Saquon Barkley, Penn State: The junior running back seems to produce highlight-reel plays each game and is primed for a big season in the Nittany Lions’ high-powered offense. Barkley rushed for 1,496 yards and 18 touchdowns and caught 28 passes for 402 yards and four touchdowns last season. He is expected to be a top 10 pick in next spring’s NFL Draft.
J.T. Barrett, Ohio State: Barrett threw for 2,555 yards and 24 touchdowns and rushed for 845 yards and nine touchdowns last season. The senior quarterback should put up even bigger numbers this season with new offensive coordinator Kevin Wilson now in Columbus and the Buckeyes expected to be national title contenders.
Jake Browning, Washington: Browning finished sixth in the Heisman Trophy voting last season. The junior quarterback threw for 3,430 yards and an eye-popping 43 touchdowns as the Huskies made it into the College Football Playoff. Washington’s regular-season schedule isn’t too daunting so expect Browning to put up big numbers again.
Sam Darnold, USC: The sophomore threw for 3,086 yards and 31 touchdowns last season, despite not starting for the Trojans until the fourth game of the season. His Rose Bowl performance against Penn State, which included five touchdown passes, was dazzling. Now Darnold is a serious Heisman Trophy contender in his first full season as a starter.
Lamar Jackson, Louisville: Don’t forget about the reigning Heisman Trophy winner. While other players may be garnering more attention heading into the season, the junior quarterback could end up as a repeat winner. Jackson threw for 3,543 yards and 30 touchdowns and rushed for 1,571 yards and 21 touchdowns last season.
Baker Mayfield, Oklahoma: Mayfield, a fifth-year senior, finished third in the Heisman voting last season. He threw for 3,965 yards and 40 touchdowns. Mayfield won’t have running back Joe Mixon and wide receiver Dede Westbrook, who are both in the NFL, but new head coach Lincoln Riley should keep Mayfield’s offensive numbers rolling.