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CFT 2017 Season Previews: Heisman Watch List

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While every college football player dreams of being on the last team standing at the end of a season and winning a national title, just about all of them have struck the stiff arm pose and imagined holding up the Heisman Trophy as well. It may be a team sport when all is said and done, but the most prestigious individual award around is the entry ticket to one of the most exclusive clubs on the planet.

Adding to the normal intrigue surrounding the race to be the most outstanding college football player, the 2017 campaign for the Heisman is shaping up to be the most exciting — and wide open — in a long time. To start with, there’s a dynamic quarterback in Lamar Jackson who won the award last December and could be even better after an offseason developing as a passer. Add in veterans with plenty of name recognition like Baker Mayfield and J.T. Barrett, to go along with an eye-popping group of tailbacks, and the amount of players who have the potential to be holding up the bronze statue is both lengthy and impressive.

Who are the favorites? Here’s CFTalk’s look at all things Heisman and which players will be in the running for the most famous award in all of college football.

SAM DARNOLD, QB, USC
2016 Stats: 3,086 yards passing, 31 TD, 9 INT, 250 yards rushing, 2 TD
The golden boy of Troy is the prohibitive favorite to take home the Heisman Trophy this year and it’s hard not to figure out why. Playing the marquee position on the field for a powerhouse like USC helps but make no mistake, Darnold showed everybody what he could do in reeling off nine straight wins with the Trojans and capping it off with a thrilling five-score performance in the Rose Bowl. He’ll put up plenty of numbers through the air and on the ground and should be in thick of the race even if the Trojans take a loss.

BAKER MAYFIELD, QB, OKLAHOMA
2016 Stats: 3,965 yards, 40 TD, 8 INT, 177 yards rushing, 6 TD
Mayfield has finished in the top five of voting for the Heisman… twice. Could the third time be the charm in 2017? Based only on the numbers, you would think so as the Sooners signal-caller is as efficient as he is insanely productive. The return of the Big 12 title game presents one additional opportunity for Oklahoma’s quarterback to leave a lasting impression on voters and that might just be enough for one of the best in the game to finally be recognized as such.

LAMAR JACKSON, QB, LOUISVILLE
2016 Stats: 3,543 yards passing, 30 TD, 9 INT, 1,571 yards rushing, 21 TD
Could Archie Griffin have company? Jackson has a shot to repeat and win the Heisman again but the road will not be easy if history is any indication. That said, few possess  the kind of talent that the Cardinals’ QB does as a true dual threat who can find the end zone on any play. He’s expected to be even sharper throwing the ball going into his junior year and if he can stave off the losing streak like the one at the end of last year, he’ll be right back in New York again.

J.T. BARRETT, QB, OHIO STATE
2016 Stats: 2,555 yards passing, 24 TD, 7 INT, 845 yards rushing, 9 TD
Barrett became a household name when he helped lead the Buckeyes to a national title but the old man of this year’s Heisman frontrunners is hoping to go out with a bang by returning to that form he showed early on. While the OSU passing game hasn’t quite been explosive the past two years, the addition of offensive innovator Kevin Wilson as the new coordinator should provide a huge boost in terms of playcalling and developing Barrett as a passer. Playing for a marquee team that will once again be in playoff contention is a plus already and all the QB needs to do is follow through and deliver.

SAQUON BARKLEY, RB, PENN STATE
2016 Stats: 1,496 yards rushing, 18 TD, 402 yards receiving, 4 TD
Quarterbacks always have a leg up when it comes to the Heisman but it was just two years ago that running backs were the talk of the town when it came time to vote. That could be the case once again with freaky athletes like Barkley around. He was terrific in helping the Nittany Lions to a Big Ten title and has a chance to rack up even more numbers in the team’s explosive offense.

Derrius Guice, RB, LSU
2016 Stats: 1,387 yards rushing, 15 TD, 106 yards receiving, 1 TD
Leonard Fournette received all the Heisman hype for the Tigers but his former backup may prove to be the one who can actually bring home the award to the bayou. Even splitting carries last year he managed to rack up over 1,300 yards and average nearly seven yards a touch. If LSU can threaten to win the SEC West behind Guice, he certainly could run all the way to the Big Apple to capture the trophy.

Chasing the Pack:

Jalen Hurts, QB, Alabama — Heisman buzz started late in the year after he led the Tide to the national title so it stands to reason the dual-threat QB on one of the top teams in the country will be in the mix as a sophomore.

Bo Scarbrough, RB, Alabama — Tide tailbacks have fared well when it comes to the Heisman the past few years and Scarbrough looks to be next in line based on the way he finished 2016 up.

Deondre Francois, QB, Florida State — He’ll have a big time opportunity to state his case by knocking off Alabama in the opener and put up numbers the rest of the way in ACC play.

Derwin James, DB, Florida State — Defenders are almost an afterthought for the trophy but Jabrill Peppers was a finalist last year and James is just as versatile — and perhaps more dangerous.

Jarrett Stidham, QB, Auburn — Gus Malzahn has already turned one transfer QB into a Heisman winner and one-year wonder, what’s another?

Mason Rudolph, QB, Oklahoma State — The Cowboys signal-caller has the best receiving corps in the country and will be able to pile up numbers every week against Big 12 defenses.

Josh Rosen, QB, UCLA — He drew plenty of attention this offseason for his mouth, now he’ll try to wow voters with his arm by sparking a turnaround in Los Angeles.

Quinton Flowers, QB, USF — Group of Five candidates have a steep hill to climb but if anybody can emulate Lamar Jackson and overwhelm through the air and on the ground, it’s a dynamic player like Flowers.

Maryland TE Tyler Devera says he has entered transfer portal

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It seems the transfer portal season never really ends. On Wednesday, one of the newest addition to the transfer portal was Maryland tight end Tyler Devera. Devera announced his entry to the portal on his Twitter account.

Devera was a three-star recruit in Maryland’s Class of 2019 and has yet to appear in a game for the Terrapins.

Entering the transfer portal allows Devera to have contact with any other college football program looking to recruit him. It is worth noting Devera had committed to Rutgers before ending up heading to Maryland. Devera decommitted from the Scarlet Knights after his older brother, Brendan Devera, was dismissed by (now former ) Rutgers head coach Chris Ash. Whether or not Rutgers is back in play given the program will (eventually) have a new head coach remains to be seen.

Even though Devera has not played a game this season, he would have to sit out the 2020 season if he transfers to another FBS program, per NCAA transfer rules and barring any potential waiver that receives approval for immediate eligibility. When Devera is eligible again in 2021, he will still have three years of eligibility after using 2019 or 2020 as a redshirt season.

Uniform updates: Rutgers wearing long sleeved jerseys, Texas Tech throwing it back to 1976

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The Texas Longhorns won’t be the only school wearing a throwback style this weekend. Add Texas Tech and Rutgers to the mix of teams adopting a look that pays tribute to a certain era in program history.

Rutgers, the birthplace of college football, will be doing neer before seen in the modern era of college football. The Scarlet Knights will wear long-sleeve jerseys. The long sleeves mimic the style of uniform worn by the earliest college football players, although these uniforms will be made of a much more athletic material compared to the gear worn by those in 1869. The red long sleeve jerseys will be topped by a white helmet with a classic “R” logo. From head to toe, it is quite a unique look for the Scarlet Knights.

Texas Tech won’t be wearing long sleeves, but they will be wearing a look similar to the one worn during the bicentennial. The retro uniforms to be worn by Texas Tech this weekend take a page from the 1976 Red Raiders with a white helmet and red double-T logo, complete with red stars. Texas Tech claimed a Southwest Conference title in 1976, so the design choice is appropriate for the Red Raiders.

Not to be forgotten, Boston College has been teasing its own throwback look for this weekend too. I’m just guessing it will be one Doug Flutie would appreciate.

Teams suiting up in uniforms designed to pay tribute to a previous generation of program history has been a thing for a while now, but it is great to see so many schools getting in on the fun in the 150th anniversary season of college football. Every team should make it happen.

But wait, there’s more! Boise State is going to wear a uniform similar to the one they wore during their Fiesta Bowl victory over Arizona in 2014.

C’mon Boise State. If you’re going to do a Fiesta Bowl throwback look, it is required by law that it must be the uniform worn in the win against Oklahoma.

Alabama removes Class of 2019 five-star defensive lineman Alfano from roster

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The writing may have been on the wall for much of the season, but Alabama freshman defensive lineman Antonio Alfano appears to no longer be a part of the Alabama football program. Alfano’s name went missing from the team’s online roster, as noted by BamaOnLine.com on Wednesday.

Alfano was among the prized recruits in Alabama’s Class of 2019, but a suspension led to head coach Nick Saban eventually saying Alfano “basically quit” the team. Rumors of his pending entrance to the NCAA transfer portal were ignited following quotes from his family, but BamaOnline reports Alfano has yet to formally have his name added to the portal.

So, uh, what gives?

It’s hard to say for now. Alfano was suspended for unknown reasons early in the season and had yet to play a game for Alabama. His removal from the team’s online roster suggests he will not be making a return to the Crimson Tide. That would suggest an entry to the transfer portal is imminent, especially since his parents previously stated Alfano was doing just that (and publicly saying he should stay at Alabama).

Whatever the future holds for Alfano, there will likely be a number of programs willing to take a look and see if he’s ready to get back on the field in a new environment. If he does transfer, he would have to sit out the 2020 season before being ruled eligible to play again in 2021 with three years of eligibility remaining.

Wayne Gretzky voices support for Oklahoma State RB Chuba Hubbard Heisman Trophy campaign

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The Heisman Trophy campaign for Oklahoma State running back Chuba Hubbard is officially on, and it already has the support of The Great One. Hall of Fame hockey icon Wayne Gretzky was featured in a video shared by the Edmonton Oilers lending his support for Canada’s own Hubbard.

“I just want to pass on our congratulations from everyone in Edmonton,” Gretzky said in a short video clip shared by the Edmonton Oilers. “We’re all really proud of you. Keep going.”

Hubbard, a native of Edmonton, was appreciative of the message and words of encouragement from an Edmonton sports hero.

Hubbard is a native of Edmonton. Hubbard rushed for 6,880 yards and 82 touchdowns in high school. Hubbard currently leads the nation in rushing with 182.33 yards per game. As of today, Hubbard is the only running back with 1,000 rushing yards midway through the season. The next closest to Hubbard in rushing yards is Ohio State’s J.K. Dobbins (826 yards) and Wisconsin’s Jonathan Taylor (825 yards).

Hubbard is hoping to become the second Heisman Trophy winner in Oklahoma State program history. Barry Sanders won the Heisman Trophy in 1988.