It’s early, but going into the summer, who are the top ten Heisman candidates?
10. S/LB Jabrill Peppers, Jr. Michigan
Why He’ll Win The Heisman: He might really be the best football player in college football – even if the all-around stats don’t show it. He might not be Charles Woodson, but Charles Woodson didn’t play linebacker. Michigan is the it program right now, and Peppers is the it player.
Why He Won’t Win The Heisman: He plays defense. Woodson won it because of his kick return abilities, and while Peppers might make some big plays with the ball in his hands, he won’t make enough of them.
9. DE Myles Garrett, Jr. Texas A&M
Why He’ll Win The Heisman: He’ll spend the season being hyped up as the possible No. 1 pick in the 2017 NFL Draft – or at least No. 2. If he can blow up in all the big games A&M plays, and if he can come up with a monster sack total, he might get some attention.
Why He Won’t Win The Heisman: See Jabrill Peppers.
8. RB Corey Clement, Sr. Wisconsin
Why He’ll Win The Heisman: Really, the Badgers are going to have a running game again. Clement was the special back missing all of last year, and the O line didn’t help the cause, either. This year, if he rocks right out of the gate by outdueling Leonard Fournette in a win over LSU, he’ll get on the Heisman map and probably won’t leave – the stats will be too good.
Why He Won’t Win The Heisman: He’s not going to outduel Leonard Fournette and the Badgers won’t get a win over LSU.
7. RB Royce Freeman, Jr. Oregon
Why He’ll Win The Heisman: Marcus Mariota proved it’s possible to win the Heisman in the funky Oregon offense. Of course, it’s different being a quarterback than a runner, but Freeman is being talked about as the best Duck back of the lot over the 20-plus year run of wonderful runners.
Why He Won’t Win The Heisman: Will he have enough showcase moments? This is such an amazing year for running backs that it’ll be next to impossible to make a whole lot of noise unless his numbers are otherworldly. They might be, but will enough voters see what he’s doing?
6. RB Christian McCaffrey, Jr.
Why He’ll Win The Heisman: If he puts up the numbers he did last year, this might be his Heisman to lose. Many still believe he got robbed of the 2015 award – he’ll get the sympathy vote if he does it all again.
Why He Won’t Win The Heisman: This isn’t as good a Stanford team and he’s not going to have the big game performances on the biggest stages like he did at times last year. It’s not his fault the Cardinal are rebuilding, but he’ll be a marked man now more than ever.
5. QB Baker Mayfield, Sr. Oklahoma
Why He’ll Win The Heisman: Now he knows what he’s doing. The offense moved at rocket speed last season, and now it should crush with ruthless efficiency. If he roars in a win over Ohio State with the whole world watching, and the Sooners end up winning the Big 12 title, the 2015 Heisman finalist will be back in New York.
Why He Won’t Win The Heisman: Not having Sterling Shepard around anymore as a go-to target is a big deal. As good as Mayfield might be in the already-terrific attack, the running game should take over for long stretches. The backs are too strong and too talented not to revolve the offense around.
4. QB J.T. Barrett, Jr. Ohio State
Why He’ll Win The Heisman: He’s going to have his chances. If he goes into Norman and rips apart Oklahoma, he’ll be seen as an MVP-type of candidate who’ll be carrying the rebuilding offense. With an increased tempo to the attack, his numbers should be outstanding.
Why He Won’t Win The Heisman: For whatever reason, Ohio State quarterbacks under Urban Meyer just don’t get any Heisman love. Braxton Miller deserved notice, and so did Barrett a few years ago. The bigger problem could be the supporting cast – it’s not there for the Buckeyes like it was in 2015.
3. RB Dalvin Cook, Jr. Florida State
Why He’ll Win The Heisman: Can Florida State regain the 2013 form? Loaded on both sides of the ball, the Seminoles could and should be in the national championship chase from the start, and Cook will be the signature star. There’s a great Heisman-mix of high-profile showdowns and easy stat-filling breezes to put him in the race throughout the season.
Why He Won’t Win The Heisman: The Ole Miss run defense to kick things off, and the Florida run defense to end the regular season. Even if Cook goes bananas against Clemson and against the rest of the ACC, he’s got two brutal SEC Ds to negotiate. Of course, his stock goes through the roof if he’s great against the Land Sharks and Gators, but he’ll likely be kept under wraps.
2. QB Deshaun Watson, Jr. Clemson
Why He’ll Win The Heisman: If he’s seen as the savior of the Cleveland Browns as the No. 1 pick in the 2017 NFL Draft, he’ll get a full season of College Football’s Best Player hype – and it’ll be well-deserved. He’ll be the superstar of the likely top-ranked Tigers with the must-see TV, highlight-reel aspect to his game. Clemson plays its share of mediocre teams like it did last season, but if he puts up the monster numbers in key spotlight wins over Auburn, Florida State, and Louisville, and he leads the way to another trip to the CFP, it might be a landslide.
Why He Won’t Win The Heisman: The expectations will be off the charts. Everyone will be looking for CFP National Championship vs. Alabama every time out, and it’s not going to happen every week. One rough day and one loss in a key game might crush the dream.
1. RB Leonard Fournette, Jr. LSU
Why He’ll Win The Heisman: The race was over. The Heisman was Fournette’s until the coronation came to a crashing halt in the loss to Alabama. Look past that, and the team’s problems for a while over the second half of the year, and he still might have been the best player in college football last season.
Despite what the preseason rankings might say, LSU should be the best team in college football and No. 7 will be the catalyst. It’s not going to be easy with the Wisconsin run defense to deal with early on, and with the Alabama date looming again right when the Heisman talk shifts into high gear. But if he comes close to another 2,000-yard campaign, and the Tigers do what they’re supposed to, he’ll be the signature star of the 2016 college football season.
Why He Won’t Win The Heisman: Alabama. Johnny Manziel was able to win a Heisman based on what he was able to do against the Crimson Tide, and his legend grew even greater after the shootout loss the following year. Dangerous quarterbacks are the issue for Alabama, though, not elite running backs. Struggle again, and the chances are kaput.