sophomore last year, he nevertheless has Clemson back in the ACC Championship Game next week. Watson has completed 305 of 452 passes for 3,626 yards, 34 touchdowns and 14 interceptions. He's added 444 rushing yards, an area where he was more of a threat in 2015. Another factor working in Watson's favor: a head-to-head win over Jackson. His last chance to impress Heisman voters will come against Virginia Tech next week as he looks to win an ACC title for the second year in a row. He's not to be counted out.
» Washington QB Jake Browning: Browning has thrown 40 touchdown passes and only seven interceptions on the year, but isn't the rushing threat that Jackson is, or Watson, for that matter. He's completed 214 of 329 passes on the year for 3,162 yards, and threw for six touchdowns twice in Pac-12 play this year, against Oregon and Cal. The sophomore has been vastly improved in his second year as a starter. He'll draw Colorado in the Pac-12 title game next week for his final Heisman showcase.
» Michigan LB Jabrill Peppers: Because he's primarily a defensive player, it's not easy to gauge Peppers' Heisman candidacy against others. But there is no disputing he's one of the most valuable assets in the game. He made an easy transition in his first year playing primarily at linebacker, making 72 tackles (second on the team) with a team-high 16 tackles for loss, including four sacks. Offensively, he's scored three touchdowns while rushing for 167 yards, and on special teams, he averaged 15.1 yards per punt return and 24 on kickoff returns. He's unlikely to be the first defensive player to win the Heisman since UM's Charles Woodson did so in 1997, but there is no question he's deserving of votes. Don't be surprised if he receives an invitation to New York as a finalist.
» FSU RB Dalvin Cook: Like Jackson, Cook's Heisman campaign has been saddled with three losses and no hope of a conference title or playoff appearance. But the junior has nevertheless had a fabulous year for the Seminoles. After an impressive performance in a win over Florida on Saturday, Cook has 1,620 yards on 268 carries with 18 touchdowns.
» Oklahoma QB Baker Mayfield and WR Dede Westbrook: This has been a dynamic pairing for the Sooners offense. Mayfield has passed for 3,381 yards and 35 touchdowns, while Westbrook has corralled 70 receptions for 1,354 yards and 15 scores. Trouble is, whatever Heisman momentum there is for an Oklahoma finalist might be split between the two.