Why The Heisman Race Is Just Getting Started
The Heisman Trophy: The Top Individual Award in College Football
It’s taken years for LSU to finally bring its pro-style offense up to date with the rest of the sport. Now, behind a modernized attack, Joe Burrow and his Tigers are the top dogs in college football.
On the way to 10-0, Ed Orgeron’s team has left the likes of Texas and Alabama in its wake. And those victories have come not with the traditional LSU blueprint of smash-mouth football and dominant defense, but on the arm of Burrow.
And so, the No. 1 LSU Tigers stand poised to stuff the trophy case this year. An SEC championship, the College Football Playoff National Championship, and even the Heisman Trophy are on the horizon.
With just a pair of regular-season contests and conference championships to be played, Burrow is the Heisman frontrunner with odds of -1200 to win the award. Behind Burrow is a group of familiar names: Justin Fields (+600), Jalen Hurts (+1100), Jonathan Taylor (+7500), and Trevor Lawrence (+10000).
A peek at those odds may cause you to believe the race is all but decided, but in the chaos of college football, let’s take a look at why the Heisman race is really just getting started.
The Legitimate Heisman Contenders
Jalen Hurts – Oklahoma
Let’s start with Oklahoma quarterback Jalen Hurts. Yes, No. 9 Oklahoma suffered a defeat at the hands of Kansas State and is on the outside looking into the College Football Playoff right now. All of the above is why Hurts is the biggest longshot among the three contenders.
However, Hurts has a lot going for him.
First of all, Hurts has proven that he can be a star quarterback for a team not named Alabama, which is why nobody can attribute all of Hurts’ success to Nick Saban. And Hurts has the added benefit of being the most well-known quarterback of our Heisman hopefuls coming into the season.
Hurts also has great numbers, including:
- .786 completion percentage (third)
- 3,039 passing yards (seventh)
- 28 passing TDs (seventh)
Plus, Hurts already has his Heisman moment/game in a massive comeback against No. 13 and then-undefeated Baylor. After going down 28-3 on the road, Hurts led the Sooners to victory with a four-touchdown performance.
And finally, Hurts has a chance to lead Oklahoma to a Big 12 championship and another pair of ranked wins. If Hurts can do so and get the Sooners into a playoff spot, he has a legitimate chance at Heisman glory, although he may need some help from the other QBs.
Justin Fields – Ohio State
Next up is Ohio State quarterback Justin Fields. No. 2 Ohio State has been a machine all year long, taking down Michigan State and Wisconsin along the way. The Buckeyes have failed to score fewer than 34 points in any game, and have scored as many as 76.
That offensive production is due in large part to the numbers of Fields, who’s racked up:
- 31 touchdowns
- .691 completion percentage (12th)
While his yardage numbers aren’t great, Fields has a great chance in a Heisman race that’s just getting started because Ohio State is set for its three biggest games of the season.
If Fields is able to lead the Buckeyes to wins over No. 8 Penn State, No. 13 Michigan, and a highly-ranked Big Ten Championship Game opponent, he’ll be impossible to ignore in the Heisman race. While it may take a poor game from Burrow to win the award, that outcome is definitely on the table.
Joe Burrow – LSU
And that leaves us with Burrow. Like we said earlier, LSU has the college football world in front of it.
And Burrow’s numbers speak for themselves:
- 38 touchdowns (second)
- 3,687 yards (second)
- .786 completion percentage(first)
Those stats, along with the fact that he’s beaten Texas, Florida, Auburn, and Alabama, are why Burrow is the frontrunner in the Heisman race.
However, the race isn’t over just yet.
While Burrow isn’t likely to slip against Arkansas or Texas A&M, he’ll still face a huge task against No. 4 Georgia in the SEC Championship Game.
So, while Burrow is the clear Heisman leader, both Fields and Hurts still have a legitimate shot at the most prestigious individual award in college football.
The Heisman Pretenders
Trevor Lawrence – Clemson Tigers
The No. 3 Clemson Tigers are 11-0 and sitting pretty when it comes to earning one of the four College Football Playoff spots. The Tigers are also coming off a national championship and 15-0 season that introduced Trevor Lawrence to the world.
So, it makes sense that Lawrence is a Heisman hopeful, right?
Well, here’s why Lawrence doesn’t have a shot at the trophy:
- Everyone is going to hold a narrow victory against North Carolina over the head of Clemson, which means a quarterback leading a team with a flawless record will have the advantage here.
- Lawrence is 23rd in the nation in passing yards (2,575), 11th in touchdown passes (27), and 16th in completion percentage (.681). Those simply aren’t on the same level as the other candidates.
- Clemson has a very soft schedule. The Tigers have taken down then-No. 12 Texas A&M, but a weak ACC hasn’t offered another ranked opponent, and it likely won’t present Clemson with a highly-ranked opponent in the conference championship game either.
As for running back Jonathan Taylor, there isn’t much chance. While the star rusher has racked up 1,463 yards and 17 touchdowns, he hasn’t been able to keep up the pace he was on early in the season.
And with the Badgers suffering a pair of losses already, one being to unranked Illinois, Wisconsin is out of the public consciousness.