Trace McSorley

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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.

Pitt holds off Penn State rally as rivalry is rekindled

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It had been 16 years since the last time Penn State and Pitt met on the football field. It was worth the wait.

Pitt’s Ryan Lewis picked off a bizarre deep pass to the end zone from Penn State’s Trace McSorley with just over a minute to play, allowing the Panthers to put the cap on a 42-39 victory over their in-state rivals. It was an awkward way for the game to end after Penn State appeared to be near field goal range for a possible tie at the very worst. It was the first interception thrown by McSorley, although he also lost two fumbles in the first half as well, with one giving Pittsburgh a short field early in the game to score a quick touchdown.

Pitt running back James Conner was looking good against the Penn State defense, rushing for 117 yards and a touchdown. He also added a touchdown reception and 29 receiving yards as Pitt’s offense took it to Penn State’s defense from start to finish with a few hiccups along the way. Pittsburgh pounded out 341 rushing yards against Penn State, averaging 6.1 yards per rushing attempt. Pitt quarterback Nathan Peterman had a quietly efficient afternoon, completing 11 of 15 pass attempts for 91 yards and three touchdowns. Quandree Henderson was also a problem for Penn State all afternoon, using speed to his advantage to run for 58 yards and catch three passes for 47 yards.

Penn State running back Saquon Barkley scored five touchdowns in the losing effort, tying a program single-game record previously set by Ki-Jana Carter in 1994. Barkley had four touchdowns on the ground and one more on a pass.

Pittsburgh hits the road next week to venture into Big 12 territory. The Panthers head to Stillwater, Oklahoma to take on Oklahoma State. The Cowboys were clipped by Central Michigan on the final play of the game as this game was going on.

Penn State will return to Beaver Stadium next week in hopes of picking up some revenge against Temple. Yes, this may be the rare once-in-a-lifetime situation in which they are looking to get revenge against the Owls, who smacked Penn State around pretty good in the 2015 season opener in Philadelphia. Temple opened this season with a home loss against Army but has bounced back this week with a win over Stony Brook.

Pitt jumps all over Penn State, but Nittany Lions hope late touchdown shifts momentum

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The rivalry between Penn State and Pittsburgh was worth the wait, if you are a fan of the Pitt Panthers. The first half was a dominating show of pure physical advantages against the Nittany Lions from the jump, as the Panthers have built a dominating looking 28-14 halftime lead. Pittsburgh had dominated the first half of the ballgame, but Penn State cut the lead to 14 points with a late first-half touchdown, which they hope will spark a momentum shift.

Penn State’s offense came out looking to establish some quick momentum on the opening drive, but opted to punt when the drive stalled at the Pittsburgh 35-yard line. Brilliant special teams coverage led to the Nittany Lions downing the ball at the one-yard line. That seemed like a good thing for Penn State, but then Pitt went on to execute a 10-play, 99-yard touchdown drive using a little bit of everything for the first score of the afternoon. James Conner ran for nearly 30 yards right down the middle of Penn State’s defense. Pitt used sweeps to take advantage on the edges. In all, Pitt piled up 98 rushing yards on the drive, and that doesn’t include overcoming a holding penalty along the way.

Penn State quarterback Trace McSorley would fumble the very next offensive play for the Nittany Lions on the ensuing possession, with the Panthers setting up shop right from the Penn State 12-yard line. Two plays later, it was 14-0 Panthers after Nathan Peterman completed a pass to Quadree Henderson.

Pitt would go on to pad their lead after Penn State got on the scoreboard shortly after a big special teams return. Saquon Barkley powered his way into the end zone on a short-yardage situation by the goal line, but the story of the first half has been the athletic advantage Pitt has, especially up front. Pitt has over 200 rushing yards at the half as well, and big plays have been used all afternoon so far by the Panthers.