I can't believe it's already Week 5 of the 2019 college football season. And while there is still plenty of time and games left in the regular season, teams have already been lighting up the scoreboards, leaving their marks on the box scores, and showcasing their talents on national television. Because of all of the action that's taken place already, there's already talk about who deserves consideration for this year's Heisman Trophy.
The recipient of college football's most prestigious award won't be announced until Dec. 14 but a handful of players have already thrown their names into the hat. Here are five (with one dark horse) who have already made the biggest cases for winning the stiff-armed trophy at season's end.
Jalen Hurts, QB, Oklahoma
The Sooners have a very strong candidate to claim a third consecutive Heisman Trophy winner, as Hurts is making a case to follow in Baker Mayfield's and Kyler Murray's steps. Whether Hurts needed a change of scenery (transferred from Alabama), or a new offensive scheme, or perhaps both, he is thriving quite nicely in Lincoln's Riley's hybrid offense. Using both his arm and legs, Hurts has accounted for 880 passing yards (ranks second in FBS with an 80.3 completion percentage), 373 rushing yards (9.8 ypc), he's responsible for 13 touchdowns, and has yet to commit a turnover through three games.
This week the Sooners begin Big 12 play, giving him more opportunities to add to these numbers, unless opponents can figure out how to slow him and this Oklahoma offense down.
Jonathan Taylor, RB, Wisconsin
Taylor is looking to be the first Badger to win the Heisman since fellow running back Ron Dayne did in 1999. And the hard-running junior has already drawn comparisons to the Wisconsin legend. Both men are from New Jersey, both men ran for over 1,500 yards as freshman (Taylor had 1,977 yards in 2017), and they both have posted 300 carries and 2,000 yards in the same season (Dayne in 1996 and '99, Taylor last season). Taylor still has a ways to go before reaching Dayne's status as the FBS' all-time leading rusher (7,125 rushing yards, 71 TDs), and there is buzz that Taylor may enter the 2020 NFL Draft so he may not get the chance to try and challenge that record.
This season, Taylor is once again among the nation's rushing leaders with 440 yards and seven touchdowns in his first three games. He's averaging a robust 7.6 yards per carry and has scored an FBS-leading 10 total TDs. He's currently fifth in school history with 4,611 career rushing yards while averaging 6.9 yards per attempt. His size (5-11, 219), speed, and strength are coveted by NFL teams. Even if he doesn't win the Heisman this season, he may end up the first running back chosen in next year's draft should he declare early.
Tua Tagovailoa, QB, Alabama
The Crimson Tide's current quarterback may not be as fleet of foot as the former (44 rushing yards this year), but the Hawaiian-born Tagovailoa is already one of the most productive and efficient passers in school history. Heading into Week 5, Tagovailoa is completing 77 percent (third in the FBS) of his pass attempts for 1,300 yards (fifth), with 17 touchdowns (second), and no interceptions, for a passer rating of 225.3 (third). Tagovailoa has done quite well with the switch to a spread offense from more of a pro-style system. His completion rate and passer rating are both higher compared to last year (68 and 175, respectively), when he finished as the runner-up to Kyler Murray in the Heisman voting. Don't be surprised if Tagovailoa makes another trip to New York City this December.
Joe Burrow, QB, LSU
The senior is in his second year running the Tigers offense, and just like Alabama, the Tigers also have switched from a pro-style attack to a spread. And Burrow is thriving in it as he's completing 80.6 percent of his passes (No. 1 in the nation) for 1,520 yards (second), and 17 touchdowns (tied for second). He's already set a career high in touchdown passes, including a school-record six last week against Vanderbilt. Burrow is a big reason why LSU is undefeated (4-0), ranked in the top five of both polls, and tops in the nation in scoring at 58 points per game.
The Tigers already have a win at Texas on their resume, and they have marquee matchups with No. 9 Florida (Oct. 12), No. 7 Auburn (Oct. 26), and No. 2 Alabama (Nov. 9) still on tap. Victories over these teams would not only improve LSU's chances of playing for the SEC title and making a case for a spot in the College Football Playoff, they also would help build Burrow's Heisman credentials.
Justin Fields, QB, Ohio State
This talented sophomore transfer from Georgia was tasked with filling the shoes of Heisman finalist Dwayne Haskins while also helping get the Ryan Day era off the ground. So far Fields gets an A+ for both as he's already accounted for 1,030 yards of offense and 19 total touchdowns (13 passing, 6 rushing). His efforts are a prime reason why the Buckeyes have outscored their opposition 214-36. There are still plenty of games left, including several key Big Ten matchups, but Fields is already on the path that could result in Ohio State's first Heisman winner since Troy Smith in 2006.
One more name to keep an eye on...
Sam Ehlinger, QB, Texas
He's my dark-horse candidate because he's still a tough sell outside of Texas, especially after he was outdueled by Joe Burrow and LSU earlier this month, and Jalen Hurts plays in the same conference. But not only is Ehlinger a possible early entrant into the 2020 NFL Draft, but he also has Heisman-worthy numbers. Currently, he ranks among the nation's leaders in completion percentage (72.9, 14th), passing yards (1,237, seventh), and touchdown passes (15, fourth). Ehlinger also averages 8.8 yards per attempt, ranks eighth in passer rating (181.0), he's only been sacked six times, and he's thrown just one interception.
Ehlinger's efficiency is a prime reason why Texas scored more than 40 points in each of the first three games, he's averaging 270 passing yards per game, and he can use his feet when needed (42 carries, 191 yds., 4.5 ypc, TD). The Longhorns are on bye this week as they get ready for their grueling nine-game Big 12 schedule.
— Gabe Salgado is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. He's also written for NBC, Fox, The Sporting News, The Sports Journal, The Undefeated and Complex. He's a co-host of The Rewind Sports: 60. Follow him on Twitter @GabeSalgado82.