Making a way too early Heisman prediction. Who’ll win college football’s most prestigious award, who won’t and why.
The Heisman is the toughest trophy to win in sports.
A team can win the Stanley Cup, or the Vince Lombardi, or the Larry O’Brien by being barely better than its opponent. A college football player can’t just win the Heisman by being great – he needs a whole lot of lucky breaks.
In today’s day and age, the Heisman goes to the signature quarterback or running back in a college football regular season who plays on a top team, mixing in both the Most Valuable Player (MVP) and the Most Outstanding Player (MOP) into one.
Who is the guy who defines the season?
You know what the award is for, so stop thinking it’s something it’s not.
It’s not for the most talented player – that’s what the NFL Draft is for.
It’s not for the most productive player, the best defensive player, or – despite the intended goal – the best college football player.
That’s the deal. It’s a beauty contest, and no one is forcing you to care.
Also, don’t worry too much about who the preseason favorites are going to be, because it almost never works out as planned.
According to the 2015 preseason odds, Trevone Boykin, Ezekiel Elliott and J.T. Barrett were all favorites to claim the trophy. None of them even made it to New York.
Nick Chubb, Leonard Fournette and Cody Kessler were all right behind them, along with – wait for it, Auburn fans – Jeremy Johnson.
Deshaun Watson was in the top 10 mix, while Derrick Henry was 25/1 and Christian McCaffrey and Baker Mayfield didn’t exist.
Assume The Field or some long shot is going to pull a Manziel/Cam/RGIII and come from out of nowhere to pull it off. That said, it’s pretty easy to eliminate most of this year’s favorites before the season starts. Take out the ones who aren’t going to make it, and you’ll have your winner.
Deshaun Watson isn’t going to win the Heisman. He’ll be brilliant, but the stats won’t be quite up-to-snuff and Clemson won’t go 13-0 in the regular season again. At Auburn, at Georgia Tech, Louisville, at Florida State – Clemson will lose at least one of those, and that’s all it takes.
For a comparison, think 1999 Michael Vick. Virginia Tech lost the national title the year before, even though Vick – who finished third in 1998 – stole the show against Florida State. He was great the next year, but finished sixth for a Virginia Tech team that went 10-1 in the regular season. Like Vick, Watson will have to settle for being the No. 1 pick in the NFL Draft.
Christian McCaffrey isn’t going to win the Heisman. It’s a rebuilding year for a Cardinal team that won’t be anywhere near as good. Kansas State will slow him down in Week 1.
J.T. Barrett isn’t going to win the Heisman. And it’s not fair. Under Urban, Ohio State quarterbacks are never in the Heisman hunt. Barrett deserved consideration two years ago, and Braxton Miller should’ve been in the discussion three years ago. The Buckeyes will be fantastic, but the passing stats won’t be Heisman-worthy.
Chad Kelly isn’t going to win the Heisman. Florida State will win in Orlando on the opening weekend, and that’s all she wrote.
Dalvin Cook isn’t going to win the Heisman. He’ll get bottled up in one big game against Ole Miss, or Miami, or Clemson to ruin the shot.
Baker Mayfield isn’t going to win the Heisman. Oklahoma’s offense should be phenomenal, but the running game will carry even more of the load. Mayfield isn’t going to be the best offensive player on the team. That’ll be Samaje Perine, and he’s not winning the Heisman, either.
Nick Chubb isn’t going to win the Heisman. He’s not going to be 100% healthy, and he’ll be sharing the load early on.
Josh Rosen isn’t going to win the Heisman. It’s UCLA. No.
Royce Freeman isn’t going to win the Heisman. He might put up tremendous stats, but it’s hard to give Oregon backs too much credit. They’re a product of the offense.
A wide receiver isn’t going to win the Heisman. An Amari Cooper/Larry Fitzgerald type can come close, but no.
A defensive player isn’t going to win the Heisman. This won’t happen unless it’s a guy who does other stuff. Jabrill Peppers might have a cup of coffee on midseason Heisman lists.
So go ahead and throw a DeShone Kizer onto the Heisman pile. Feel free to include Josh Dobbs, Bo Scarbrough, Seth Russell and Brad Kaaya in the discussion, because – at least historically – you might have a better shot odds-wise of getting it right than going with the favorites.
And then there’s the guy who I think is actually going to get it done.
LSU’s Leonard Fournette didn’t just lead the nation in rushing yards per game, he obliterated Henry, McCaffrey, Cook, Freeman, Elliott, and the rest of the field averaging 163 yards per contest last season – Henry was second, averaging 148. Henry played in three more games and McCaffrey two more, otherwise, Fournette would’ve led the nation in rushing yards with ease.
The runaway midseason Heisman winner – if there was such a thing – he was the big story to start the year. However, he had just one bad game against Alabama on a national stage, and that was it. More importantly: LSU fell off the map.
The three-game November losing streak put the emphasis on Les Miles’ job more than Fournette’s season, even though the latter finished with 1,953 yards and 22 scores averaging 6.5 yards per pop. This year will be different.
This year, LSU – my prediction from January – has the talent to come up with the nation’s best team, and Fournette will be the signature guy.
Henry kicked off his Heisman campaign against Wisconsin last year; Fournette will do the same.
Henry pounded his way to an SEC championship, and even with a slip at Florida or against Alabama, Fournette should, too.
But don’t push all your chips in to the middle of the table just yet, because it almost never, ever works out as planned.
And that’s why we’re so addicted.