Heisman Watch: The Nation’s top quarterbacks lead the way in an already tight race

As the college football season heats up, some of the nation’s top players are doing much of the same, tightening a Heisman race that was already extremely close.

heisman trophie
Bianka Heather/THE
REVIEW

The 2020 Heisman Trophy race is once again headline by a list of college quarterbacks.

BY
Senior Sports Reporter

As the college football season heats up, some of the nation’s top players are doing much of the same, tightening a Heisman race that was already extremely close.

The Heisman trophy is awarded to the most outstanding player in college football every year. The trophy is the most prestigious award in college sports, and some of the past winners have gone on to have legendary careers in the National Football League (NFL).

Since 2000, the award has been awarded to quarterbacks all but three times; running back Reggie Bush won the award in 2005 with the University of Southern California (USC), running back Mark Ingram won the award in 2009 with Alabama, as did running back Derrick Henry in 2015, also with Alabama.

The Heisman race typically sees the occasional out-of-nowhere rise to stardom for a Heisman candidate that nobody expected, much like this year.

This year has been one of the most unpredictable Heisman races in recent memory with five clear front runners who all have their teams in College Football Playoff contention.

MAC JONES, QB, ALABAMA

Though Mac Jones is not exactly touted as a top prospect in the upcoming 2021 NFL draft, he has quickly made a name for himself following the departure of former Alabama standout quarterback, Tua Tagovailoa.

Jones has quietly had one of the most efficient seasons at quarterback in the entire country. Often overlooked as just another cog in the Alabama machine, Jones has put up the second best total quarterback rating (QBR) in the country with a rating of 95.6. Jones has led the Crimson Tide to a 6-0 record, and the junior also has the Tide atop of the Top 25 rankings.

In 2020, the Southeastern Conference (SEC) has been a whirlwind with Alabama being the only consistent team in the conference. Florida, Georgia and Texas A&M have solidified themselves as the only other consistent contenders in the SEC, but none have been successful going head to head with Alabama.

The Crimson Tide actually beat both Georgia and Texas A&M earlier this year, with Jones having 852 passing yards and eight touchdowns combined in the two games. Jones has remained in contention for the Heisman, and based on his last few games, there are no signs of him slowing down.

TREVOR LAWRENCE, QB, CLEMSON

Lawrence is a wild card in this year’s Heisman race, and that can primarily be attributed to him missing a crucial game against Notre Dame due to a positive COVID-19 test. However, the Clemson quarterback still remains among the top of the leaderboards in statistical categories such as passing yards (16th), touchdowns (tied-10th) and QBR (ninth).

Many have considered the junior quarterback as the surefire number one overall pick in the 2021 NFL draft with teams clamoring to acquire their franchise QB. Draft analyst Todd McShay has described Lawrence as the best prospect since Andrew Luck, who was drafted by the Indianapolis Colts first overall in 2012.

The fact that Lawrence missed a conference game against Notre Dame may hurt his case if his counterparts play more games than him; however, there may be a loophole that actually helps Lawrence in the Heisman race.

Clemson fell to Notre Dame 47-40, but this could lead to the opportunity for the two teams to meet again in the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) Championship game. If Lawrence is able to avenge the Tigers’ loss to Notre Dame, that would drastically help his case for the Heisman.

JUSTIN FIELDS, QB, OHIO STATE

Ohio State has long been one of college football’s powerhouse programs, and after transitioning from former QB and first round pick Dwayne Haskins in 2019, they’ve remained just as powerful.

Fields has been incredible, since he took over the reigns as starting quarterback for the Buckeyes, and his skill set is perhaps the most unique out of any of the Heisman candidates or NFL draft prospects. The ability to escape the pocket, stay poised and use his legs makes Fields all the more dangerous of a quarterback.

The biggest obstacle for Fields in his chase for the Heisman trophy is the fact that Ohio State returned to play much later than the other conferences in the nation. The Pac-12 and Big Ten both were the last two conferences out of the Power Five conferences to announce their returns to play, so both conferences have played far fewer games than other teams.

So far in 2020, Fields has shined and been exceptionally accurate, posting a 86.7 completion percentage in three games while also leading the nation with a 96.4 QBR. Fields will have to rely on beating up on the Big Ten to solidify himself as a true Heisman contender, especially since he will be playing fewer games than his counterparts.

KYLE TRASK, QB, FLORIDA

The Florida Gators were once a college football dynasty under head coach Urban Meyer, and this was thanks in part to former Heisman winning quarterback, Tim Tebow. Since the Tebow era, the Gators have yet to find that success that the program once had.

For the first time since the Tebow era, the Gators have a new game changing quarterback, Kyle Trask. The Heisman case for Trask is strong, thanks to his remarkable statistics and strong 5-1 record for Florida. Their only loss came in a close 41-38 game against Texas A&M.

Trask currently leads the nation in passing touchdowns, with 28 in just six games. The next best quarterback is University of Central Florida (UCF) quarterback Dillon Gabriel, who has 23 touchdown passes through seven games. Trask has also passed for 2,171 yards so far, which is ninth in the country and also touts a QBR of 93.9, which is third in the country.

The Gators also have a group of skill players that is arguably one of the best in the entire nation, as players such as Kyle Pitts, Kadarius Toney and Trevon Grimes headline the explosive Gators offense behind Trask. Florida’s efficient offense rivals offenses such as Alabama, Clemson and Ohio State.

The Heisman case for Trask is strong, and he certainly has the statistics to back up his case. The Gators close loss to Texas A&M shouldn’t impact Trask’s case much, as he shined in the matchup. The Heisman race in general may just come down to a potential Alabama-Florida SEC Championship game, where Trask would go head-to-head with Heisman candidate Mac Jones.

ZACH WILSON, QB, Brigham Young University

When people think of legendary college football programs, they likely do not think of Brigham Young University (BYU). However, the program has had one Heisman trophy winner of their own, when quarterback Ty Detmer won the award in 1990. Their most notable football alumni happens to be NFL Hall of Fame quarterback Steve Young; however, he never won the Heisman trophy.

Zach Wilson was never supposed to skyrocket up draft boards or the Heisman trophy race, but that’s exactly what has happened. Wilson has the Cougars ranked eighth in the country with an 8-0 record and has caught the attention of every NFL draft analyst.

Wilson’s case for the Heisman may be the most difficult to assess. The draft analysts love his talent and intangibles in terms of having success on the next level; however, BYU’s schedule does not quite stack up to his Heisman competitors’. BYU is an Independent, so they don’t have required opponents like most conferences. The Cougars have played teams who hail from the Sun Belt Conference, Conference USA, American Athletic Conference and Mountain West Conference.

Though BYU’s competition doesn’t quite stack up to Big Ten or SEC schools, Wilson has still had an impressive 2020 season. Wilson ranks fourth in the nation in both passing yards with 2,512 yards and passing touchdowns with 22. The junior quarterback has cut down on turnovers drastically, as he has only thrown two interceptions this season, much better than the nine threw in 2019.

Out of all of the candidates for Heisman, Wilson is likely the biggest longshot to win. However, due to the tough Power Five schedules of the other candidates, Wilson could pull off the Heisman upset if he is able to run the table with BYU.

COMMENTS

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    Patrick 2 months

    Y’all forgot Ian Book, University of Notre Dame!!

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