Breaking down the Heisman race

Kijani King, Reporter

The Heisman Trophy race seemed to be a lock in September and October. Louisville QB Lamar Jackson put on a show early in the season, scoring 38 total touchdowns before the last three weeks of the year. Then everything spiraled downhill for the young phenom. Houston absolutely dominated Louisville, and sacked Jackson 11 times. Then after a fumble that gave Louisville another loss, his Heisman campaign is potentially in jeopardy. If Jackson doesn’t win it, then who will? There is one more week of games before the Heisman winner is announced. But it is Championship Week, so only teams that won their division will be playing this weekend: Jackson and Louisville are not among them. I’ll be going through the candidates who play this weekend.

Deshaun Watson (QB, Clemson) vs #23 Virginia Tech: Probably the most likely to win it out of everyone else, Watson was a preseason favorite to win the Heisman. However, he struggled early in the year, as did most of Clemson’s offense. They did get back on track late in the year, his best game statistically was ironically against the only team that beat them this season: Pitt. Watson broke an ACC record in a losing effort, passing for 580 yards in a 43-42 loss to the Panthers. He hasn’t been as dynamic as a runner this season, but he has really developed his game as a passer, which has helped so far this year and hopefully will help him lead his team to a win in the ACC Championship Game.

Jalen Hurts (QB, Alabama) vs #15 Florida: Hurts was a surprise by many people when he became the first true freshman QB to start at Alabama in 30 years. Hurts is a dual-threat quarterback who has flourished under Lane Kiffin’s offense. He is going into the SEC Championship Game with 2454 passing yards and 21 touchdowns, while rushing for 840 yards and 12 touchdowns. One of the things that makes Hurts such a special player as a freshman is his poise and ability to stay calm and bounce back after making a mistake, which is a great quality to have in a quarterback. He has caught many by surprise this year and could have a chance to make it to New York with a huge game on Saturday.

Dede Westbrook (WR, Oklahoma) and Baker Mayfield (QB, Oklahoma) vs #10 Oklahoma State: Yes, they are both in contention for the Heisman Trophy, and for good reason. These two have put on a show this year. Let’s start with the quarterback.

Baker Mayfield is a dynamic quarterback who is really good at extending pass plays by scrambling out of the pocket. Very similar to former Heisman winner Johnny Manziel (even in size), who won the award at Texas A&M. Mayfield has been tearing up the Big 12 this year, passing for 3381 yards and 35 touchdowns, while rushing for 138 yards and 6 more touchdowns. He also leads the FBS in total QBR for the season with a 91.1. It helps that he has arguably the best receiver in college football right now on his team.

Dede Westbrook’s numbers have been astounding this season. In total, he has put up 70 catches for 1354 yards and 15 touchdowns, but they have been in big chunks in big games. Westbrook has 7 games with over 100 yards and two games with over 200 yards. He is averaging almost 20 yards a catch. Westbrook is a dynamic playmaker who can stretch the field with his speed and is highly capable of making big plays.

Jake Browning (QB, Washington) vs #8 Colorado: The Huskies are in a really good position to get in the College Football Playoff, and one of the biggest reasons is the sensational play of quarterback Jake Browning. Unlike every other quarterback in the race this season, Browning is a pocket passer, and a very good one at that. Browning has passed for 3162 yards and 40 touchdowns (3rd in the FBS), and is 4th in the Power 5 with a 85.6 QBR. With a big game here, he could get invited to New York and also lead his team into the playoffs.

Donnel Pumphrey (RB, San Diego State) vs Wyoming: Pumphrey was another player who caught many by surprise this season. He totaled 305 carries for 1908 rushing yards, which is second in the FBS, and scored 15 touchdowns. Like Westbrook, he got his yards in chunks. Pumphrey had 9 games with over 100 yards on the ground, and 4 games with over 200 yards. Pumphrey is a smaller running back at 5’9” 180, but he is very quick and elusive and just overall a great player.

The Verdict: The race definitely got a lot more interesting with the way Lamar Jackson finished off the season. However, in my opinion there hasn’t really been a clear cut guy right behind him all season. Watson might be pretty close, but I still believe that Jackson played well enough before his two game slump to win the Heisman Trophy, and he is still proven that he’s the best player in College Football this season.