There are roughly 10,000 FBS football players – welcome, Coastal Carolina – preparing for action starting later this month. The NCAA has eliminated two-a-days, one of the few useful things they’ve done over the last two decades, as teams will now have walk-through practices or weight training instead of two separate sessions of tackling and on-field activities.
The college football season has always felt more like a sprint than a marathon, but that seems even more pronounced in 2017 since we get Florida State-Alabama, Florida-Michigan and Texas A&M-UCLA on the opening weekend. Strap in for the bullet train. It speeds up immediately. Here are the 20 names you need to know if you’re placing a buck or two on the Heisman. Not coincidentally, they’re the players with the best odds placed on them courtesy of the Westgate, which offered a mid-August update on Monday.
Sam Darnold, QB, USC (9/2): The favorite for a reason, he’s got a favorable schedule, too. Stanford, Texas, Utah and UCLA all have to come through the Coliseum. His toughest road test will come at Notre Dame. I’m guessing people will watch.
Baker Mayfield, QB, Oklahoma (10/1): So long as he isn’t stuck defending them following that Sept. 9 visit to Columbus, he’ll be in the mix deep into the season. If he flops at Ohio State, you may as well rip up your tickets.
Lamar Jackson, QB, Louisville (10/1): The reigning honoree has a legitimate chance to join Archie Griffin in the lonely two-time Heisman winner club. If he hits the ground running and takes down the Tar Heels and the defending champion Clemson Tigers, he’ll likely be riding high as the favorite entering an Oct. 21 showdown at Florida State.
J.T. Barrett, QB, Ohio State (12/1): If he survives Mayfield and the Sooners, he’s going to be a factor all year and could crown himself in Ann Arbor in the regular-season finale at Michigan (Nov. 25).
Jake Browning, QB, Washington (15/1): Following a sixth-place finish for last year’s award that included three first-place votes, the Huskies star will look to build on a 43-touchdown season that saw him throw only nine interceptions. He avoids a head-to-head showdown with Darnold unless the teams meet for the Pac-12 Championship game, and there’s a good chance he’ll put up similar cartoonish numbers.
Deondre Francois, QB, Florida St. (15/1): He’ll get his chance to become the favorite immediately, leading his offense out against the mighty Crimson Tide in Atlanta on Sept. 2.
Jarrett Stidham, QB, Auburn (15/1): Stidham, who enrolled in January, has a great opportunity to become a household name since the Tigers will play at Clemson on Sept. 9. Auburn hosts the Iron Bowl this year too, so a loss in Death Valley wouldn’t be a deal-breaker.
Saquon Barkley, RB, Penn St. (15/1): The lone non-quarterback among the top 10 racked up 22 touchdowns last season. Penn State will play Michigan and Ohio State in back-to-back weeks in late October, so he’ll have to be at his best in those games to have a shot at this entering the regular season’s final month.
Mason Rudolph, QB, Oklahoma St. (20/1): A fantastic sleeper candidate, the senior threw for 28 scores and just four interceptions last season and is experienced enough to run the Cowboys’ high-octane spread offense in his sleep.
Josh Rosen, QB, UCLA (20/1): He was ahead of Darnold – ahead of everyone, really – prior to last year’s disappointment, so the highly touted prospect will have redemption on his mind as he looks to lead the Bruins back from a 4-8 disaster in ‘16.
Jalen Hurts, QB, Alabama (20/1): Because ‘Bama is so loaded on the defensive side of the ball, Hurts will have to put up eye-popping numbers to earn the votes and overcome the inevitable bias that he’s leading a loaded group.
Others: Derrius Guice, RB, LSU (25/1); Bo Scarbrough, RB, Alabama (30/1); Trace McSorley, QB, Penn St. (30/1); Nick Chubb, RB, Georgia (30/1); Kamryn Pettway, RB, Auburn (30/1); Luke Falk, QB, Washington St. (40/1); Derwin James, S, Florida St. (50/1); Wilson Speight, QB, Michigan (50/1); Jacob Eason, QB, Georgia (50/1).