Heisman Watch Week 5: Bryce Love makes his presence known

Each week throughout the season, Dr. Saturday will highlight the five players we think are the top Heisman contenders. The list will change often early in the season before the true candidates separate themselves from the pack.

Previously: Week 1, Week 2, Week 3, Week 4

And the September Heisman goes to … Saquon Barkley!

Anybody who saw the Penn State running back in the Rose Bowl last year knew they were seeing a special player. And so far in 2017, he has lived up to the hype with his stellar all-around play. But there’s still a long way to go before this race is decided. It feels like Stanford running back Bryce Love is going to make sure of that while Oklahoma’s Baker Mayfield leads a stellar crop of quarterbacks still in the mix.

1. Saquon Barkley, RB, Penn State: Indiana found a way to contain Barkley in the running game — just 56 yards on 20 carries — but the junior showed his all-around excellence in another blowout victory for fourth-ranked Penn State. Barkley returned the game’s opening kickoff 98 yards for a touchdown, showing his incredible speed in the process. Barkley, who is averaging 243.6 all-purpose yards per game, also caught four passes for 51 yards and threw a 16-yard touchdown pass to DaeSean Hamilton.

His best play of the game was a 36-yard reception in the first quarter when he caught the ball behind the line of scrimmage with one hand and accelerated into the secondary — with an awesome juke — for a huge gain.

Stanford’s Bryce Love (R) already has 1,088 yards this season. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

2. Bryce Love, RB, Stanford: With a school record 301 rushing yards against Arizona State, Stanford’s Bryce Love has already passed the 1,000-yard mark (1,088) on the young season. And he’s done so on just 98 carries with eight touchdowns. That’s a ridiculous 11.1 yards per carry pace. Through five games, his lowest single game total is 160 yards. Though he doesn’t have the pass-catching and return game versatility of his predecessor, Love has made people quickly bury any doubt about his ability to replace Christian McCaffrey.

Through five games, he’s putting up numbers rarely seen in college football:

Love has put up these numbers for the 3-2 Cardinal against some pretty weak Pac-12 fronts. He’ll get his biggest test of the season Saturday night on the road against Utah, which allows only 87 rushing yards per game — the tenth-best mark in the country.

3. Baker Mayfield, QB, Oklahoma: Mayfield and the third-ranked Sooners had a bye over the weekend before resuming their Big 12 slate. Through four games, Mayfield has thrown for 1,329 yards and 13 touchdowns without an interception. His 75.2 completion percentage (117/173) is third in the country and his absurd 228.3 passer rating leads the nation by a sizable margin (No. 2 is 188.3). Mayfield finished the 2016 season with a 191.78 passer rating — an FBS record. That should give you an indication of the level of Mayfield’s play so far this season.

4. Mason Rudolph, QB, Oklahoma State: Following the loss to TCU, Rudolph and the Oklahoma State offense had a nice bounceback game against Texas Tech. In a 41-34 win, Rudolph completed 27-of-38 passes for three touchdowns with an interception. He also rushed the ball 11 times for 50 yards and two more scores, showing his underrated athleticism. With the game tied late in the fourth, the winning touchdown came from Rudolph’s legs when he sprinted in untouched for a 16-yard score with 1:12 to play. Rudolph is second in the country with 1,909 yards and 16 passing touchdowns to go with his five rushing scores.

5. Luke Falk, QB, Washington State: With Washington State at 5-0 and ranked No. 11 after an upset over USC, it’s time to give Luke Falk some love. The senior just continues to produce at a high level and did so on a big stage in Friday night’s win over the Trojans, throwing for 340 yards and two scores. Falk also showed tremendous toughness, getting up over and over again after taking a bevy of big hits. Falk is completing 74.5 percent of his passes for 1,718 yards, 16 touchdowns and just two interceptions.

Also considered:

Lamar Jackson, QB, Louisville: In a 55-10 over Murray State, Jackson threw for 249 yards and three touchdowns while rushing for 100 yards and a score — all in the first half. Jackson is not out of this race, but when you play a low level FCS team, it won’t move the needle. He’ll get his chance to move back into our top five after Thursday’s trip to No. 24 NC State.

Josh Rosen, QB, UCLA: UCLA got back on track with a win over Colorado on Saturday and Rosen continued to put up huge numbers, adding 372 yards to his nation-leading total. Through five games, Rosen has thrown for 2,135 yards (226 yards more than anybody else) and 17 touchdowns with five interceptions.

Rashaad Penny, RB, San Diego State: San Diego State continues to win and Rashaad Penny continues to put up 100-yard games. His 107 yards against Northern Illinois was actually the lowest total of his season, but he’s still second behind Love in rushing yards with 823. He also added a 33-yard touchdown catch against NIU, and did it after being viciously poked in the eye.

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Sam Cooper is a writer for the Yahoo Sports blogs. Have a tip? Email him or follow him on Twitter!

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