18 for ’18: 18 key offseason topics: No. 2, the ranking of the top five Heisman candidates – the late-spring version.
18 for ’18: No. 2, Spring Ranking of the Top Five Heisman Candidates
18 for ’18 Offseason Topics
18: Power 5 Coach Hot Seat Rankings
17: Power 5 Projected Win Totals & Swing Games
16. Best Longshot National Championship Teams
15. Group of 5 vs. Power 5 Upset Alerts
14. Every Power Five Team’s Letdown Game
13. Breakout QBs You Need To Know
12. Already Great Players About To Explode
11. Every Power Five’s Sleeper Team
10. Five Key Returning Injured Stars
9. Top Make Or Break QB Battles
8. Crazy Predictions That Might Be Right
7. Group of Five Teams In CFP Hunt
6. Possible Power Five Disappointments
5. Possible Power Five Surprises
4. Ranking The Group of Five Conferences
3. Ranking The Power Five Conferences
In general, it’s best to go with the concept of The Field when looking ahead to any sort of a way-early Heisman analysis, but that’s no fun – at least until it’s time to figure out who are the best guys who belong in that field.
It’s also important to remember that it’s really, really hard to be a Heisman finalist, much less win it.
Baker Mayfield might have been the odds-on favorite to win the Heisman before last season, and Lamar Jackson was a finalist after being a top three choice according to the oddsmakers, but J.T. Barrett? The odds were 6/1, and he turned out to not be even close.
Sam Darnold? He won the Pac-12 title, and wasn’t within ten miles of being a finalist. How about Saquon Barkley, who had the thing all but won halfway though the season, until he didn’t?
Jake Browning, Trace McSorley, Deondre Francois, Josh Rosen, Mason Rudolph, Jalen Hurts, Derrius Guice, and Bo Scarbrough were the other top options according to the Vegas types.
You don’t see your guy among the top five Heisman candidates as spring ball winds down? Almost always, 1) the finalists have to come up with a crazy statistical season, 2) do it on a big stage at least once, and 3) be on a team that’s in the hunt for big things.
So while it might seem like plenty of bigger names from last year belong on this list, remember, the starting quarterbacks on a few top teams aren’t going to have the stats, and a lot of the guys who’ll have the stats won’t be on the top teams.
Also keeping in mind that it’s important to look outside of the box a wee bit when it comes to the finalists, here are the five who have the most going for them in the chase.
5. RB Jonathan Taylor, Soph. Wisconsin
Taylor took the college football world by storm with a massive 1,977-yard, 13-touchdown debut in one of the greatest seasons ever by a true freshman running back.
Wisconsin running backs don’t always get a whole lot of love in the Heisman race – partly because they’re sometimes considered a part of the system that plugs-and-plays very good backs into statistical superstars. But Taylor was special, ripping off three 200-yard games and hitting the 100-yard mark ten times.
However, he was held to just 41 yards in the Big Ten Championship loss to Ohio State – partly because the coaching staff forgot to give him the ball with just 15 carries. But he came back to hit the amazing Miami defense with 130 yards in the terrific 34-24 Orange Bowl win.
Why he’ll win the Heisman: The Badgers get back their entire offensive line, and the passing game will improve enough to keep defenses from focusing all of their attention on JT.
Why he won’t win the Heisman: It’s really, really hard for a running back to win the Heisman with so many quarterbacks doing so many great things. The Badgers will have to get into the College Football Playoff and Taylor will have to hit 2,000 yards, and neither will happen.
What will happen? Taylor will pile up the big yards early, but with the spotlight on, he’ll be held in check by the Michigan run D in Ann Arbor. Even so, he’ll put up huge numbers overall as the Badgers get back to the Big Ten Championship. That won’t be enough to win the Heisman, but he’ll be in the chase to be a finalist.