Barkley leads the way for this year's Heisman

Who has the inside track to this year's Heisman Trophy?

Last year's winner, Lamar Jackson, is still putting up big numbers, but his Louisville Cardinals have fallen out of the top 25. So who are the top three candidates for Mel Kiper and Todd McShay?

Kiper's top 3 Heisman candidates

1. Saquon Barkley, RB, Penn State

Stats: 102 carries for 649 yards (6.4 yards per carry); six rushing touchdowns; 29 catches for 395 yards (13.6 yards per catch); two receiving touchdowns; one 98-yard kickoff return touchdown; one 16-yard passing touchdown

My thoughts on Barkley are well-known at this point -- he's a fantastic NFL prospect who's up to No. 2 on my Big Board. He's the favorite for the Heisman because of two things: 1) He's a threat to score every time he touches the ball, whether it's on a handoff or off a reception, and; 2) His team is 6-0. That matters in the Heisman race, whether you like it or not. Barkley and Penn State have a tough upcoming slate, facing Michigan at home and Ohio State and Michigan State on the road. This stretch is where he can win the Heisman, though it's not going to have an effect on his draft status, barring injury.

2. Bryce Love, RB, Stanford

Stats: 135 carries for 1,387 yards (10.3 yards per carry); 11 rushing touchdowns; four catches for 19 yards (4.8 yards per catch)

Love is having one of the most ridiculous seasons I can remember. Here are a few of the categories in which he leads the country: rushing yards, rushing yards per game (198.1), rushes of 10-plus yards (33), rushing yards after contact (496) and rushing yards before contact (744). And it's not as if his yards per carry is inflated because of sample size -- he's seventh in the country in total rushes. Love rips off 50-yard runs virtually every game. He also hasn't fumbled. Stanford has a few marquee games coming up, and Love could make a statement in those. The Cardinal still have to go to Washington State, and they get home games against Washington, Cal and Notre Dame. Love could jump Barkley if he keeps this pace against these teams.

3. Baker Mayfield, QB, Oklahoma

Stats: 117-of-161 passing (72.7 percent) for 1,937 yards with 17 touchdowns and one interception; one rushing touchdown; 91.0 Total QBR (No. 1 in FBS)

This is a great year for quarterback prospects, but it's not a great year for quarterbacks in the Heisman race. Luke Falk was right there until he threw five picks Friday night. Sam Darnold and Josh Rosen have thrown too many interceptions overall. Lamar Jackson can't get any help from his defense. The best bets might be Mayfield and Mason Rudolph from the Big 12; they are first and second in Total QBR. Mayfield threw his first interception of the season in Saturday's win over Texas, and he made some big-time throws down the stretch to lead OU back. Mayfield has been one of the best quarterbacks in the country the past three seasons, finishing fourth in the Heisman voting in 2015 and third in 2016. Big games loom at Oklahoma State and versus TCU in back-to-back weeks. If he can lead the Sooners to wins in those, he could take home the Heisman.

My fourth guy would be Alabama running back Damien Harris, who's averaging 9.2 yards per carry and has nine touchdowns.

McShay's top 3

1. Saquon Barkley: I've been a big fan of Barkley all season, and I think he's the best player in college football. He didn't have a great game against Northwestern two weeks ago, but he has been extremely productive so far and is the Heisman leader for me. He can also put up bigger numbers because he's an excellent kick returner. A big test comes this week at home against Michigan.

2. Baker Mayfield: He came into this season as my ninth-ranked QB, but he has been much improved and is up No. 5 in my rankings. He battled against Texas to lead his team to a win, and the 38-31 loss to Iowa State wasn't on him. I'm not sure if he'll translate to a starting QB in NFL, but he has had a great college career and is having another terrific season.

3. Bryce Love: Mel listed off the relevant stats, so I'll just echo what he said. What has impressed me the most about Love is his speed, which jumps off the screen. At 5-foot-10, 196 pounds, he's a smaller back, but his game translates well to the NFL. The numbers he has been putting up are just ridiculous.

Prospects on the rise

Kiper: D.J. Chark, WR, LSU

LSU has had poor quarterback play since Chark has been in school, but he's a dynamic receiver/returner who could be better in the NFL than he has been in college. He was a huge part of the Tigers' comeback win over Auburn on Saturday, with five catches for 150 yards and a 75-yard punt return for a touchdown. It was his second punt-return TD of the season. At 6-3, 195 pounds, Chark has averaged 21.1 yards per catch on his 48 career catches. He's a big-play threat, and I like the way he creates separation late in his routes. I'd like to see him consistently high-point the ball, so he's not a perfect prospect. He also lost a fumble against Auburn. Chark could end up being the top senior receiver in this 2018 class. I have him as a Day 2 pick at this point, and he could move up if he tests well.

McShay: Tyler Vaughns, WR, USC

I was at Utah-USC over the weekend and came away impressed with Vaughns. He caught at least five passes in each of the past three games and clearly Sam Darnold is developing trust in him. Offensive coordinator Tee Martin believes this guy is the next Marqise Lee, who had a great college career. Only a freshman, Vaughns (6-2, 185 pounds) should continue to get better.

Almost famous

Kiper: Darius Jackson, DE, Jacksonville State

Looking for a midround pass-rushing sleeper for the 2018 class? Jackson is your guy. He was spectacular in the Gamecocks' win over Eastern Kentucky on Saturday with three tackles for loss, two forced fumbles and a sack. He was the Ohio Valley Conference Defensive Player of the Year in 2016, when he had 10 sacks and 15.5 tackles for loss. He had 19 tackles for loss in 2015. On tape, he's a consistently dominant pass-rusher at the FCS level. He has speed off the edge and shows power off the snap, and he's a good tackler in space. At 6-2, 240 pounds, he's probably going to be a 3-4 outside linebacker at the next level. I have him in the third- to fifth-round range right now.

McShay: Sione Teuhema, OLB, SE Louisiana

Teuhema recorded nine tackles, 5.0 TFL and 2.0 sacks in the Lions' 56-10 win over Houston Baptist. He's the Lions' second-leading tackler with 53, including 42 solo. He has compiled 14.5 TFL and 8.0 sacks on the year. A true senior, he played defensive end at LSU for two seasons before transferring following two suspensions. He appears more comfortable in his transition to outside linebacker.