Heisman Watch: Michigan State RB Kenneth Walker III makes huge move after 5 TD performance

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For the rest of the college football season, Yahoo Sports will highlight the leading candidates for the Heisman Trophy on a weekly basis. All odds are via BetMGM.

If you hadn’t gotten a chance to watch Kenneth Walker III before Saturday, he made a heck of a first impression.

Walker, in his first year at Michigan State after beginning his career at Wake Forest, had a remarkable performance in one of the biggest games of the year — MSU’s top-10 showdown with rival Michigan.

Both teams entered the day undefeated and Walker stole the show in a thrilling, come-from-behind 37-33 Spartans victory. Walker accounted for more than 50% of MSU’s offensive output and scored all five of his team’s touchdowns while rushing for 197 yards on 23 carries.

Walker scored twice in the first half, but the Spartans went into halftime trailing 23-14. That deficit grew to 30-14 midway through the third, but Walker and MSU embarked on a gutsy comeback.

Walker’s 58-yard touchdown run on a third-down play early in the fourth quarter helped tie the score at 30-30. And then Walker burst through the line again later in the fourth, this time for a 23-yard touchdown that proved to be the game-winner.

Walker showed off the full package: speed, balance, vision and his ability to gain yards after contact. And it was a performance that significantly boosted his place in the Heisman Trophy conversation.

Last week, Walker was listed at +1600 to win the Heisman at BetMGM. Following Saturday’s performance, Walker has moved all the way up to +500 and is nipping at the heels of the three quarterbacks ahead of him.

Michigan State is now No. 5 in the AP poll and figures to be in a similar range in Tuesday night’s College Football Playoff rankings. As long as MSU keeps winning, Walker is going to play a very prominent role in the Heisman race — especially with a game at Ohio State looming. It’s a game that could ultimately decide the Big Ten East.

(Below are the current betting favorites to win the Heisman Trophy. Odds courtesy of BetMGM.)

Alabama QB Bryce Young (+190)

Alabama had a bye over the weekend, but Bryce Young remains the betting favorite for the Heisman at BetMGM. Young, a redshirt freshman, is living up to his five-star recruiting billing. In the Crimson Tide’s most-recent game against Tennessee, Young showed his effortless feel and mobility both inside and outside the pocket. He threw for 371 yards, rushed for 42 yards and had four total TDs in the win. For the season, Young has thrown for 2,453 yards, 26 touchdowns and three interceptions while completing 70% of his throws.

Ole Miss QB Matt Corral (+275)

Matt Corral left Saturday’s game at Auburn with an ankle injury. It looked bad initially, but Corral was able to return to the ballgame — a 31-20 loss. It was a gutsy effort from Corral, who threw for 289 yards and had 45 yards and a score on the ground, albeit in a loss. For the season, Corral has thrown for 2,202 yards and 15 touchdowns while rushing for 519 yards and 10 more scores. After the loss, Corral’s odds dipped slightly from +250. The Rebels now have two losses and lack a true marquee game on the remainder of the schedule. But if Corral continues to put up big performances, he’s definitely got a chance to get to New York.

Ohio State QB CJ Stroud (+450)

Since that Week 2 loss to Oregon, Ohio State has won six consecutive games. Almost all of them were blowouts over overmatched opponents. The Buckeyes finally got a test on Saturday night against Penn State and they emerged with a 33-24 win. Stroud definitely missed some throws, but overall played a clean game. He went 22-of-34 for 305 yards and a touchdown, giving him 2,270 yards and 23 TDs on the year.

Michigan State RB Kenneth Walker III (+500)

Following Saturday’s performance, Walker is up to 1,194 yards and 14 touchdowns on 175 carries so far this season. His yardage output trails only Syracuse’s Sean Tucker, who has rushed for 1,267 yards but has played an additional game compared to Walker. Additionally, Walker leads the nation in rushing yards per game (149.25), is tied for third in rushing touchdowns and is fourth in yards per rush (6.82) among players with at least 100 attempts.

Oklahoma QB Caleb Williams (+850)

Quietly, Oklahoma freshman Caleb Williams is also steadily climbing up the Heisman odds. Williams did not receive his first significant action until the Texas game on Oct. 9 — OU’s sixth game of the season. That hasn't stopped oddsmakers from taking his candidacy seriously. After Williams threw for 402 yards and six touchdowns in a 52-21 win over Texas Tech, Williams moved up from +1400 to +850. Williams has made just three starts yet he has thrown for 1,189 yards and 14 touchdowns.

Pittsburgh QB Kenny Pickett (+1100)

Kenny Pickett took a bit of a step back in the odds — from +1000 to +1100 — after Pitt lost to Miami on Saturday. Pickett threw for a whopping 519 yards (a program record) and three touchdowns in the loss, giving him 2,755 yards and 26 TDs on the year. But he also threw two costly interceptions, including one in the final minutes when the Panthers had the chance to retake the lead.

Others on the radar

  • Ohio State RB TreVeyon Henderson (+3000)

  • Cincinnati QB Desmond Ridder (+3500)

  • Texas RB Bijan Robinson (+4000)

  • Wake Forest QB Sam Hartman (+4000)

  • Alabama RB Brian Robinson (+6600)

  • Georgia DL Jordan Davis (+8000)

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