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Top Heisman Trophy Contenders for 2020
No formal gathering at the PlayStation Theater, no problem.
Given the list of Heisman Trophy candidates in 2020, we may as well host the proceedings from Nick Saban’s office in Tuscaloosa. After all, three of the sincere Heisman contenders – including the two runaway favorites – play for the Crimson Tide.
As far as the who’s in the running to claim college football’s most coveted induvial award, let’s take a look.
2020 Heisman Trophy Odds
The safest betting sites have trimmed their list of Heisman Trophy candidates down to five names. More on a couple of the snubs later as we zero in on this select group.
The first thing that stands out is that a wide receiver is atop the betting sheet. Not only have 9 of the past 10 Heisman Trophy winners been quarterbacks, but we haven’t seen a wideout scoop the hardware since 1991 (Desmond Howard). Tim Brown (1987) is the only other WR part of the Heisman brotherhood.
Four SEC players are featured, which isn’t shocking when you study the landscape of today’s game. How you separate each, along with factoring in the brilliance of Trevor Lawrence…
That’s where things get interesting.
- Receptions – 98 (1st in FBS)
- Receiving Yards – 1,511 (1st in FBS)
- Receiving Touchdowns – 17 (2nd in FBS)
From Julio Jones to Amari Cooper to Calvin Ridley, Alabama has produced some big-time receivers. Quite frankly, none of them have been as impressive or productive as the current Heisman frontrunner, Devonta Smith.
Smith’s 98 catches are 12 more than any other pass-catcher in college football. He’s racked up 1,511 receiving yards – nobody else has even approached 1,200.
The dude has single-handily rewritten the record books at Bama and is coming off a mammoth 15-184-2 line in the SEC Championship game.
Basically, if Smith doesn’t win the Heisman this season, we may as well stop considering WRs for this award altogether. He’s been that good.
- Completion Rate – 76.5% (1st in FBS)
- Passing Yards – 3,739 (2nd in FBS)
- Passing Touchdowns – 32 (3rd in FBS)
Forget about Alabama potentially taking a step back on offense going from Tua Tagovailoa to Mac Jones. Under the guidance of Jones in 2020, the Tide are scoring more points and averaging more yards. They’re converting a historic 59.2% of their third downs.
We can talk at length about Devonta Smith, and I promise I’ll extoll Najee Harris later, but let’s give credit where credit is due.
Mac Jones ended the regular season as the highest-graded (according to PFF) college quarterback of all-time. Period, end of story.
Highest-graded season by a P5 QB— PFF College (@PFF_College) December 22, 2020
1. Mac Jones (2020) – 95.3
2. Joe Burrow (‘19) – 94.9?
3. Kyler Murray (‘18) – 94.6?
3. Baker Mayfield (‘17) – 94.6? pic.twitter.com/yrXHOgF4xi
Those little gold trophies next to the names underneath Mac indicate that player winning the Heisman Trophy in that particular year.
It’s time to take Mac Jones seriously as a Heisman Trophy contender.
- Completion Rate – 69.2% (13th in FBS)
- Passing Yards – 2,753 (11th in FBS)
- Passing Touchdowns – 22 (13th in FBS)
Missing a couple of games and not having the stats to rival these other quarterbacks are likely to hold Trevor Lawrence back. Then again, if the eye test comes into play, it’s hard to argue against the Clemson QB.
138 seconds of Trevor Lawrence throwing deep balls. pic.twitter.com/yY9fAudBYc— Austin Pendergist (@apthirteen) December 22, 2020
Throw in Dabo Swinney’s enthusiastic plea in his most recent post-game speech and Lawrence is back on the radar.
Remember, the undisputed top prospect in college football began the season as the overwhelming favorite to win the Heisman Trophy. The guy is 34-1 as a starter (9-0 in 2020) and has once again put his team in a position to win the National Championship.
After torching Notre Dame in the ACC Championship game with both his arm and his legs, “Sunshine’s” +700 odds should appeal to many.
- Completion Rate – 69.7% (10th in FBS)
- Passing Yards – 4,125 (1st in FBS)
- Passing Touchdowns – 43 (1st in FBS)
Typically, the genuine Heisman Trophy candidates are the quarterbacks who put up the biggest numbers. In that case, whoever’s in charge of engraving the Heisman Trophy may as well get a head start and begin etching Kyle Trask’s name into history.
It’d be one thing if Dan Mullen’s signal-caller was simply leading the nation in passing touchdowns and passing yards. Having 11 more passing TDs and nearly 400 more passing yards than any other quarterback in America – that sings a different tune.
The one knock on Trask – three losses on his resume. That’s not a direct knock on Kyle; it’s just something that has to be stated when the other four Heisman Trophy contenders are all undefeated.
- Carries – 214 (3rd in FBS)
- Rushing Yards – 1,262 (3rd in FBS)
- Rushing Touchdowns – 24 (1st in FBS)
I highlighted the Heisman Trophy being predominantly a “quarterback award” in recent years. At the same time, the last two non-QBs to be honored were both running backs from Alabama (Mark Ingram, Derrick Henry).
Najee Harris passed some elite company ? pic.twitter.com/1ajaCeWmZz— The Checkdown (@thecheckdown) December 21, 2020
It’s safe to say this cat stacks up nicely.
In fact, the 5.9 yards per carry that Najee Harris averages in 2020 are more than Henry ever averaged in a Crimson Tide uniform. We’re talking about an incredibly versatile RB who has piled up close to 1,600 yards from scrimmage and an eye-popping 27 touchdowns.
With everything on the line in the SEC Championship, Harris recorded his second five-touchdown game of the season. How’s that for showing up in a marquee matchup?
Heisman Trophy Snub in 2020
It’s not that shocking to see the general public disrespecting a BYU quarterback. One of the prerequisites to win the Heisman Trophy used to be that you had to play “east of the Mississippi.”
However, the fact of the matter is that Zach Wilson is playing the quarterback position at as high of a level as any QB in the country.
Zach Wilson went OFF tonight vs UCF:— ESPN College Football (@ESPNCFB) December 23, 2020
? 437 total yards
? 5 total TDs pic.twitter.com/bRYpDS80jy
43 touchdowns (33 passing, 10 rushing) and just 3 interceptions tell part of Zach’s story. Being called “Patrick Mahomes 2.0” and moving ahead of Justin Fields into the #2 slot in mock 2021 NFL drafts…
That tells you everything you need to know.
Aside from Wilson being a special talent with an extremely bright future, he’s on the shortlist of qualified Heisman Trophy candidates.
Which of these Heisman Trophy contenders do you think deserves to win the award?
My vote would go to Devonta Smith, but we’ll find out who emerges soon enough. The 2020 recipient will be announced virtually on January 5th.