The easy pick would be Louisville quarterback Lamar Jackson, the 2016 winner. But that’s no fun, and besides, returning Heisman winners face incredible pressure to duplicate — or play even better — in their follow-up act. We trust Jackson will have a solid season, but we will highlight others in our list of favorites.
QB, Southern California: This is my preseason pick. Darnold exploded onto the scene as a freshman and led the Trojans to a Rose Bowl victory over Penn State. Expectations are much higher this season, but he should put up big numbers on a team capable of making the playoff.
QB, Oklahoma: Mayfield’s 2016 statistics make him a frontrunner. He led the nation in completion percentage (70.9) and yards per attempt (11.1) while throwing 40 touchdowns to only eight interceptions. He will produce plenty of highlights.
RB, Penn State: The best running back in college enters with national buzz after leading the Nittany Lions’ revitalization. He shares the spotlight with quarterback Trace McSorley, but Barkley gives Penn State a 1-2 punch few offenses can match.
QB, Washington: Browning will battle Darnold for top billing in the Pacific-12, but Browning’s production should stack up with contenders. He earned Pac-12 Offensive Player of the Year honors last season as a sophomore after throwing 43 touchdowns.
RB, Louisiana State: Guice was LSU’s most productive running back last season, not Leonard Fournette. Guice rushed for 1,387 yards and 15 touchdowns. He is the focal point of the offense now.