We’re back with the second edition of the Heisman Tracker. It will be the final edition with no SEC players, as the best conference in college football kicks off their season next weekend. After another weekend of games concluded, highlighted by #17 Miami’s big win over #18 Louisville on Saturday night, let’s see who made moves on our Heisman tracker.
Trevor Lawrence, QB, Clemson Lawrence remains at #1 after a solid showing against a completely overmatched Citadel squad this past weekend. The projected #1 pick has had to do very little this year, but he’s been brutally efficient when called upon, going 30-37 for 519 yards and 4 touchdowns, with no picks. He’s a top performer on the #1 team in the nation, so that makes him the current frontrunner, particularly with four of the top six teams in the AP Poll yet to have played a game.
Spencer Rattler, QB, Oklahoma Rattler was inactive this past weekend, and his first power-5 opponent lies in wait this coming Saturday, against Kansas State, a team that tripped up the Sooners last season. A big performance there will cement his early-season spot in our Top 4.
D’Eriq King, QB, Miami King wasn’t even on the radar last season, but big early-season performances can cause huge swings in our Heisman tracker, and King shoots up into the top three this week. King went 18-30 for three touchdowns in Miami’s 47-34 win over Louisville, bringing his season stats to 33-53 for 466 yards and four passing touchdowns, while tacking on 92 yards and a rushing score on the ground. He replaces the inactive Sam Ehlinger in our Top 4.
Kyren Williams, RB, Notre Dame Williams put up another solid performance in limited minutes as Notre Dame’s lead back. The Irish didn’t ask too much of Williams in their 52-0 blowout of South Florida, but their sophomore star is up to 277 yards on 33 touches this year, adding his second touchdown of the year this past weekend.
The Heisman Hopefuls (#5-10)
5. Sam Ehlinger, QB, Texas Season Stats: 25-33, 426 yards, 5 TD
Each week of the college football season, we will track the ‘leaderboard’ for the Heisman trophy, which will display – in my eyes – the current front runner to win it all, finalist favorites, and a follow-up 6 players who are knocking on the door (semifinalists). For the first few weeks, this board will be a little wacky, as we will not be including players who haven’t played. For instance, although you may love the Kyle Trask Heisman hype, he is 0-0 for 0 yards on the season, and so he has not earned a spot on this leaderboard yet. Undoubtedly, there will be some surprising names in the early weeks, but as the season (hopefully) rolls on, our Heisman tracker should begin to narrow in on the group of favorites.
That being said, here’s the Heisman tracker after the ACC completed its first week of play.
Trevor Lawrence, QB, Clemson This is fair enough. Clemson is ranked #1, and Lawrence threw for 351 yards and 3 touchdowns on an efficient 22/28 effort under center. He projected to be the #1 NFL Draft pick in the 2021 draft, and he’s an insant Heisman contender by being on a team with clear national championship potential.
Spencer Rattler, QB, Oklahoma I’m not all-in on Rattler, personally, but his debut was about as good as you could want if you are an Oklahoma fan. Yes, the competition was not stiff, and there are far greater tests ahead. But Rattler looked poised and ready to compete at the collegiate level with 290 yards and four touchdowns while playing just one half of the Sooners’ opener.
Sam Ehlinger, QB, Texas Again, I’m not going to go all-in and say “Texas is back” or buy the Ehlinger hype being shoved down my throat by pained yet overconfident Longhorn fans. However, Ehlinger was lights-out against an admittedly horrible UTEP squad in the Texas opener. The Heisman hopeful threw for 426 yards and 5 touchdowns on 25-33 passing.
Kyren Williams, RB, Notre Dame As the top performer on one of four top-10 teams to be 1-0, Williams gets the nod as the only non-QB to crack our initial list of Finalists. Williams was all over the field for the Fighting Irish in a 27-1`3 win over Duke. He averaged 5.9 per rush behind a shoddy offensive line performance, notching 112 rushing yards and an additional 93 yards in the passing game. He had two touchdowns and was far and away the best performer for Notre Dame on Saturday.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Before I start this blasphemous article, be assured I am not suggesting any of the quarterbacks on this list can match what Joe Burrow did this season. His numbers were historically great, and to predict that someone could come close to that would certainly be bold. However, by predicting the next Joe Burrow, I’m taking a look at QBs who are not necessarily a favorite right now to win the Heisman, but have the potential to experience a Burrow-esque breakout season and earn some hardware. I’ve broken up this list into three categories: Unlikely but fun to think about, Possibilities, and Favorites. Before starting that list, I just wanted to present the QBs who were too good to make the list; in other words, these QBs have odds too high (+1000 or better) to be considered for the Next Joe Burrow Award.
Without further ado, here’s my best guesses at who could be the next Joe Burrow:
Ian Book – Notre Dame
Why he could: Book looked absolutely dominant in the second half of the season. After rushing for a game winning touchdown against Virginia Tech, Book was lights out, tossing 17 touchdowns to just two interceptions and racking up 295 yards on the ground at a 6.7 yards per carry clip. The potential is there, and with a home game versus Clemson and a road game against Wisconsin, Book has the potential for some Heisman moments if he can perform and lead the Irish back to the Playoff.
Why he won’t: Because Book has not performed consistently against good teams. He threw just three touchdowns and two interceptions in their two losses, finishing 8-25 for 73 yards against Michigan. Book also loses several offensive playmakers in Tony Jones, Cole Kmet, and Chase Claypool. Adjusting to life without Claypool and Kmet especially will be tough, and there may be a learning curve that hurts Books’ stats.
Kedon Slovis – USC
Why he could: He was at his best at the end of the season. His three best games came in his last four weeks, including his bowl game that he was knocked out early. Slovis had better numbers than Ian Book overall, and he’s got a lot of talented receivers around them that can help boost his numbers. Playing in the Pac-12 won’t hurt either, as Slovis will get a few soft games to help his stats. His schedule is also chock-full of potential Heisman moments, with an early season game versus Alabama, a season finale against Notre Dame, and conference games at Oregon and Utah.
Why he won’t: Slovis is young and error-prone, and USC is ridiculously injury-prone at quarterback. So he first has to stay healthy which was extremely tough this year, and he has to cut down on the interceptions; he had two 3-interception games this season. Slovis also likely will need to be more dynamic as a runner, as dual-threat QBs have become the norm and have dominated the Heisman trophy for over a decade.
Myles Brennan – LSU
Why he could: To be honest, there’s not much reasoning here, other than he’s with the defending national champions who fully committed to an air-raid attack under Ed Orgeron and Joe Burrow. And while many LSU playmakers will depart for the NFL, Brennan is a competent signal-caller with several weapons returning, including national championship stud Ja’Marr Chase, and he will be greatly helped if Thaddeus Moss and Justin Jefferson return.
Why he won’t: He has no starting experience and 40 pass attempts to his name. Passing guru Joe Brady just departed for the Carolina Panthers, and he will certainly lose a couple of his weapons. Definitely a long shot, but so was Joe Burrow.
Sam Howell – UNC
Why he could: The Tar Heels’ signal-caller could certainly have a true breakout season, but a Heisman may be a long shot. Initial projections have the Tar Heels in the Orange Bowl next year and, if that holds steady, Howell may be in the national picture enough to generate some buzz. He’s demonstrated his ability to play at an elite level, as in his bowl game against Temple, when he threw for 294 yards and three touchdowns.
Why he won’t: Howell is inconsistent as for every Temple-like game, Howell had another disaster, like when he put up 18 points against Wake Forest’s suspect defense. The Tar Heels are not a national powerhouse, and despite their turnaround this year, being in a NY6 bowl will rely on consistency and excellence from Howell himself. I’m not convinced he can handle that pressure.
Brock Purdy – Iowa State
The Iowa State sophomore came out nowhere during his freshman year, but he took a small step back in his sophomore campaign, a middling season punctuated by a disappointing loss to Notre Dame in the Camping World Bowl. But you’ll remember that Burrow didn’t exactly light the scoreboard up in his first season at LSU. Purdy has a stable coaching staff and plays in the Big 12, which isn’t exactly known for great defense. He could put up some gaudy numbers, and if Iowa State can stay ranked, Purdy may have a shot.
Why he won’t: Iowa State has not finished a season ranked in the Top 25 sine 2000. The Cyclones have been ranked at different times over each of the last three years, but they have not established consistent success. Iowa State likely needs to be a 9-win team for Purdy to even get consideration, and I’m not sure they can do that. After improving to 5-2 with a win over Texas Tech, Iowa State finished 2-4, and Purdy put up four of his five worst performances in that stretch, leaving hope a little dismal for the future.
Spencer Sanders – Oklahoma State
Why he could: Sanders is a similar case to Purdy in that he plays in the Big 12, which has produced a finalist in four straight years – although admittedly, they were all Oklahoma quarterbacks. The Cowboys were ranked for a lot of this year, but they fell out with an ugly bowl game loss to Texas A&M. He’ll get some chances to prove himself in big moments, especially against Oklahoma, and a big season could have the Cowboys in the Top 20 with a chance at a Heisman finalist.
Why he won’t: Quite simply, Sanders might be statistically the worst QB on this list, aside from the unproven Brennan. After balling out against Oregon State in the season opener, Sanders never again matched that game, and he had three games with multiple interceptions. The other problem is that, barring a major fallout by Chuba Hubbard, the Cowboys will be led by their star running back, meaning that Sanders could be relegated to a game manager, like he was this year at times, attempting 25 or less passes in seven different contests. He’s a competent game manager for sure, but game managers don’t win Heisman trophies.
Sam Ehlinger – Texas
Why he could: I could really see this one happening. Ehlinger had an amazing sophomore season, but many people blamed him for Texas underperforming this year when, in fact, he was actually statistically better than last year on several levels. Aside from a couple duds, Ehlinger was really good, posting a quarterback rating of 89 or above in six games, including his best two performances in his final two games. Texas absolutely has the talent to be a national title contender, they just have to put it together for once. But Ehlinger, at a traditional football powerhouse? Coming off a slightly disappointing season that ended in a massive bowl win over a ranked team? Sounds a lot like Joe Burrow…
Why he won’t: The same reason for hope with Ehlinger – that he put up the numbers he did without playing his best – are also reasons for concern. Ehlinger had two total duds, against Baylor and Oklahoma, and a bad stretch of mediocrity for most of November, before he turned it around late with two great performances. Can he avoid long slumps like the one that plagued him this season; he had five games with a QBR under 73.8 – Burrow’s worst mark of the year. Also, can Texas avoid being Texas and actually perform to expectations? Those questions will be key if Ehlinger wants a chance.
Kellen Mond – Texas A&M
Why he could: Mond has loads of natural talent, and when he puts it together, like he did in a three-touchdown performance against Mississippi State, he can be lethal. Combined with the Aggies’ great recruiting and a proven coach in Jimbo Fisher, the ingredients are there for Mond to explode this year. Playing in the SEC, much like Burrow, he’ll have lots of chances to prove himself against elite competition. If he rises to the occasion, Mond could have a special season with the Aggies.
Why he won’t: He was pretty mediocre and at times downright bad this season. His performance against LSU in the regular season finale was probably the worst individual game any QB had on this list. I felt Mond was average or worse in probably eight or nine games,which isn’t exactly a recipe for Heisman votes.
Kyle Trask – Florida
Why it could happen: Trask is probably the most similar to Burrow as far as where the LSU QB was heading into this season. Trask is a long-time backup, who got a chance to start this season and performed fairly well if not great. He’s on a very good SEC team who has long played second fiddle within their own division, but has a chance to go further next year. The initial CBS Sports projection has the Gators in the Playoff next year, which could happen if the usurp Georgia in the SEC East. If that happens, and Trask is a major reason why, expect the Florida signal-caller to be near the top of the lists.
Why he won’t: Obviously he is not a favorite, but there’s no other obvious reason to not like Trask’s chances. The biggest concerns are probably Florida being able to finally take the next step, and whether Trask can level up; the long-time backup avoided any horrible games, but he also only had a couple games that you could qualify as ‘great’. His biggest difference from Burrow’s 2018 season, is that Burrow played his best four games of the season in the last four games, indicating a sign of things to come. You can’t say that about Trask, who was probably actually a little bit worse in his final four games.
My official prediction as of now is that one QB will make this list – and my guess is Ehlinger. I could definitely see Ehlinger joining Spencer Rattler and Justin Fields and Chuba Hubbard in New York next year, with Kyle Trask finishing in the Top 10 in voting. And if Ehlinger performs, he could find himself making an acceptance speech at the podium.