Heisman Watchlist Feature: Jamie Newman, QB, Georgia

Next up on our Heisman Watchlist Feature is the type of player that has been the latest craze when it comes to winners of this award – transfer quarterbacks. Three straight transfers have won the Heisman, and each of the top three in the final Heisman voting last season was a transfer quarterback. So, it’s natural to include one of the biggest transfers from this past offseason  on our Heisman Watchlist, so today, we are featuring Jamie Newman of the Georiga Bulldogs. Newman dominated the ACC with the Wake Forest Demon Deacons last season, and he will look to replace Jake Fromm – an early departure and 5th-round pick of the Buffalo Bills. To do so, he first has to fend off fellow transfer – J.T. Daniels of USC – but Newman is considered the early favorite in that quarterback battle. 

Newman may immediately become the best quarterback in the SEC due to his dual-threat abilities. He threw for 2,868 yards last season, and he ran for an additional 574. He scored six times on the ground and found the end zone 26 times through the air. Newman led the Demon Deacons to a 5-0 start before fading to 7-4 and a Pinstripe Bowl loss to Michigan State. Newman was very good during that 5-0 stretch, posting a 21-27 effort against Rice, tossing 312 yards and three touchdowns to no picks in the 41-21 victory. He also ran for 78 yards and 2 TDs against UNC and churned out 102 rushing yards versus BC one game later. 

The second half of his season was inconsistent, but Newman continued to flash his talent on several occasions. Against North Carolina State, coming off Wake’s first loss of the year, Newman rallied the Demon Deacons to victory with a mistake-free 287-yard, 3 TD performance. His 94.8 QB rating that day was the highest of the season for Newman. Three weeks later, facing Duke on Wake Forest’s senior day, Newman broke off 144 rushing yards and a touchdown, to go with 284 yards and a TD through the air. Possibly his most complete effort of the season, Newman helped Wake snap a two-game skid and win their senior day clash. 

Playing in the SEC for the first time, Newman should have no issues with gaining opportunities for Heisman moments. As the SEC schedule currently sits, the transfer signal-caller is slated to be truly thrown into the fire, as Georgia faces Alabama in the SEC opener. He’ll also have a chance for a big game against Florida, a clash which may decide the SEC East. Big games in either of those contests could prove crucial in a Heisman push for Newman. 

However, playing in the SEC East makes things tricky as well for Newman. For one, he’s in a situation in which anything short of a division title will be considered a disappointment in the eyes of Heisman voters. He faces some tricky games, including a clash with the Kentucky Wildcats. Kentucky had one of the best pass defenses in the country last year and returns a lot of production. They are not likely to be a division contender, but they could definitely push Georgia to the limit. The Bulldogs have suffered surprising losses before (What’s up South Carolina), and Newman will absolutely need to avoid that and keep his numbers looking appealing to voters at the end of the season.


Heisman Watchlist Feature: Kedon Slovis, QB, USC

Next up on our Heisman Watchlist feature is a player that has not gotten a lot of hype, but he could very well find himself in the top 10 in voting, if not challenging for a spot in New York should things go well. Kedon Slovis was initially a third string quarterback for USC but after losing quarterbacks to the transfer portal and injury, Slovis took over as starter for the Trojans and put forth an admirable effort. Slovis completed his passes at a 72% clip for 3500 yards and 30 touchdowns to just nine interceptions. Back in May, I ranked him fourth on my top 10 quarterbacks for 2020, and I stand by that; Slovis is going to put up huge numbers this season and have USC in the New Years’ 6 bowl conversation. With Slovis under center, I like the Trojans as an early-season Rose Bowl favorite. Am I overdoing the hype? Maybe, but considering those aforementioned numbers came as a true freshman when he wasn’t supposed to be a starter, I’m really high on what Slovis can do with an offseason of preparation. 

Another big reason to be high on Slovis as a darkhorse candidate is how hot he was at the end of the season. The true freshman returned from injury on a mission, nearly leading the Trojans to a stunning upset of Notre Dame in South Bend. Although the Irish were able to stave off USC, Slovis threw for 255 yards, 2 touchdowns, and no picks. He tossed 6 TDs and just one interception to go with 638 yards over his next two games, before he finally stumbled. In a blowout loss to eventual Oregon – the eventual Pac-12 champions – Slovis fired three touchdowns but also was picked off three times, looking like a first-year college starter for the first time since his second career start against BYU – another 3-interception performance.

However, Slovis responded in stunning fashion. Rather than fold, he led the Trojans to a three-game winning streak to end the season. In those three games, Slovis threw for 12 touchdowns and just one interception, while averaging 451 yards per game. Despite falling in their bowl game, Slovis looked extremely impressive against a stingy Iowa defense, going 22-30 for 260 yards and two touchdowns, again avoiding any interceptions. A red-hot finish is a great indicator of a potential Heisman season – just ask any LSU fan. Wild 2019 darkhorse Joe Burrow spent much of his first season in the Bayou putting up solid but not spectacular numbers. However, in an indication of things to come, the future Heisman winner and #1 pick put forth quite possibly his best four performances of the season in LSU’s final four games, throwing ten touchdowns to just one interception, after having just six TDs to four picks in their prior nine contests. 

As of now, the Pac-12 will be strictly playing a conference schedule, so how that impacts Heisman campaigns within the conference is unknown. However, if Slovis is considered, he should be looking forward to a November 7 clash in Eugene with the Oregon Ducks. A potential preview of the Pac-12 championship, this game will be a superb “Heisman Moment” opportunity for Slovis. The Ducks should be a top-10, and definitely a top-20, team and winning at Oregon is not an easy task, regardless of if there are no fans. Slovis will be hungry to avoid the embarrassment of USC’s 2019 duel with the Ducks, and I expect that if Slovis becomes a Heisman candidate, this game will be the focal point of his case. 

On the flip side, USC must avoid any early season trip-ups and live up to their status as one of the favorites in the conference. A home date with Jayden Daniels and Arizona State seems especially dangerous. Oregon can tell you better than anyone how Daniels and Co. can wrech a promising season, after the Sun Devils stunned the Ducks late last season and ruined their CFP hopes. I figure Utah will be on the downfall, and Arizona State may be USC’s biggest challenger within the division. They’re a trendy underdog pick, and Slovis and the Trojans will have to be careful not to stumble at the starting blocks before getting into the heart of the Pac-12 season. 

If USC finally lives up to the potential seen in the talent that loads their roster top to bottom, Slovis could be an instant Heisman contender by virtue of being the starting QB of a national contender. With a year of experience in the USC offense and having ended last season as one of the hottest signal-callers in the nation, there’s no reason to think Slovis’s numbers couldn’t take a huge jump towards Heisman-level numbers in 2020.

Heisman Watchlist Feature: Bryce Young, Alabama

Our Heisman watchlist feature series, to this point, has included a few of the favorites (Spencer Rattler, Trevor Lawrence), darkhorse picks like Penn State quarterback Sean Clifford, or even non-quarterbacks like Rondale Moore, Ja’Marr Chase, and Derek Stingley. But our feature today – if he were to win the Heisman – would set an entirely new precedent. Today’s feature is Alabama’s incoming true freshman quarterback Bryce Young. The California product flipped his commitment from USC to Alabama back in September, and he’s now got his eyes on winning what should be a thrilling quarterback battle in Tuscaloosa. The Tide are moving on from the Tua Taugovailoa era, as Mac Jones returns with a few games of starting experience after Tua was injured, and he and Bryce Young will compete to take over Alabama’s dynamic offense with tons of talent that will be playing on Sundays in the near future. 

The biggest obstacle in Young’s potential march to the Heisman, which would make him the first ever true freshman winner of the award, is winning that preseason battle, although, as we’ve seen several times in the Nick Saban era, claiming the job in the preseason does not always guarantee safety for the season. The mountain Bryce Young has to climb to fight for the Heisman award is a big one, but with a loaded SEC schedule and plenty of chances to prove himself, the Mater Dei High School alum will have an opportunity to make history. 

We’ve seen in recent years that true freshmen with multiple years of starting experience in high school make headlines in their first year on the collegiate gridiron. Bo Nix (Auburn), Sam Howell (UNC), Max Duggan (TCU), and Jayden Daniels (Arizona State) all had very successful freshman campaigns, bringing more hope for Young’s future with the Crimson Tide. He’s a better prospect than any of the aforementioned QBs, as the #2 overall prospect in his class and top dual-threat quarterback. Not only that, but Young has three years of starting experience at Mater Dei, where he threw for over 13,000 yards, including over 4500 in his senior year, while adding 357 yards on the ground. He passed for 58 touchdowns and ran another ten into the endzone, while throwing just six interceptions. 

Analysts rave over Young’s maturity under center. Working with dangerous weapons in the Alabama offense like Jaylen Waddle and Devonta Smith, and Najee Harris in the backfield, Young’s astounding ability to quickly progress through reads and improvise on broken plays should mesh well together. With the SEC West a giant question mark, if Young wrests the starting position from Mac Jones, he could become an instant Heisman contender just by putting up a big-time season with the Tide this fall…or spring…or if and when we have the season. 

It seems too optimistic and/or risky to pick out games on constantly fluctuating schedules for Heisman opportunities, but if Alabama’s current SEC slate is played as schedule, Young should look forward to the end-of-season Iron Bowl clash in Tuscaloosa against Auburn. The Tigers haven’t beaten the Tide on the road since 2010, so if Young is starting under center and puts up a big game against a team that figures to be in and around the top 10, it will be a great last chance for him to make an impression on Heisman voters. 

On the contrary, Alabama’s trip to LSU poses some major challenges, as the Tigers will have newfound confidence after winning on the road last year, but they figure to be a little weaker without Joe Burrow this year. It could be a tricky road game to navigate against an LSU team that’s probably not Playoff-caliber, but most certainly capable of beating the Tide in Death Valley. Can Bryce Young win in a brutal road environment as a true freshman? If he can, it’ll be a huge step towards making Heisman history in his first collegiate season.

Heisman Watchlist Feature: Rondale Moore, WR, Purdue

Save your SEC apologist claims. Save your comments about how only quarterbacks win the Heisman. Our Heisman Watchlist features intend to highlight some of the best and most promising players in the country, and that’s why Purdue wide receiver Rondale Moore is today’s Heisman Watchlist Feature. 

Moore was one of the nation’s best players as a freshman for the Boilermakers. In his collegiate debut, Moore caught 11 passes for 109 yards and a score, while also scoring on a 76-yard run. He posted efforts of over 100 yard against Illinois, Missouri, and Boston College, before Moore delivered the signature performance of his freshman campaign. Hosting #2 Ohio State, Moore caught 12 passes for 170 yards and gained another 24 yards on the ground. The star freshman found the end zone twice, icing the game with an iconic run off a screen pass to stun the Buckeyes. 

After a year with over 1200 yards, 114 receptions, and 13 total TD (12 receiving, 1 rushing), Moore looked primed to be one of the best players in the nation, and he played that way in his first two contests, catching 24 passes for 244 yards and two touchdowns. Unfortunately, Moore had a quiet game against TCU and then suffered a season-ending injury. So now, it’s been another year of building up the hype as Rondale Moore enters his third – and hopefully second full – season of college football, and it promises to be a great one. 

Game likely to be a Heisman Moment

Vs. Wisconsin, November 14

Wisconsin’s got a stiff defense, but Rondale Moore has proven capable of tearing any defense apart. If the Badgers prove to be a top-10 team, as many preseason polls have them, a big game by Moore and a potential stunning upset by the Boilermakers, would be about as good an opportunity the junior receiver will have for a Heisman moment against the Big Ten West favorites. There’s no Ohio State on the schedule this year, so this game, or road contests versus Minnesota and Michigan will be Moore’s chance for a big chance. 

Game likely to trip him up

Vs. Northwestern, October 31

The Wildcats may be coming off a dismal season, but they’re a year removed from an appearance in the Big 10 Championship game,  so they are a team you don’t want to underestimate. It’s also a home game stuck between right after their road trip to Ann Arbor and prior to their contests against Minnesota and Wisconsin. When you look up the definition of a trap game…this is it. 

Ultimately, Rondale Moore faces long odds to win the Heisman as a wide receiver on a middling team, but even without Ohio State, their Big 10 schedule provides opportunities for big wins, and if Moore puts up the numbers he’s proven capable of, there’s no reason he won’t be at least in the discussion. 

Heisman Watchlist: Trevor Lawrence, QB, Clemson

Since bursting onto the scene as a true freshman, Trevor Lawrence has been considered a Heisman favorite while manning the quarterback position for the Clemson Tigers. Although he wasn’t a finalist last season, in what is almost certainly his final collegiate season, Lawrence is again among the biggest favorites to bring home the hardware. Last year, Lawrence was done in by factors both in and out of his control; he was off to a slow start as Clemson muddled through the opening stages of their schedule, and a lack of high profile games in the ACC gave Lawrence few chances to impress against elite competition. Meanwhile, Joe Burrow put up one of the best seasons in college football history, and Justin Fields and Jalen Hurts also posted huge numbers. Throw in Chase Young’s monster campaign on the defensive side of the ball, and Lawrence was shut out of New York. He finished 7th in voting, also trailing a pair of Big 10 running backs in Wisconsin’s Jonathan Taylor and Ohio State’s J.K. Dobbins.

However, entering 2020, five of the six players that garnered more votes than Lawrence last season are off to the NFL, leaving the Clemson signal-caller, with another complete season under his belt, as a natural favorite to contend for the Heisman.

What he needs to improve

To be a legitimate Heisman contender in 2020, Lawrence cannot afford to sleepwalk through an ACC schedule that is loaded with mediocrity that is extremely conducive to sleepwalking. Lawrence is obviously more focused on winning a national title than the Heisman, but even if Clemson doesn’t need him at full strength to run through their conference schedule, Lawrence will need to be locked in to put up stats that keep him on the radar of Heisman voters. Last year, Lawrence posted QB ratings of 63.7 (vs. Georgia Tech), 67.2 (@ UNC), and 58.0 (@ Louisville). Clemson dominated two of those games and escaped the Tar Heels, but Lawrence didn’t throw for more than 233 yards in any of those games against middle-of-the road competition, so despite the unblemished record, Lawrence was quickly discounted from Heisman consideration.

The last two Heisman winners – Joe Burrow and Kyler Murray – were noted for both their outstanding numbers and remarkable consistency. Burrow had one QBR of 73.8, and no other performances that checked in below 85.0. Murray’s worst performance featured a 78.2 rating, and only one other effort under 90.0. If Lawrence is to beat out Justin Fields and other elite competitors for the award, he will need to cut down on his lackluster efforts and simply dominate the inferior competition in the ACC, week in and week out.

Best “Heisman Moment” Opportunity

@ Notre Dame, November 7

This is the only correct answer to this question. Last year, Clemson’s regular season slate did not include a single team that finished the year in the Top 25. This year, barring a collapse beyond even normal Notre Dame standards, that will change, as Clemson’s road trip to South Bend serves as their most difficult game of the year by far. A big performance here combined with a solid showing in ACC play will go a long way towards earning Lawrence a spot in New York in December. If Lawrence posts anything less than great numbers against the Irish, it will be difficult to rebound given the lack of quality opponents on their schedule. Beating Notre Dame on their home field, where the Irish haven’t lost since Week 2 of 2017, would be massive, both for Clemson and for Lawrence’s Heisman hopes.

Game Most Likely To Ruin Heisman Chances

@ Florida State, October 10

If I could simply say “The ACC”, I would. While Fields will get multiple shots at Heisman moments against a loaded Big 10 slate, Lawrence gets his one chance at Notre Dame, and then a bevy of games where he will be tasked with putting up big numbers on bad teams. Florida State is not a legitimate threat for the ACC Championship this year. They’ve really struggled recently, and most projections have them topping out third in their division, behind Clemson and Louisville. Florida State is unlikely to be a ranked team, which makes Clemson’s road trip to Doak Campbell Stadium a real trap game. Clemson is just 5-12 in true road games against FSU in program history, despite winning in their last two trips. Clemson has won the last three clashes between these squads by at least 17 points, but, beyond their trip to Notre Dame, this is Clemson’s toughest road game of the year, and a bad performance, or a loss, here will destroy Lawrence’s chances.

Heisman Watchlist: Ja’Marr Chase, WR, LSU

Rarely, if ever, do wide receivers receive serious Heisman Trophy consideration. Since Michigan’s Desmond Howard won it in 1991, only three receivers finished in the top-3 in the voting, with Amari Cooper being the most recent in 2014. Virtually every big season by a receiver is complemented by a massive campaign from the man slinging him passes – quarterbacks can’t win the Heisman Trophy without their receivers, but the receivers rarely receive credit. Take last season’s LSU team for example; let’s skip all the standard ‘Joe Burrow had the greatest season ever’ because we know that, and it’s a boring and old way to waste words in this story. Rather, I wanted to look at Joe Burrow’s game versus Oklahoma. Burrow was incredible in firing seven first half touchdowns, but on nearly every toss, his target did a majority of the hard work.

On three of his TD passes, Burrow found a receiver with at least two yards of separation, twice hitting LSU receivers without an Oklahoma defender within six yards. On another two, Justin Jefferson had his man beat by a step or two, and Burrow actually threw behind him, forcing tougher catches than necessary, and on the two scoring passes not mentioned yet, Burrow hit his receivers on short crossing patterns. Now Burrow deserves plenty of credit for extending plays with his legs, making the throws, and all the standard tangible attributes QBs get praise for, but virtually no talk or conversation after the game discussed how insanely easy the LSU receivers made it for Burrow. Throwing it back a few weeks earlier, to Burrow’s viral ‘Heisman’ play against Georgia, and you’ll see him find Jefferson, open by about 8-10 feet. None of this is to say Burrow didn’t deserve the Heisman and didn’t have a great season, but the lack of credit receivers get is astounding. 

And if there was ever a receiver to be in a position to get more attention than the quarterback, it is LSU’s Ja’Marr Chase. Chase was one of the bevy of LSU pass-catchers making Burrow’s life easy last season, and this year he has a far more unproven quarterback in Myles Brennan throwing to him. Chase didn’t do too much in the Oklahoma game, but he was the receiving star in the National Championship, catching nine passes for 221 yards and 2 touchdowns against Clemson. His 1,748 yards and 18 touchdowns on the season led the nation, and earned the sophomore star the Biletnikoff Award, presented to the most outstanding receiver. With fellow stud Justin Jefferson graduated to the NFL, Chase will be the top target for Brennan in 2020, and his highlight reel alone has got to make LSU fans excited.

Ja’Marr Chase is always open – check out this highlight mix from Bryan Mallett (@Bmalmedia on Instagram)

With Chase’s explosiveness, he doesn’t even need Brennan to light up the SEC. Last season, Chase caught a pass for at least 40 yards in eight games, and at least 20 yards in 13 of LSU’s 15 contests. LSU head coach Ed Orgeron is unlikely to ask Brennan to be the hero for LSU, given his lack of experience as a starter, but expect him to be dialing up plays for his new signal-caller to hit Chase deep once or twice a game. Chase can get open against virtually anyone, and his hands are some of the best in the nation. A projected top-10 pick in the 2021 draft, Chase is undoubtedly going to be a focal point of the offense in the Bayou. LSU is hoping to avoid being a one-hit wonder, and they’ll lean on Chase to be even more explosive and precise than he was this past year. 

Top Games For Heisman Moments

@ Florida, October 10

Going into this game, LSU *should* be 5-0. Their only real test is a home game vs. Texas, and although Texas may actually be good this season, they will be underdogs in Death Valley, and they don’t really boast the defense that can take advantage of an inexperienced LSU offense. However, this October 10 contest in Gainesville will be a brutal test for the Tigers. In a hostile environment – their first true road game of the season – LSU will look to Chase to help Myles Brennan navigate the difficulty of playing away from home in the SEC. Florida will be the stiffest defense Brennan and the Tigers have to face in the first two months of the season, so if (and when Chase gets open) the headlines should be about his performance if LSU gets the victory. 

Game To Ruin Heisman Hopes

Vs. Texas, September 12

I’m worried that this game becomes a battle of Texas’s offense against LSU’s defense, and Orgeron may look to the ground game, to take the pressure off of Brennan in his first real test as a starter. As said before, I anticipate LSU winning this game, but the potential of an early-season trap game, and my gut feeling that Chase won’t be the go-to guy on the offense makes it tough for LSU’s star wide receiver to put up big numbers in a big win, which will be critical if he’s to be a legitimate Heisman candidate as a receiver.

Heisman Watchlist Feature: Derek Stingley, CB, LSU

The Heisman Trophy has been won by a quarterback in four consecutive seasons, and in nine of the past ten. A quarterback or running back has taken home the hardware every year since 1997, when Charles Woodson, a cornerback and punt returner for Michigan brought the trophy to Ann Arbor. So although including a defensive player on our Heisman watchlist may seem like a long shot, if there’s a star on the other side of the ball to break the defensive drought, it might be LSU sophomore Derek Stingley. Stingley is probably the best athlete on LSU, and there’s even been talk about him being utilized as a two-way player in 2021. But as of now, Stingley resides as the most dangerous returner on LSU’s championship defense, and likely the Tigers’ best chance of keeping the Heisman Trophy in the Bayou. 

Having graduated Patrick Queen and Grant Delpit, LSU head coach Ed Orgeron is well aware that Stingely is the best piece on his 2020 defense, and without all-world Joe Burrow under center, he will need the Baton Rouge product to step up while Myles Brennan adjusts to the brutal life of a SEC quarterback. Orgeron is prepared to utilize Stingley in multiple roles, mixing him into some blitz packages as well as his traditional man-coverage role in LSU’s secondary. The ability to be a jack-of-all-trades defender increases Stingley’s Heisman potential, as edge rushers and linebackers more visibly impact games on every play, and thus they get more Heisman votes. Ohio State edge rusher Chase Young and Georgia linebacker Roquan Smith were the only two defensive players to finish in the top ten of Heisman voting in the previous three seasons. Stingley’s versatile skill-set draws natural comparisons to Notre Dame’s Manti Te’o in 2012, who finished second in Heisman voting, second only to the legendary season of Johnny Manziel. The Irish star finished that year with 113 tackles, 7 interceptions, and 1.5 sacks. Stingley finished last year with six picks and 38 tackles. As the best playmaker for the Tigers in 2020, he should get a chance to boost those numbers significantly. 

Last season, Stingley faced 94 targets, the second most by a cornerback in the nation, but he allowed just a 38.3% catch rate, a top-5 mark in college football. He played his best football towards the end of the season, intercepting Jake Fromm twice in the SEC title game, and recording four tackles and a fumble recovery in the Playoff. Playing in the SEC, Stingley will have some natural chances for Heisman moments – and if he can be the driving force in leading the Tigers back to SEC supremacy, expect him to be up in the Heisman conversation. 

Top Heisman Moment Opportunity
November 21, at Auburn
Finding a Heisman moment is a difficult balance between finding a big game on the schedule and one that brings chances for the candidate to put up big numbers. I think this contest at Auburn is a great chance, as it matches LSU against possibly the best SEC quarterback in Bo Nix, and with Auburn’s balanced offense playing at Jordan-Hare Stadium, Stingley will have a chance to be at his versatile best and stop the Tigers in a critical late season SEC West contest.

Game most likely to trip him up
September 26, vs. Ole Miss
Last year, Ole Miss quarterback John Rhys Plumlee led the Rebels to 37 points against LSU defense. It wasn’t enough to take down Joe Burrow, but it was an extremely impressive performance from the freshman. Ole Miss is not a good team, but Plumlee leads a productive offense for the Rebels, and they could pose some serious issues early in the season for LSU’s defense. It’s a high-risk, low-reward game for Stingley, as a strong performance against a below-average SEC team does little to boost his Heisman chances, but if he struggles against the dynamic Plumlee, it will destroy his limited chances of breaking the stranglehold quarterbacks have on the Heisman Trophy.

Heisman Watchlist: Sean Clifford, QB, Penn State

Ever since Joe Burrow rallied from 200:1 preseason odds to win the Heisman Trophy, the realistic Heisman watchlist became a lot bigger, as darkhorses emerge from every corner of the college football landscape. So for today’s Heisman Watchlist feature, we’re taking a look at Penn State quarterback Sean Clifford – a very intriguing underdog for the Heisman. Playing in the Big 10, Clifford is sure to have plenty of Heisman moments, and despite an uneven finish to 2019, the Nittany Lions’ signal-caller proved his ability to perform in big situations. Penn State had three players with over 50 carries last season that averaged over five yards a carry, so Clifford wasn’t always required to carry the load on his back. This was especially evident in their Cotton Bowl win, as Clifford threw for 133 yards, but the Nittany Lions slapped 53 points on the scoreboard.

However, Clifford did his fair share for the Penn State offense. His talent was on display early and often , as Clifford threw for 398 yards in a 59-0 beatdown of Maryland. He tossed for three touchdowns against the Terrapins, and another three against Purdue a week later. Against Iowa, when the air game was struggling against a stiff Hawkeyes’ defense, Clifford contributed on the ground, grinding out 52 yards and a touchdown with his legs.

Ohio State’s pure dominance in the Big 10 overshadowed Penn State’s incredible season last year, as the Nittany Lions lost only twice in ranked road games, and Clifford was simply a winner under center for Penn State. From his gutsy win over Indiana on Senior Day, when he ran for 55 yards and a pair of touchdowns, grinding out a victory over Michigan at home, to destroying Michigan State on the road, Clifford accumulated over 3000 all-purpose yards in a series of impressive performances, and he looks like a viable Heisman contender with a schedule full of opportunities to impress the voters.

Best Chances for a Heisman moment

Circle (tentatively due to ongoing schedule concerns) October 24 on your calendars, as Clifford and Penn State will be hosting the Ohio State Buckeyes. Whiteout? The stadium will very likely not be full, but the whiteout is the best atmosphere in college sports, and even a partial one will be great, and the atmosphere on campus will be electric. In a game that could decide the Big 10 West, Sean Clifford should get every chance in this game to win a big one for the Nittany Lions and get his Heisman moment against the Buckeyes.
Other games to watch will be their trip to the Big House to take on Michigan, and a curious road Halloween game against Indiana.

Game most likely to ruin Heisman chances

Upset losses can be brutal for a Heisman resume, so Penn State’s Week 2 trip to Virgina Tech is a scary prospect. The Nittany Lions will be favored, but winning on the road against the Hokies is a tough task most years, and as the first real test of the year for Penn State, it will be important for Clifford to come out hot and ready to play in this one.

Heisman Watchlist Feature: Spencer Rattler, Oklahoma

Ohio State and Michigan hate each other, the Rose Bowl is played in Pasadena, California, and Lincoln Riley produces Heisman candidates. It’s just a few of the truths in college football. And that’s why Spencer Rattler is the first feature of our Heisman Watch-list series. After grooming Baker Mayfield and Kyler Murray to Heisman trophies, and then Jalen Hurts to a runner-up finish, Lincoln Riley has another potential star in Rattler, although he hasn’t officially named him the starter yet.

Why he could be a Heisman contender?

Rattler was the top-rated recruit in 2018, and he has waited his chance to star in Norman. In the offense-happy Big 12, Rattler will certainly have every opportunity to put up dazzling numbers. If some Big 12 teams, Texas and Baylor come to mind, emerge as Top-25, maybe even top-15 teams, Rattler will get a chance for some Heisman moments.

Career Highlights

Rattler has minimal experience, but he’s looked good in very little exposure to the collegiate game. He’s spent a full season learning under Jalen Hurts and working in Lincoln Riley’s air-raid system. In three games of game experience, Rattler is 7-11 for for 81 yards with a touchdown pass. He still has to win the starting job, but if (or when) he does, Rattler should be an instantaneous contender for the Heisman.

Game most likely to be a Heisman moment
October 10, home, vs. Texas
Rattler gets the arch-rival Longhorns at home, and dueling fellow Heisman candidate Sam Ehlinger. If Texas is as good as they hope to be, this could be a massive ranked match-up and a chance for Rattler to make a statement.

Game most likely to trip him up
September 26, @ Army
This may be a surprising pick, but Army is a tough team to put up numbers against, and two years ago, the Black Knights took the Sooners to overtime. If Rattler only gets 5-6 possessions to work with, it’s going to be difficult to awe anybody in this one. This will also be Oklahoma’s first road game of the season, and Army, who took Michigan to OT last year in Ann Arbor, can be a tough environment to play in. A loss here would seriously damage Rattler’s Heisman hopes.

2020 NFL Draft Feature: Jalen Hurts, Quarterback, Oklahoma

In our individual draft features, each of our team assigns a rating from the rating system described below. We combine our ratings to give one rating, a projection for where he will get picked, and best fits in the NFL. Here is our 2020 NFL Draft profile of Oklahoma quarterback Jalen Hurts.

Rating System

0.0-1.0 – Bust, you won’t remember this name in three years

1.0-2.0 – Mostly minor leagues and practice squads, occasionally makes the top level

2.0-3.0 – Gets some minutes off the bench, not a major contributor

3.0-4.0 – System player – not much of a ‘wow’ factor but could be utilized in a good system

4.0-5.0 – Role Player/Depth Guy (3rd down back, run block TE, etc) – can fill a hole

5.0-6.0 – Fringe Starter on the Depth Chart

6.0-7.0 – Top of the Depth Chart potential

7.0-8.0 – Starter with big season potential

8.0-9.0 – Consistent All-Star, one of the best in the league at his position

9.0-10.0 – Future Hall of Famer

Jalen Hurts

Our Grade: 5.0

Grade Range: 1.0 to 10.0

Best NFL Fits: New England Patriots, Indianapolis Colts, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Projection: Round 4, Pick 11 – Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Analysis: The Buccaneers? But they just drafted Brady? In my opinion, this is almost an ideal situation for Jalen Hurts. After what he’s been through in his college career, Hurts developed a well-deserved reputation for being one of the most mature quarterbacks in this draft class. However, he’s not going to go in the first round. There are three teams – the Bengals, Dolphins, and Chargers – that will most certainly be taking a quarterback, and they’ll be taking the consensus top 3 signal-callers in Joe Burrow, Justin Herbert, and Tua Tagovailoa. I believe the next two teams to take a quarterback will be the Patriots and Colts, and while I think Hurts is a good fit for both teams, I don’t see him being selected by either.

The Patriots lack a proven starter for Hurts to learn under, and Hurts is not the prototypical pocket passer that New England usually covets. The Colts could go for the former national champion, but given their recent trauma of seeing their franchise quarterback retire early due to a multitude of injuries, my instinct is the Colts are going to be wary of a dual threat that could suffer from the same maladies. After eliminating those options, I believe the next team to be looking to draft a quarterback will be the Buccaneers. They have Brady for two years, but the man is 42 years old and whatever you say about his legacy, the age alone brings some question marks. Hurts will have a chance to learn under the most successful quarterback of all time, and then he will take the reigns in a couple of years, as Tampa Bay looks to extend their window to win.

As for our grade, we were all over the place in grading Hurts, as have many experts will be. The dual-threat quarterback is a tricky topic, and whether Hurts will be closer to Lamar Jackson or Tim Tebow is tough to tell. There’s no question he has the work ethic, and the talent is there, but can Hurts find a system to utilize his strengths, and stay healthy long enough to build a strong career?