Final Heisman Watch
George’s Pick: Lamar Jackson
For the majority of the season Lamar Jackson has been the odds-on favorite to win the Heisman trophy. With an electric presence on the field, Jackson has drawn comparisons to vintage Mike Vick. He’s had games with more rushing yards than passing, something very few Heisman quarterbacks can say.
Jackson’s 30 passing touchdowns are eighth in the country, and his 21 rushing touchdowns are fourth among all players. Louisville won 9 of their first 10 games, and were in the conversation for the college football playoffs all year. In the history of FBS, Jackson is only the third to throw 30 touchdowns and run for 20. Only Cam Newton and Tim Tebow accomplished that, and each won the Heisman during their respective seasons.
Jackson cooled off towards the end of the season, resulting in back-to-back losses to end Louisville’s regular season. In the season finale against a mediocre Kentucky team, Jackson threw a season-high three interceptions.
Because many Heisman ballots were turned in before the final games of the season, Jackson will have a distinct advantage. As the presumptive winner since day one, Jackson’s early success should carry him to the podium in New York.
George’s Pick: Jabrill Peppers
College football’s most versatile player will be the first defensive player since Manti Te’o to be represented in New York. Playing multiple positions on offense, defense, and special teams, Peppers is a unique talent who should be awarded with a top-five draft pick selection.
Peppers was on the field for 761 plays, and lined up at nine different positions. On defense as a linebacker, safety, cornerback, and nickel defender Peppers racked up 72 tackles, 16 TFLs, four sacks, one forced fumble, and one interception. Because he moved around so many times during games, his stats are misleading. On offense, Peppers has 167 rushing yards, three rushing TDs, and 751 all-purpose yards. His biggest threat however comes as a return specialist. Peppers had over 300 return yards and a punt return touchdown as an electric playmaker on special teams.
Unfortunately for Peppers, the only one other defensive player has won the Heisman. Coincidentally, that player was Wolverine star Charles Woodson. Voters will appreciate how hard Peppers plays with every snap, but the numbers and position will sway them away from giving him their vote.
Stephen’s Pick: Baker Mayfield
Oklahoma’s gun slinging junior makes his first appearance as a Heisman finalist following an impressive season, in which he led his Sooners to a second-straight Big 12 championship, while leading the nation in both accuracy (71.2% completion percentage), and efficiency (197.75 QB rating).
After a 2015 campaign in which Mayfield earned the accolade of Big 12 Offensive Player of the Year, he continued to improve greatly--accounting for 44 touchdowns, tossing only 8 interceptions, and slinging for 3,669 yards. He has the statistics, passes the eye test, and is a proven winner.
The knock against Mayfield is that him, as well as teammate Dede Westbrook, have not had a difficult enough schedule to claim the Heisman Trophy. In fact, his worst game of the season came against the only top-10 defense they played all year.
Joe’s Pick: Deshaun Watson
Clemson quarterback Deshaun Watson has been instrumental in his team’s successes this year, carrying his team to a second consecutive ACC title and a spot in the College Football Playoff. Watson’s numbers are down from last year, but he definitely deserves the invitation to New York.
This year, the Clemson quarterback threw for 3,914 yards and 37 touchdowns, while also running for 529 yards and six touchdowns. Those numbers are good, but his rushing production is down from last year and he threw 15 interceptions, something too high for a Heisman finalist. Clemson’s record and Watson’s performance should put him in the top two of the Heisman voting.
Joe’s Pick: Dede Westbrook
On first glance, Oklahoma wide receiver Dede Westbrook does not seem to belong in the Heisman conversation as his performances against Houston and Ohio State were not very good and his quarterback Baker Mayfield is also a finalist. His 74 receptions for 1,465 and 16 touchdowns are good, but people think his numbers are that good because he plays in the Big 12.
With that being said, Westbrook carried the Sooner aerial attack as no other Oklahoma player recorded more than 35 receptions or 450 yards receiving. The presence of Mayfield in the Heisman ceremony limits Westbrook to finish five in the Heisman race.
George: Lamar Jackson
Stephen: Jabrill Peppers
Joe: Lamar Jackson
George Stockburger is a senior majoring in journalism with a focus in broadcasting. He can be reached at email@example.com.
Stephen Clouse is a freshman majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Joe Esquivel-Murphy is a junior majoring in broadcast journalism and Spanish. To contact him, email email@example.com.