Sam Darnold

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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.

QB Sam Darnold: USC can hang with any team

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Last week as the College Football Playoff rankings were updated, there was a lot of discussion over whether or not USC should be in contention for a spot in the playoff. That talk died down a little bit this week as the Trojans were locked out of a shot to play for the Pac-12 championship, but there are still plenty of analysts who suggest right now USC is among the best teams in the country. An in-season quarterback change to Sam Darnold is a big reason why, and now the Trojans passer is saying USC could go toe-to-toe with any team in the country.

Darnold was a guest on The Dan Patrick Show on Wednesday, during which he was asked if he would to be an intern for a day. Darnold was also asked about the Trojans, who ended the regular season on a hot streak and have crept up the rankings as a result.

How good is this USC team? How would the Trojans do if they got a second chance to play Alabama, who demolished the Trojans in the season opener in Arlington? Darnold stayed away from saying “We want ‘Bama,” but he did not lack confidence in answering how USC would play against whoever line sup against them in the postseason.

“I think we can play with any team in the country. I think we proved that over these past several weeks,” Darnold said. “We’re just excited for any opportunity that comes.”

Darnold went on to discuss a number of other topics like his family in Hollywood and more. We may also have a new nickname for Darnold; Captain Hammer. Well, we’ll see if that catches on.