Did you know that Heisman voting resembles our Presidential election voting? Candidates typically find support in geographical regions and the voters are unduly influenced by the added exposure of that candidate. This year’s top 5 candidates heading into the final weeks come from the Northwest, Southeast, Mid-Atlantic, Midwest and Southwest. Remarkably, none of the candidates play in the SEC and the ACC leads the charge with two candidates followed by one candidate each from the Pac-12, Big Ten, and Mountain West.
Lamar Jackson, QB Louisville
The odds-on favorite to win the Heisman, Lamar Jackson has been dismantling the competition. He looks like a man against boys. His combined total of 38 passing and running touchdowns leads the nation. In any other season this would make him a lock for the trophy but there is a kid out west by the name of Jake Browning who has a combined 32 touchdowns (more on him below). Jackson’s runs are weekly Sportscenter highlights. He is electrifying. He has an outside shot at Colt Brennan’s all-time single season combined touchdown total of 63. If Louisville makes the college football playoff the extra game may be all he needs to break that record.
Jake Browning, QB Washington
No one, and I mean no one, had Jake Browning on their list of players to watch at the beginning of the season as a potential Heisman candidate. That is, except this writer. How much of a long shot was Browning to win the Heisman? I couldn’t find odds on him on any of the sports books at the beginning of the year. That’s how much of a long shot he was. And, as it currently stands, Browning has thrown more TD passes than Jackson, 28 – 22 and Browning’s Quarterback Rating of 195.2 is considerably better than Jackson’s 159.6. Browning is an efficient machine and none of this is surprising as Browning holds national high school records of 229 career touchdown passes (which he set in only 3 seasons) and 91 TD’s in a single season. Oh, and the college football single season touchdown record we mentioned above, when Washington coach Chris Petersen takes the shackles off his quarterback next year expect Browning to smash the record. Just remember, you read it here first.
DeShaun Watson, QB Clemson
DeShaun Watson was a finalist last season and the pre-season favorite heading into this year. However, no one expected Lamar Jackson to put up the numbers he has thus far. Watson has been solid in leading Clemson to an undefeated season so far. And, if they win the ACC Championship undefeated it may be enough for Watson to pry away enough votes from Jackson to win the Heisman, despite inferior stats.
Jabrill Peppers, CB Michigan
NFL scouts are already calling him the next Charles Woodson and that is quite the compliment. It is easy to see why. Woodson starred at Michigan as well and was the last defensive player to win the Heisman. If he captures all the top votes from the Midwest he might sneak in and walk away with the trophy especially if Jackson and Watson split the East Coast votes, and Browning and Pumphrey split the West Coast votes.
Donnel Pumphrey, RB San Diego State
The longest of long shots on this list simply because he plays in the weakest of the conferences of the finalists and against the weakest competition. But, there is no overlooking what he has accomplished regardless of the competition. He is on track to crack 2,000 yards rushing this year and that alone makes you pay attention. It is a long shot for him to break Ron Dayne’s all-time NCAA rushing record but he has an outside chance. Tune in to San Diego State’s bowl game to watch this future NFL talent.