Week 7 Heisman Trophy Watch: Kenneth Walker, C.J. Stroud Making Their Push

Hold that call to the engraver. The Heisman Trophy race got a lot tighter last week

While Bryce Young had a season-high 369 yards passing and threw for three touchdowns in Alabama’s 41-38 upset loss at Texas A&M, the other top contenders had statement games that were just as impressive. Maybe more so.

Matt Corral accounted for 381 yards and four touchdowns in Ole Miss’ 52-51 victory over Arkansas, which opted to go for a two-point conversion after pulling within a point on a touchdown as time expired.

Kenneth Walker III posted 233 yards rushing and accounted for the longest play in Michigan State history with a 94-yard touchdown run that added the finishing touch on a 31-13 victory at Rutgers.

C.J. Stroud passed for 406 yards and five touchdowns in Ohio State’s rout of Maryland. Stroud has 736 yards and 10 touchdown passes in two games since returning to the field after sitting out against Akron to rest an ailing shoulder.  

“His preparation has been excellent,” Ohio State coach Ryan Day said of Stroud. “He’s got some good players around him, but he’s also making really good throws. His timing is right. He’s seeing the field, making good decisions. That is allowing us to run the offense and to be very efficient.”

Here are my latest thoughts on the top candidates. Odds courtesy of DraftKings on Oct. 12.

THE TOP FIVE

1. Bryce Young, QB, Alabama

Season stats: 137-197, 69.5 percent, 1,734 yards; 20 TD, 3 INT

Last time out: 28-48, 369 yards, 3 TD, 1 INT in a 41-38 loss at Texas A&M

This week: No. 5 Alabama (5-1) plays at Mississippi State (3-2)

Line: Alabama -17.5 

Update: Young drove ‘Bama to 21 straight points in a 20-minute stretch of the third and fourth quarters at A&M for a seven-point lead, but he did not have the accuracy that has made his season special. His two incompletions on the final drive forced a Crimson Tide punt, and A&M drove 54 yards for the game-winning field goal. 

Status: Young remains the front-runner, but the race is getting tighter as conference play gets serious. Young and Jameson Williams have become a big-play power couple.

Odds: +210

2. Matt Corral, QB, Ole Miss

Season stats: 101-146, 69.2 percent, 1,497 yards, 12 TD, 0 INT; 58 carries, 255 yards, 8 TD

Last time out: 14-21, 287 yards, 2 TD, 0 INT; 15 carries, 94 yards, 2 TD in a 52-51 victory over No. 17 Arkansas 

This week: No. 13 Ole Miss (4-1) plays at Tennessee (4-2)

Line: Ole Miss -3.5

Update: Multi-dimensional threat Corral has mastered the Lane Kiffin attack offense, and his ability to make plays with his feet separates him from the other top quarterback contenders. Corral has accounted for 24.4 points per game, fourth in the FBS and second among Power 5 players. C.J. Stroud is fifth and Young is tied for seventh.

Status: Ole Miss has several more potential shootout games remaining, beginning with Josh Heupel’s Tennessee Volunteers this week, giving him a chance for more big numbers. 

Odds: +210

3. Kenneth Walker III, RB, Michigan State

Season stats: 129 carries, 913 yards, 9 TD

Last time out: 29 carries, 233 yards, 1 TD in a 31-13 victory over Rutgers

This week: No. 10 Michigan State (6-0) plays at Indiana (2-3)

Line: Michigan State -4.5

Update: Walker was not the lead story in the Spartans’ victory over Rutgers because quarterback Payton Throne threw three touchdown passes of at least 63 yards to wideout Jalen Nailor. But Walker was again reliable to the point of almost unstoppable. He set a school record with a 94-yard touchdown run midway through the third quarter and had his second 200-yard game of the season. His 7.1-yard average per carry ranks sixth among FBS schools and is the highest for anyone with at least 80 carries.

Status: Walker is the sturdy back around whom the Spartans like to base their offense. (See Lorenzo White, Le’Veon Bell, Javon Ringer et al.) Walker leads the FBS in rushing yards, but in a pass-happy world, he will need more big games to remain keep rising. 

Odds: +1500

4. C.J. Stroud, QB, Ohio State

Season stats: 104-157, 66.2 percent, 1,699 yards; 18 TD, 3 INT

Last time out: 24-33, 406 yards, 5 TD, 0 INT in a 66-17 victory over Maryland

This week: No 6. Ohio State (5-1) has a bye

Update: Stroud played only three quarters in the rout of Maryland, when he picked apart a depleted secondary with NFL-bound wide receivers Chris Olave and Garrett Wilson. Each scored twice as the Buckeyes scored on nine straight possessions.

Status: Redshirt freshman Stroud is back on the very short list after his second 400-yard game of the season. Make-or-break games loom against Penn State on Oct. 30 and season-enders against Michigan State and Michigan.  

Odds: +900

5. Desmond Ridder, QB, Cincinnati

Season stats: 95-145, 65.5 percent, 1,304 yards, 12 TD 2 INT; 33 carries, 104 yards, 3 TD

Last time out: 22-30, 259 yards, 3 TD, 0 INT in a 52-3 victory over Temple  

This week: No. 3 Cincinnati (6-0) plays host to Central Florida (3-2) 

Line: Cincinnati -19.5

Update: Ridder has been nothing but consistent while leading the unbeaten Bearcats to their 6-0 start. He passed for at least 210 yards in every game but his not topped 300 yet.

Status: Cincinnati is on the national stage for the second time in three weeks for an ABC game against AAC rival Central Florida. Ridder took a step forward in the Bearcats’ first national TV showcase, passing for a career-high 297 yards while accounting for three touchdowns. Ridder does not overwhelm with numbers, but leading an undefeated team into the CFP Final Four — the odds gets better each week — is very attractive to voters.

Odds: +1600

STILL GRINDING

Will Rogers, QB, Mississippi State

Season stats: 215-284, 75.7 percent, 1,862 yards; 14 TD, 1 INT

Last time out: The Bulldogs had a bye

This week: Mississippi State (3-2) plays host to No. 5 Alabama (5-1)  

Update: How can a quarterback not love the Mike Leach offense? Rogers leads the FBS with an average of 43 completions per game. For comparison, the triple-option service academies have combined for 122 completions this season — Air Force (44), Army (33) and Navy (45). 

Status: Remaining are SEC games against Alabama, Kentucky. Arkansas and Ole Miss, all ranked in the top 17 entering this weekend.

Odds: +20000

STILL GRINDING II

Grayson McCall, QB, Coastal Carolina

Season stats: 87-109, 79.8 percent, 1,478 yards; 14 TD, 1 INT

Last time out: 18-23, 365 yards; 4 TD, 0 INT in a 52-20 victory at Arkansas State

This week: No. 15 Coastal Carolina (6-0) plays at Appalachian State (4-1) on Oct. 20 

Line: Not posted

Update: McCall set career highs with 365 yards passing and four touchdowns against the Red Wolves, his fourth score midway through the third quarter giving the Chanticleers a 38-7 lead. His completion percentage leads the FBS, albeit with less volume because of the Chanticleers’ option attack.

Status: McCall is having a special season, but he faces an impossible climb.

Odds: +15000

SLEEPER 

Malik Willis, QB, Liberty

Season stats: 93-137, 67.9 percent, 1,327 yards, 13 TD, 3 INT; 82 carries, 498 yards, 7 TD

Last time out: 17-30, 222 yards, 2 TD, 3 INT; 16 carries, 80 yards, 1 TD in a 41-13 victory against Middle Tennessee State

This week: Liberty (5-1) plays at Louisiana-Monroe (2-3)

Line: Liberty -32

Update: In several recent NFL mock drafts, Willis has emerged as quarterback most likely to be selected first in the 2022 draft as scouts have soured on Spencer Rattler and Sam Howell, the two favorites entering the season. Willis is a bit like North Dakota State’s Trey Lance — a small-school star with a power arm and a physical run presence. At 6’1 and 215 pounds, Willis is not quite as big as Lance, 6’4, 226, who was the third player taken in the 2021 draft by San Francisco. 

Status: While NFL cognoscenti know Willis, he labors in relative anonymity at FBS independent Liberty after transferring from Auburn. Willis will have a chance to raise his Heisman profile in a Nov. 6 game at No. 13 Ole Miss and Matt Corral. 

Odds: +7500

SLIPPING 

Bijan Robinson, RB, Texas

Season stats: 125 carries, 789 yards, 8 TD

Last time out: 20 carries for 137 yards, 1 TD in a 55-48 loss to No. 4 Oklahoma in the Red River Rivalry

This week: Texas (4-2) will play host to No. 12 Oklahoma State (5-0)

Line: Texas -5

Update: Like his team, Robinson came out hot against the Sooners. He scored on a 2-yard run less than two minutes into the game and broke a 50-yarder late in the first half to set up the touchdown that give the Longhorns a 35-17 lead. His 33-yard run in the third quarter set up a field goal for a 41-23 lead.

Status: Robinson posted his fifth 100-yard rushing game, his fourth straight, against Oklahoma, and he ranks third in the FBS in rushing yards. But he is playing catchup to Walker and all the big-number quarterbacks.

Odds: +1800

OUT OF THE PICTURE

Spencer Rattler, QB, Oklahoma

Season stats: 130-175, 1,371 yards, 10 TD, 5 INT

Last time out: 8-15, 111 yards, 0 TD, 1 INT in a 55-48 victory over No. 21 Texas 

This week: No. 4 Oklahoma (6-0) will play host to TCU (3-2)

Line: Oklahoma -11.5

Update: Rattler has dropped from preseason Heisman favorite to second string after he was benched for true freshman Caleb Williams in the second half of the Sooners’ remarkable 55-48 victory over Texas in the Red River Rivalry on Saturday. Coach Lincoln Riley pulled Rattler after he threw an interception on the Sooners’ third possession and lost a fumble on their seventh, both of which led to quick Texas touchdowns.

Status: Rattler played one snap in the second half against Texas, completing a two-point conversion pass to tie the game 41, most likely entering because he had practiced that play all week. It seems certain that Williams has won the starting job after passing for 212 yards, rushing for 88 and accounting for three second- half touchdowns. Riley likes to play two quarterbacks, but at this point Rattler certainly seems No. 2. 

Odds: +7500

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