Josh Rosen

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Baker Mayfield, J.T. Barrett, Lamar Jackson and Sam Darnold among 2017 Heisman Trophy favorites

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The new college football season may still be a long way away, but it is never too early to place your bets on who you think will win the Heisman Trophy in the 2017 season. The very early favorite, according to odds released by Bovada on Monday, is Oklahoma quarterback Baker Mayfield.

Bovada gives Mayfield 11/2 odds to win the Heisman Trophy this fall. He is followed by Ohio State’s J.T. Barrett (6/1), which sets up a nice Heisman Trophy showdown in September when the defending Big 12 champions head to Columbus for the second game in a home-and-home series that was won by Ohio State in Norman in 2016. Louisville quarterback Lamar Jackson, the 2016 Heisman Trophy winner, is listed with 7/1 odds, with USC’s rising star quarterback Sam Darnold listed at 9/1.

Penn State’s dynamic duo of running back Saquon Barkley and quarterback Trace McSorley each have 10/1 odds, along with Washington quarterback Jake Browning.

Looking back to the early odds from last January, Barrett and Mayfield each had 10/1 Heisman odds. Louisville’s Jackson was not on the radar.

Who will be the favorite for the Heisman Trophy in 2017? How about Lamar Jackson?

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Louisville quarterback Lamar Jackson will now have an opportunity to do something no quarterback has ever done. Jackson will attempt to become the first quarterback in the history of the Heisman Trophy to win the award a second time. And considering how weel his 2016 season started (despite sputtering in the end), the hype machine will be in full force in 2017 out of Louisville. History will not be on his side of course, as there has been just one two-time Heisman Trophy winner (Archie Griffin of Ohio State).

Recent quarterbacks who have come up short of winning a second Heisman Trophy have included Sam Bradford, Tim Tebow and Johnny Manziel. Jackson should have some stiff competition to pose with the stiff-arm trophy in 2017, including at the quarterback position alone. For starters, 2016 Heisman Trophy finalist Baker Mayfield will be back at Oklahoma with a chance to pick up where he has left this season, and that will include a second crack against Ohio State (in Columbus).

Other quarterbacks that should be in the conversation will include USC’s Sam Darnold, Washington’s Jake Browning and perhaps UCLA’s Josh Rosen out of the Pac-12. Alabama’s Jalen Hurts will certainly garner some attention, as will Penn State’s Trace McSorley) and Ohio State’s J.T. Barrett if he returns in 2017. And with Tom Herman the QB Whisperer taking over the show in Austin, look for a big year from Texas quarterback Shane Buechele to catch some eyes.

Running backs have lost their edge in the Heisman Trophy game over the last 15 years, but Saquon Barkley of Penn State, Derrius Guice of LSU and Kamryn Pettway of Auburn may be worth watching closely. Ohio State’s biggest playmaker, Kurtis Samuel, should be in the conversation as well. And for those who insist on throwing a defensive player in the mix, Houston’s Ed Olliver will be the name to watch, although a defensive player from a Group of Five program likely has as minimal a chance to win the Heisman Trophy as there exists. USC’s Adoree’ Jackson isn’t shy about starting his own campaign either.

But the fun part about the Heisman Trophy conversation every season is seeing which player pops up out of nowhere to take the college football world by storm. That will likely be the case in the month of September, but it is anyone’s guess who it may be. Or maybe Jackson will have what it takes to make history.

UCLA parts ways with offensive coordinator Kennedy Polamalu

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UCLA head coach Jim Mora appears to be safe for at least one more year, because he is busy making staff changes in preparation for the 2017 season. Offensive coordinator Kennedy Polamalu has been let go from his position on the staff after a dismal season with the Bruins offense.

UCLA finished its season ranked 92nd in total offense, 127th in rushing offense and 96th in scoring offense. The lone bright spot for the Bruins was the passing game, with Josh Rosen leading the way through the air when he was healthy. Unfortunately for UCLA, Rosen was banged up this season  and only played in six games. Senior Mike Fafaul took over and ended his season with 12 touchdown passes and 11 interceptions. UCLA also ranked 99th in the nation in red zone scoring percentage and 96th in the nation in red zone touchdown percentage.

Polamalu took over as the offensive coordinator for UCLA last year to replace Noel Mazzone. Mazzone left UCLA for Texas A&M last offseason, leaving UCLA to promote Polamalu (a former USC offensive coordinator) from running backs coach to take on the role. The lack of focus or improvement in the running game was a surprising development for the Bruins, who relied too heavily on the pass to get things done.

Whoever takes over as offensive coordinator will be the third in three seasons for Rosen, with next season likely being his final year at UCLA before a possible departure for the NFL. Given the instability on the staff and possible uncertainty about what happens beyond 2017 if things go sour once more, Rosen leaving a year early for the NFL feels like a near-given. And who could blame him?

Washington State remains undefeated in Pac-12 after sending UCLA home with loss

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Washington State (4-2, 3-0 Pac-12) remained in control of its own fate in the Pac-12 with a 27-21 victory over visiting UCLA (3-4, 1-3 Pac-12) Saturday night in Pullman. Luke Falk was held without a touchdown pass for the Cougars, and UCLA was without Josh Rosen at quarterback due to an injury from last weekend.

Falk passed for 261 yards and was picked off one time by the Bruins defense. The interception came in the end zone in the first half, when UCLA’s defense did all it could to keep the game within reach for an offense with little to give without Rosen. Senior Mike Fafaul gave it his best effort, however, with 258 passing yards and the first three touchdown passes of his career. UCLA had a chance to steal a win on the road after being down 24-7, but a fumble by receiver Jordan Lasley was recovered by Washington State (after a video review had to overturn the original call on the field). From there, Washington State was able to work the clock, force the Bruins to call their final timeout, and then run the clock down to 49 seconds when a punt was downed at the UCLA two-yard line. Fafaul lobbed on deep down the middle of the field but it was picked off to seal the win for the Cougars.

UCLA had three turnover sin the game. Maybe the inclement weather made for some slippery footballs. Washington State had two turnovers as well.

Washington State travels to Arizona State next week for another late night contest. Arizona State will have a chance to clinch bowl eligibility with a win and will look to shrug off a blowout loss on the road against Colorado. UCLA will be home next week to take on Utah. After a victory on the road against Oregon State, the Utes remain in a tie for first place in the Pac-12 South (with Colorado).

UCLA offense nowhere to be found without Josh Rosen, WSU leads 10-0 at half

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UCLA is playing without quarterback Josh Rosen, who hurt his shoulder in a game last week against Arizona State. With Rosen out of action, the Bruins have been running the offense with Mike Fafaul. With Rosen out of the game, it has been up to the Bruins defense to keep this one within reach. Through one half, they have done that despite trailing Washington State by a score of 10-0 at the halftime break.

Washington State has been riding high the past few weeks with big wins against Stanford and Oregon, but the offense has been off the mark at times against the Bruins tonight. Luke Falk has passed for 125 yards but has struggled to get in a rhythm and has been picked off once. That interception came in the end zone (UCLA’s Jayon Brown came up with it). The only touchdown of the first half was scored by Gerard Wicks from the goal line for the Cougars.

UCLA’s offense has been locked down by Washington State as well. The Bruins have rushed for just 16 yards as a team, with Bolu Olorunfunmi leading the team with nine rushing yards on seven carries. UCLA is just one for six on third downs too.

The first half has been far from pretty, but fortunately, most people were probably too invested in a few other games going on at the same time (Ohio State and Wisconsin in overtime, for example). But we are now entering Pac-12 After dark territory, where anything can happen in the second half.