Heading into last season, quarterbacks had won five straight Heisman Trophies. Alabama running back Derrick Henry was able to break the trend thanks to 2,219 rushing yards and 28 touchdowns in just 15 games. But that kind of ludicrous stat line shows what it takes for a non-QB to win the award.
The odds for the 2016 season predict a return to normalcy as the nation’s top QB is the favorite for the biggest individual prize in college football. That said, a couple running backs are primed to make a run (make that several very long runs) at the trophy and they have a decent shot at recreating Henry’s magic.
After what Deshaun Watson showed us last year, in particular against ‘Bama in the championship game, he’s a deserving favorite. He completed 67.8-percent of his passes for 4,104 yards and 35 TDs while adding 1,105 rushing yards and another 12 rushing touchdowns. Now a year more experienced, Watson has the talent to post even better numbers if he stays healthy.
At the outset of last season, if you told most pundits that a running back was going to win the Heisman, everyone would have assumed it was Fournette. He was coming off a sensational freshman season and seemed destined to dominate the SEC. He certainly didn’t have a bad year, with 1,953 yards and 22 touchdowns on 300 carries (including four games of 200-plus yards). But it didn’t live up to expectations and he failed to deliver in two key games against Alabama and Arkansas.
Les Miles will be looking for even better this year, especially against top-tier opponents.
Only Henry had more rushing yards than Christian McCaffrey last season. He averaged 6.5 yards per carry and racked up 2,019 rushing yards on 337 carries. If he’s going to claim this year’s Heisman, he’ll need to find paydirt more often; he only recorded eight touchdowns last season. Bettering that number shouldn’t be an issue. He’ll be the focal point of the Cardinal attack now that QB Ben Hogan has moved on and redshirt freshman Keller Chryst will be under center.
Head coach Urban Meyer made several mistakes in 2015. One of the biggest, in retrospect, was juggling between JT Barrett and Cardale Jones at quarterback. In limited action, Barrett completed 63.3-percent of his passes for 992 yards, 11 touchdowns, and four interceptions. The dual-threat pivot added 682 rushing yards and another 11 rushing touchdowns.
This year, Barrett won’t have competition for the starting role and should be able to get back to his Heisman-caliber form from 2014. If Ohio State is able to make another deep playoff run, his Heisman Trophy stock will rise.
Chad Kelly was outstanding last season, throwing for 4,042 yards, 31 touchdowns, and 13 interceptions. Like Watson and Barrett, Kelly is a dual threat. His ability to post big numbers on the ground and through the air give him an outside shot at the Heisman. But Ole Miss is going to struggle to emerge from the uber-tough SEC West and that hurts Kelly’s chances.
Dalvin Cook (RB, Florida State Seminoles): 12/1 +1200
Baker Mayfield (QB, Oklahoma Sooners): 12/1
Nick Chubb (RB, Georgia Bulldogs): 14/1
Josh Rosen (QB, UCLA Bruins): 16/1
Royce Freeman (RB, Oregon Ducks): 20/1
Samaje Perine (RB, Oklahoma Sooners): 20/1
Calvin Ridley (WR, Alabama Crimson Tide): 25/1
Joshua Dobbs (QB, Tennessee Volunteers): 25/1
Brad Kaaya (QB, Miami Hurricanes): 33/1
Patrick Mahomes (QB, Texas Tech Red Raiders): 33/1
(Photo Credit: Thecoiner CC BY-SA 3.0 [http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0], via Wikimedia Commons.)
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