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Welcome To New York: Who Will Take Home the Heisman Trophy?

One of the strongest fields in recent memory will take aim at the most well-known award in American sports

Last year's trophy, presented to Alabama Running Back Derrick Henry
Last year's trophy, presented to Alabama Running Back Derrick Henry
Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

The Heisman Trophy is the most famous individual award in American team sports. From Jay Berwanger to Derrick Henry, the players given this award have captivated the attention of the sports world every fall since 1935. Whether they go on to become one of the best NFL players ever like 1988 winner Barry Sanders, or never play a down in the regular season of the NFL like 2001 winner Eric Crouch, they are forever etched into the history of the game and the minds of its fans as a college football legend.

So, who will be the one holding the trophy in Times Square the 2nd Saturday in December this year? Well, looking at the award winners since 2000 there are very noticeable trends:

2000: Chris Weinke, QB, Florida State

2001: Eric Crouch, QB, Nebraska

2002: Carson Palmer, QB, USC

2003: Jason White, QB, Oklahoma

2004: Matt Leinart, QB, USC

2005: Reggie Bush, RB, USC (later vacated)

2006: Troy Smith, QB, Ohio State

2007: Tim Tebow, QB, Florida

2008: Sam Bradford, QB, Oklahoma,

2009: Mark Ingram, RB, Alabama

2010:  Cam Newton, QB, Auburn

2011: Robert Griffin III, QB, Baylor

2012:  Johnny Manziel, QB, Texas A&M

2013: Jameis Winston, QB, Florida State

2014: Marcus Mariota, QB, Oregon

2015: Derrick Henry, RB, Alabama

Out of the last sixteen winners of the award, we have thirteen quarterbacks. Nine of those quarterbacks, and twelve of the players overall,  have played for the national championship.  The four that did not play for a national title-- arson Palmer (helped resurrect USC football amidst a weak Heisman field that featured Brad Banks as the runner up), Tim Tebow (was a large part of a national title team the year before, was a media phenomenon and had 55 total touchdowns),  Robert Griffin III (ESPN’s poster boy for the "spread revolution" that was taking place in college football at the time) and Johnny Manziel (had more than a handful of plays that were Heisman-moment worthy, and embarrassed Nick Saban’s Alabama defense on national television)--had a powerful narratives and got the media behind them.

The Heisman advertises itself on selecting the most outstanding player in college football; nothing could be further from the truth. The award has turned into the best player on the best team, and if the best team does not have a player that can be sufficiently hyped up enough to win the award, whomever the media can hype up the most will suffice for that year.

One final thing that can sway Heisman voters is the overused cliché "the Heisman moment". The phrase, popularized after Michigan’s Desmond Howard brought back a punt 92 yards and  struck the famed Heisman pose against Ohio State on the final weekend of the 1993 regular season, can describe one single play, such as Eric Crouch’s famed touchdown reception on a trick play against Oklahoma in 2001, or an entire game, like Johnny Manziel against college football’s resident villain, the Crimson Tide of Alabama, in 2012.  Needless to say, if a player wants to win the Heisman Trophy, the voters are going to need a "Heisman moment" to validate voting for them.

The trends speak for themselves. There are three different groups a Heisman winner has fallen into in the sixteen years.

1. Quarterback from a top five team ( Weinke, Crouch, Palmer, Lienart, White, Smith, Bradford, Newton, Winston,  Mariota)

2. Running back for a team playing for the National Championship or in the College Football Playoff (Bush, Ingram, Henry)

3.  Dual threat QB who comes out of nowhere to capture America's attention (Tebow, Griffin III, Manziel)

People not in one of these three groups have come close to winning it, but this does not change the fact that the last person outside of these three categories was Ron Dayne in 1999. Simply put, the winner of the Heisman is going to come from these three categories. That means that unless Penn State can surprise everyone and get to the College Football Playoff, there is really no way that Saquon Barkley, as good as he is, can win the award this year.

If you’re saying to yourself "what if he has the best year of any college running back ever. Even if Penn State goes 9-3, that would be enough to get the award, right?" Well, let’s stay in conference and look at Wisconsin great Melvin Gordon’s 2014 season. Gordon rushed for 2587 yards on 343 carries, scored 29 touchdowns on the ground (plus three more receiving), and averaged an astonishing 7.5 yards a carry. He had his Heisman moment in November of that year against Nebraska, when he scored 4 touchdowns with a 25 carry, 410 yard game and pretty much sealed the fate of former Nebraska coach Bo Pelini. He had eight games before the voters voted with over 150 yards on the ground. He was astonishingly consistent, had flashy numbers, and a bunch of highlight-reel long runs to help bolster his case. Now, don’t get me wrong, Marcus Mariota was a deserving winner, but the margin of victory of first-place votes was 788-37 in favor of Mariota. Sorry Saquon Heisman hopefuls, but unless Penn State finds itself in the College Football playoff, it simply will not happen.

With all that being said, who will take home the trophy this year? ,The preseason Heisman watch is dominated by four names that were in strong consideration at some point last year as Clemson’s Deshaun Watson, LSU’s Leonard Fournette, Stanford’s Christian McCaffery, and Oklahoma’s Baker Mayfield all return. Without further ado, here is the first Heisman watch of the season here on Black Shoe Diaries.  I'll break down the eight candidates I think have the best chance to win the award, based on some of the patterns of winners we've seen recently, and then name some honorable mentions, as well.

(statistical profiles linked to player name)

1. Deshaun Watson, Quarterback, Clemson

Why he will win the Heisman Trophy: Many people think that Watson should have won the award last year, with me being one of them. Watson took a Clemson program notorious for underachieving to a near-perfect season, a season that was perfect at the time the Heisman voters voted on the award. Watson has a few things strongly in his favor. First off, Clemson figures to be in the National Title hunt again. Though they get most of their tougher opponents on the road this year as opposed to at home like last year, Notre Dame is gone from the schedule, and only the Florida State Seminoles would be a game where Clemson could lose and it would not be considered a monumental upset.  Second, he is dual threat. Clemson's offense is not even that gimmicky, and Watson still had a 4000-1000 season last year. Third, he is widely regarded as the player most likely to have his name called first in the draft next year, so the spotlight will be on every game and being on the east coast  he will not have to worry about the voters not seeing him play, a problem that Christian McCaffrey ran into last year.  He also will have a lot of weapons back from last year, and gets stud WR Mike Williams back from the injury he suffered last year when he ran into the goal post.  The award, in my mind is his to lose.

Why he will not win the Heisman Trophy: I just said the Heisman is his to lose and while I believe that is true, this award is incredibly easy to lose, especially if everyone thinks you're the favorite. Watson put up incredible numbers last year, and it will be tough for the voters to give him the award if his numbers do not exceed last year's. passing for 4000 yards is one thing, but it is not in Clemson or Watson's best interest for him to carry the ball 200+ times like he did last year.  Clemson being expected to contend for the National Title can also work against Watson because if they get to the point where they are no longer contenders for a a playoff spot, the season will be viewed as a disappointment and the media is not going to give the award to the Quarterback of a team seen as a disappointment.  His mistakes, like Jameis Winston's in 2014, will be magnified and success will be expected. All of these factors are tough to overcome.

Bovada Odds: +400

2. Dalvin Cook, Running Back, Florida State

Why he will win the Heisman Trophy: Cook, who prepped in Miami,  is as talented as any player in the nation, including Fournette. Not only is he talented, but he will be running around an offensive line completely intact from a year ago, a year in which Cook averaged 7.4 yards per carry.  Also, redshirt freshman quarterback Deondre Francois should be able to take the top off of defenses better than Everett Golson and Sean Maguire did last year, keeping the safeties back and giving Cook even more running room. Cook is the complete package as a back, and while maybe is not as as good as a natural runner of the football as Fournette, he is better in the passing game, and the softer schedule could help his numbers. It is not far-fetched for Cook to see Cook have a 2000 yard season, as he only played 12 games last year total and very well could be playing 13 before the Heisman ceremony. That thirteenth game will of course be the ACC championship game, a game in which I believe Florida State will earn the right to play in by coming off of a fortuitously scheduled bye week and beating Clemson at home October 29, a game that could end up playing a huge part in this Heisman race. I think Florida State beats Clemson, and wins the ACC, which, as long he is on the field and healthy all year, should put Cook in position to be at the ceremony in New York with numbers no better than last year. If the numbers exceed last year's, say for example, 1800 yds, 28 total TD's, it will take a special player to beat him out for the award. Those numbers are far from unrealistic, and I would actually say that if he is on the field all year, they're more likely than unlikely. Cook is that good, and I think Florida State will be that good, too.

Why he will not win the Heisman Trophy: While I think all the things that Cook needs to go right to win the Heisman Trophy are totally feasible, it is still a lot of different things that have to go right in order for him to win, and the most important thing, Florida State going to the College Football Playoff, might not be under his control. The schedule is certainly softer than LSU's, but it is not exactly a cakewalk, as Phil Steele has it as the 14th toughest schedule in the nation. Other than that showdown with Clemson, Florida State has to go to Miami. It will be a homecoming for Cook, but that is a game that could spell trouble for Florida State if Mark Richt starts to get that Hurricane swagger back in Coral Gables, especially if the 'Noles are looking forward to the showdown with Clemson. The whole offensive line coming back cannot be possibly construed as a negative, but every single player with over six receptions comes back as well, and given that Francois is expected to be better than Maguire and Golson were in the passing game last year, Cook could lose out on some volume to the passing game, as well as get lose some carries to the athletic Francois.  Francois could realistically steal the spotlight from Cook if he plays outstanding, like the last freshman to start at Quarterback in Tallahassee, Jameis Winston.

Bovada Odds: +750

3. Baker Mayfield, Quarterback, Oklahoma

Why he will win the Heisman Trophy: Mayfield is one of those players that is just fun to watch. The former Texas Tech walk-on mixes an Oklahoma offense predicated on short, quick passes and a consistent zone run game and adds in his own freewheeling, scrambling, making-something-out-of-nothing style to make the OU offense one of the most fun offenses in the country to watch. He is at his best when the play breaks down, and those are the kind of plays that made Johnny Manziel a household name and gave him the Heisman Trophy. Mayfield is not necessarily a dual threat quarterback in the zone read sense, but he did have over 400 yards and 7 touchdowns via the ground last year, adding another dimension to his game.   His confident/borderline cocky persona is endearing to the media and the general public, as his walk-on origin story.  Oklahoma figures to be the clear frontrunner in a Big 12 with no clear challenger to the Sooners, as TCU lost a lot of talent, Baylor is a dumpster fire, and Texas has not played consistent football in over half a decade now.  Oklahoma expects to be in the playoff and if they are in the playoff and Mayfield is healthy, it is really tough to see him not making the ceremony with a shot to win.

Why he will not win the Heisman Trophy: Mayfield is fun to watch, but the entire time you're wondering how he is staying upright, as he is not very big and his scrambling, as well as the fact that he does run the ball somewhat, leaves him exposed to a lot of hits. He has done a nice job of staying healthy so far, but it is not a stretch to say that he has a higher than normal chance of getting injured at some point this year. His stats will show he only threw a respectable seven interceptions last year, but his tendency to take chances could easily lead to an uptick in interceptions this year, just like it did for Jameis Winston from his 2013 to 2014 season. Also, his best weapon in Sterling Shepard has moved on to the NFL (though he will have former Nittany Lion Geno Lewis to throw to, among others) and the Sooners have a great running back in Samaje Perine who can and will take a lot of touches and maybe even the focus of the Sooner offense away from Baker Mayfield.  The Big 12 does look to be down, but the Sooners play one of the toughest non-conference schedules in America as they play a very good Houston team on the road in week one and welcome the Ohio State Buckeyes to Norman in week three. They could absolutely lose one of those games, and while it is certainly easier to come back from an early season loss than one in November, given the soft nature of the Big 12 this year a loss, especially to Houston, might end up keeping Oklahoma out of the playoff talk for the vast majority of the year.

Bovada Odds: +1800

4. J.T. Barrett, Quarterback, Ohio State

Why he will win the Heisman Trophy: Barrett may be the player with the a good  chance of wining the award that is receiving the least Heisman hype from the media. Despite being nothing short of fantastic leading the Buckeye offense in 2014 before going down with a season-ending injury against Michigan, Meyer decided to give Cardale Jones, the postseason hero (but the much worse college quarterback), the job going into 2015. By the end of the season, Barrett was clearly the right guy to lead the Buckeye attack.  Meyer has had a lot of really good quarterbacks for his system in his time as a head coach, and Barrett is right up there in terms of efficiency. With Ezekiel Elliot gone, Barrett will now be the focal point of the offense. He came close to a 3000/1000 season to go along with 45 total touchdowns in 2014, and given that he should have higher usage this year, it is certainly feasible for Barrett to have a season with 3000 yards passing, 1000 on the ground, and 50 total touchdowns this year. Ohio State is not as good as the past two years where they were littered with top end, experienced, NFL talent, but they still have more than enough talent to win the Big Ten, as well as enough talent for Barrett to throw to and to protect him, and get to the playoff. They'll be tested early as Oklahoma comes to Columbus week 3, but that also gives Barrett a big chance to make a statement on national television as to why he is the premier player in the nation. Ohio State has three more games schedule for primetime against Wisconsin, Penn State, and Nebraska, and that does not even take into consideration the two games they end the season with, Michigan State and Michigan, which will almost surely be high-profile games.  Barrett, given the strength of his team, and his ability to rack up numbers both through the air and on the ground, needs to be taken more seriously as a Heisman contender, because he could absolutely be the one hoisting the trophy.

Why he will not win the Heisman Trophy:  I said above that Barrett should be receiving more preseason hype for the award, and while there have been winners who have come out of nowhere recently,  the favorites all faltered those years, and Barrett will have to hope someone like Deshaun Watson, who could put up similar numbers on a team with high expectations, either loses a few games, misses time, or does not have a particularly great year. Narrative plays a large factor in the Heisman Race, and Watson has it right now and has the ability to keep the narrative on him, even if Barrett might end up deserving it more.  Ezekiel Elliot leaving for the NFL should provide Barrett more usage, but it also made it a lot easier for Barrett to put up big numbers when teams had to key so heavily on Elliot. Not only did it help in the play-action pass game, but also helped on zone read plays, as many times opposing players would lose their keys and chase Elliot, only for Barrett to keep the ball for a nice gain. Also gone is Michael Thomas, who was a reliable option underneath the last two years, and the offensive line is breaking in multiple new starters. Quite simply, it could be significantly harder to move the ball for Barrett than it has been over the past two years.  All those high-profile games could help Barrett if he plays well, but it could also end his candidacy pretty quickly if he struggles. He plays in the tougher division in his conference, which means he will play Michigan, Michigan State, and Penn state, three teams who have been among college football's best on defense lately, as well as Wisconsin and Nebraska out of the West, both of whom should be at least alright on defense.  All of these games are not only hiccups for Barrett, but when you factor in Oklahoma as well, it is a lot of potential hiccups for Ohio State's win-loss record.

Bovada Odds: +1000

5. Christian McCaffrey, Running Back, Stanford

Why he will win the Heisman Trophy. McCaffrey, like Reggie Bush before him, is not fully described by the running back distinction. McCaffrey can catch passes out of the backfield as well as lineup on the outside or in the slot. He's also one of the best kick returners in the country, which gives him ample opportunities to make highlight reel plays.  It took awhile for his name to enter household status last year but once it did he did not disappoint, as arguably his two strongest games of the year were the PAC 12 Championship against USC and The Rose Bowl against Iowa. In fact, if the award was given out after the season, McCaffrey might have defied the criteria and beat Henry for the award. This gives him huge momentum coming into this year and with Kevin Hogan gone, he will absolutely be the focal point of the Cardinal offense.The sentiment prevalent right now that McCaffrey should have won last year could lead to voters giving him the benefit of the doubt if it is a tight raceAlso, the Heisman voters are known to vote geographically and there are not many other candidates on the West Coast, so he could benefit by not having to share votes with anyone else. Furthermore, the Stanford is the favorite in the PAC 12 and with playing Kansas State and Notre Dame out of conference, Stanford might even be able to make the playoff with a loss if things go their way. Stanford being nationally relevant all year long will help McCaffrey's chances to raise the Heisman Trophy.

Why he will not win the Heisman Trophy: He is not a traditional running back which helps, but he still is not a quarterback and that is a challenge any non-quarterback must overcome. Furthermore, all of those touches he is going to need to get to win the award mean a high change of injury.  Playing on the West Coast might help with geographical voting, but it does him no favors with east-coast voters as a few times a year Stanford games are not even kicking off until 11:15 PM ET, a time where a lot of people simply will not see him play. Kevin Hogan is gone, and Stanford will be working in new starter and former Penn State target Ryan Burns. This will allow defenses to really key on McCaffrey in both the run and pass game, as they're going to force Burns to go through his reads instead of allowing him to pick his first read, which will frequently be McCaffrey. He had 17 total touchdowns a year ago, a respectable total, but not a high one, and only eight of those were on the ground, four of those coming in one game. I would not expect that total to go up a lot this year as Coach David Shaw will use the best goal line back they have at the goal line, and that might not be McCaffrey. This lack of touchdowns means he will rely on big plays, and while he absolutely makes more big plays than the mean, it still is something that has variance, especially as teams learn to not kick to him in the kicking and punting game and decide to double cover him when he is split out.  He will be hard pressed to put up the total yardage numbers he put up last year with the entire focus of the defense on him. Also, while Stanford is the favorite in the PAC 12, it seems as if they always do just enough to take them out of the title picture, and the schedule does have enough potential losses on it where you'd pause penciling in a team breaking in a new quarterback into the playoff.

Bovada Odds: +750

6. Leonard Fournette, Running Back, LSU

Why he will win the Heisman Trophy: In an offensive scheme so unexciting that a receiving corps of Jarvis Landry and Odell Beckham Jr. could not even make it exciting, Leonard Fournette brings the possibility of greatness every time he touches the ball. The former number one recruit in America has not disappointed in Baton Rouge. Fournette is a physical freak with an unmatched strength and speed combination that allows him to make highlight long touchdown runs on almost a weekly basis, so he definitely fulfills the "Heisman moment" criteria. He has already taken the wear and tear of a 300 carry season and handled it very well. That impressive workload is one of the factors that put Derrick Henry over the top in last year's crowded field, and it could help Fournette as well. LSU has been inconsistent ever since the 2011 season, but they certainly have enough talent to make a run to the College Football Playoff, especially since one loss in the rugged SEC West will not eliminate you from contention.  In fact, I'd go as far as saying that if LSU wins the SEC, Leonard Fournette will be the odds-on favorite to win the Heisman Trophy.

Why he will not win the Heisman Trophy: That offensive scheme being stuck in the 1980s means that it is really easy to key on Fournette running the ball, as LSU does not really utilize their outstanding talent at wide receiver well. A lot of times, LSU has enough talent up front to neutralize teams ganging up on the run, but when they do not, such as last year against Alabama, Fournette can end up having no running room. Going into that game, he had rushed for 150+ yards in the first seven games and was the Heisman front-runner, but was held to 31 yards on 19 carries against the Crimson Tide.  I'm pretty bearish on LSU's ability to throw the football again this year, and teams are once again going to stack the box against Fournette. Last year he handled the workload pretty well, but he has already picked up a sprained ankle in preseason this year and is questionable for the opener against Wisconsin at Lambeau Field. Any time he misses will lower the chances of him winning the award, obviously. Plus, ankle injuries can linger and could hurt his production. Finally, I do not trust LSU to play to their potential. The quarterback play will not be good enough, the play-calling will be stale, and it is not hard to see LSU losing three or more games. Again, no running back has won the award in the 2000s if their team is not playing for a national title, and if you do not think LSU can play for the title, you also must seriously doubt Fournette's Heisman chances

Bovada Odds: +400

7. Josh Rosen, Quarterback, UCLA

Why he will win the Heisman Trophy: Rosen has made a lot of headlines off the field this summer for a variety of reasons, his opposition to Donald Trump paramount among them.  All that aside, he was mighty impressive in Westwood last season as a true freshman, and he has a ton of talent. Gone is outstanding running back Paul Perkins, and now the offense should really revolve around Rosen.  He threw for nearly 3500 yards last year, and a 4000 yard, 30 touchdown season is not out of the question this year. That is really impressive when the pro-style offense UCLA runs is factored in. Not only is Rosen talented, but he just so happens to reside in the biggest market in America that has a college football team (Rutgers, you are not part of NYC).  Though UCLA only has one Heisman winner, Gary Beban in 1967, crosstown rivals Southern California have produced 7, which shows that the Los Angeles media market can be very powerful in the Heisman race. He gets a high-profile test early on against Texas A&M week one, another marquee non-conference game when he faces off with BYU in week three, and then  faces a PAC 12 South schedule devoid of any bonafide national title contenders, but full of average-to-good teams.  However, UCLA does draw Stanford out of the PAC 12 North in week 4, and this will be a big opportunity for Rosen to really introduce himself on a national level for his on-field play. If UCLA can get through those three big games in the first four weeks, and Rosen is impressive in doing so, not only will UCLA be ranked in the top 10, but Rosen will be getting hype as a serious Heisman contender. The back half of the schedule sets up with a lot of underwhelming defenses that Rosen can continue to build momentum. Given the media market, Rosen might not even need his team to make the playoff to win the Heisman Trophy. 10-2 with great numbers and no bad performances could be enough for him, given his media market.

Why he will not win the Heisman: Rosen might only be a true sophomore, but he is one of the veterans of an offense that only returns 5 starters from last year. While talented players will be replacing them, stud wideouts Jordan Payton and Thomas Duarte did combine for almost 2000 yards and 15 touchdowns last year, and that kind of loss is not easy for any quarterback to deal with. Paul Perkins is gone, but fellow classmate Soso Jamabo is back, and he was productive last year backing up Perkins, so it is certainly possible UCLA will still have somewhat of a commitment to the run game. That Los Angeles media market is powerful, but as with Christian McCaffrey, playing on the West Coast means that some weeks, a large portion of the population will not see Rosen play, as 8PM PT kickoffs mean an 11 PM kickoff on the east coast, and that is a time that even the most dedicated fans and journalist might not see the entire game. Plus, UCLA is not even the biggest act in town, as much to the Bruins dismay, LA will always be Southern Cal's city. In a weird way, his own Heisman chances are linked to the success of USC, because if USC pulls the upset against Alabama in week one and keeps winning, the LA media will be talking about the rebirth of USC football, not the outstanding play of Josh Rosen.  UCLA itself has the potential to have a fine season, and 10-2  with a PAC 12 South title is a realistic ceiling for them, but 6-6 or 7-5 is also a realistic floor, and he will have no chance to win the award if UCLA has 4 losses, or even be in New York City for the ceremony at all if UCLA is any worse than 8-4.  There is also a narrative among the college football universe that Rosen is a year away from being the sport's marquee star, and given that there are a lot of established names returning this year, that could really work against him.

Bovada Odds: +3500

8. Brad Kaaya, Quarterback, Miami (FL)

Why he will win the Heisman: Ever since a fantastic performance as a true freshman against then-#2 Florida State, Kaaya has had the attention of NFL scouts, and this year he finally should get some real name recognition around college football. Kaaya has all the tools to put up huge numbers, and he is joined in Coral Gables by 8 other returning starters, including an offensive line that brings backs 85 career starts, a 1000 yard rusher in Joseph Yearby, and five players that caught 18 passes or more last year.   He also gets a huge upgrade in coaching, as the ineffective Al Golden has been replaced by perennial winner Mark Richt, and Richt has decided to call the plays for the offense this fall. Richt, in my opinion, was the perfect hire to bring big-time success back to Miami, and much of the media is buying into this, as well. Looking at the schedule, Miami opens up with four games they should be highly favored in before welcome Florida State back for the first time since that classic in 2014. Mark my words, if Miami starts 4-0 as they should, all eyes will be on that game on October 8, as the media will be pumping the "Miami is back" narrative pretty hard. Miami does not necessarily even need to beat Florida State that night for Kaaya's candidacy to benefit. If he plays a great game in a losing effort, it will serve as a springboard for his candidacy. This game, coupled with a visit to South Bend three weeks later, are going to be two of the most-watched college football games this year, and if Kaaya can play well, and Miami win one of those games, not only is a double-digit  win regular season in play, but Kaaya's Heisman narrative could take off just like Tebow's, RGIII's, and Johnny Manziel's did before him. The player his potential path to victory most reminds me of is none of those three. Rather, Carson Palmer bringing USC back to national relevance in 2002 is a real-life example of a player under similar circumstances as Kaaya winning the award, and Kaaya might be just as talented as Palmer.

Why he will not win the Heisman Trophy: Kaaya is very good, and has a chance to be the first quarterback off the board next Spring, but he will need to double his 16 touchdown passes he had last year to even enter the conversation, given the huge numbers that guys with more numbers-friendly systems will put up. Richt is certainly an upgrade over the play calling and general team direction he had his first two years, but Richt never had a quarterback ever end up in serious Heisman consideration at the end of the year at Georgia. Plus,  the aforementioned Yearby, Mark Walton, and Gus Edwards are all very talented runners and will get a good share of the touches overall.   I'm very confident that Miami will start 4-0, but after that the schedule does get pretty tough. Given the fact that Miami is unlikely to go to the playoff, Kaaya has to play at such a high level every single week all season long, a tough task for any player, even one the caliber of Kaaya.  Even if Kaaya does play at a very high level all season long,  he won't win the award if Miami loses four or more games, certainly a possibility given the schedule. He also might end up in a situation where ACC voters and media are split between him, Dalvin Cook, and Deshaun Watson, and all three of their candidacies will suffer if that occurs. His whole candidacy really relies on narrative, something that is totally out of his control, as the media will decide the Heisman narrative as the season goes on.

Bovada Odds: +4000

Honorable mentions: Georgia RB Nick Chubb, Houston QB Greg Ward Jr., Oregon RB Royce Freeman, USC WR/CB/KR Adoree Jackson, Oklahoma Running Back Samaje Perine