Heisman Power Rankings for Week 1 of College Football
Alabama's Tua Tagovailoa and Clemson's Trevor Lawrence enter the season as clear front-runners to win the 2019 Heisman Trophy, but there's an impressive group of talent chasing the star quarterbacks.
Other promising QBs and returning All-American running backs highlight the next group of contenders for college football's most prestigious award.
While not every top candidate lives up to the hype, several of the preseason favorites often head to New York as Heisman finalists.
We must be realistic about the choices, though. Not since 1997 has a non-QB or running back won the award, and only eight players—four receivers, one defensive lineman, one linebacker and two defensive backs—have even finished in the top five of voting over the last decade.
A non-QB or running back may end up crashing the party, but chasing down Tagovailoa, Lawrence and these standouts will be a difficult task.
More Names to Know
Jake Fromm, QB, Georgia
Over the last decade, every Heisman-winning QB has hovered around 4,000 passing yards or provided an elite running threat. Fromm is a talented player, but consider us skeptical he'll be a top challenger for the Heisman given how much receiving production UGA must replace in 2019 (top-six producers no longer with the team). Could he lead the Bulldogs to the College Football Playoff? Certainly. Heisman may be a stretch, though.
Najee Harris, RB, Alabama
Alabama's top three running backs combined for 2,299 yards and 24 touchdowns last season. But Damien Harris graduated, and Josh Jacobs headed to the NFL early. Najee Harris, meanwhile, returns to lead a backfield that recently lost prized freshman Trey Sanders for the season. Brian Robinson Jr. will be a factor, yet Harris could end up handling a hefty share of the touches and approach 1,500 yards for a national contender.
Adrian Martinez, QB, Nebraska
At the worst, Martinez has the individual upside to make this a conversation. He's an efficient passer and a dynamic runner who totaled 3,246 offensive yards and 25 touchdowns despite missing most of two games as a freshman. For him to garner a significant number of votes, Nebraska needs to compete for the Big Ten crown. And that, quite frankly, is more up to the defense than Martinez.
Shea Patterson, QB, Michigan
Jim Harbaugh and Michigan are entering a critical year for their perception, and Patterson bears most of that pressure. As if that's not enough, he's adjusting to the third offense of his college career now that Josh Gattis is the coordinator in Ann Arbor. But if the Wolverines are the national contender most expect they'll be, Patterson will likely be the primary reason for their success.
D'Andre Swift, RB, Georgia
Last season, Swift was a popular breakout pick and trendy contender for major awards. He didn't match the latter expectation but still ran for 1,049 yards and 10 touchdowns, adding 32 catches for 297 yards and three more scores. Swift will run behind a veteran offensive line and is UGA's top Heisman candidate in 2019.
Best of the rest: Ian Book, QB, Notre Dame; Justin Herbert, QB, Oregon; D'Eriq King, QB, Houston; Rondale Moore, WR, Purdue
7. Jonathan Taylor, RB, Wisconsin
Through his first two seasons, Jonathan Taylor owns a pair of top-10 Heisman finishes—sixth in 2017 and ninth last year. He's the first player since Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston to accomplish the feat.
Taylor has a great chance to become the first running back since Marshall Faulk (1991-93) to achieve a top-10 slot three times.
Wisconsin would need to engineer a remarkable—and unexpected—year for the running back to hoist the Heisman. Nevertheless, he's posted back-to-back 1,900-yard campaigns and will be heavily featured once again.
Even if he's unlikely to win, Taylor has earned this place above the honorable mentions group.
6. Sam Ehlinger, QB, Texas
Sam Ehlinger put together a terrific sophomore year, leading Texas to an 10-4 record with 3,778 yards of total offense and 41 touchdowns. The program is finally back among the Big 12's premier teams.
But for the junior quarterback to have a shot at the Heisman, the Longhorns need to make a final, complicated leap.
Last season, they lost to Maryland, an unranked Oklahoma State team and fell short in the Big 12 Championship Game against the Oklahoma Sooners. While the convincing victory over Georgia was nice, bowl games are nothing more than a postscript to a season recap.
Given the amount of attention Texas receives—and Ehlinger himself welcomed it with a "We're back!" announcement—anything less than winning the Big 12 will eliminate him from contention.
5. Travis Etienne, RB, Clemson
In 2018, Travis Etienne ranked 75th nationally in carries per game yet recorded the fourth-most rushing yards. Few college backs are more entertaining to watch than the explosive junior, who quietly finished seventh in Heisman voting last year.
Just think of the production he could've added if Clemson hadn't averaged a 31.1-point margin of victory.
Though you shouldn't hear any complaints, that might not change much in 2019. The reigning champion Tigers are undoubtedly the class of the ACC and expected to return to the College Football Playoff.
Etienne's numbers should reflect the superstar he is, but most of the praise presumably will head to the player handing him the ball.
4. Justin Fields, QB, Ohio State
One transfer and faux-quarterback competition later, Justin Fields is officially ready to lead Ohio State in 2019.
While he only has 594 total yards and eight touchdowns on his college resume, Fields is receiving immense benefit of the doubt because of his 5-star recruiting billing and surrounding talent. It doesn't hurt that Dwayne Haskins was a Heisman finalist last year.
The Buckeyes lost three key receivers but return a trio of experienced seniors (K.J. Hill, Austin Mack and Binjimen Victor), and they have promising youth in sophomore Chris Olave and 5-star freshman Garrett Wilson. Throw in running back J.K. Dobbins and tight end Luke Farrell, and Fields has plenty of options in what should be a more pass-friendly attack now that head coach Ryan Day has full oversight of the offense.
We're not rushing to crown Fields; his inexperience could flare at inopportune moments and cost the Buckeyes. Still, this decade is packed with new full-time starters who have taken home the Heisman. Fields' situation checks all the boxes for a potential winner.
3. Jalen Hurts, QB, Oklahoma
Oklahoma boasts consecutive Heisman winners in Baker Mayfield and Kyler Murray. Last season, the Sooners set a Football Bowl Subdivision record with 8.6 yards per play, and Murray's 11.6 yards per pass attempt set an FBS mark too.
That's a pretty high bar for Jalen Hurts, huh?
Nevertheless, the Sooners have an All-American-caliber wideout in CeeDee Lamb to lead a talent-rich receiving group and a head coach (Lincoln Riley) who is adept at showcasing a quarterback's best skills. OU used plenty of designed runs with Murray, so it's not like the offense is introducing a whole bunch of new concepts.
For Hurts to contend for the Heisman, he must be less predictable as a one-read-and-run quarterback. But there probably isn't a better place to break that mold than Oklahoma.
2. Trevor Lawrence, QB, Clemson
There is no greater assumption in 2019 than the idea Clemson will breeze through its schedule, stroll past the Coastal Division winner in the ACC Championship Game and cruise to 13-0.
You can thank Trevor Lawrence for that.
As a true freshman, he supplanted a quarterback with a 16-2 record (Kelly Bryant). He assumed control of a tremendous Clemson offense, completed 65.2 percent of his passes, threw for 3,280 yards and 30 touchdowns with just four interceptions and won a national title. He torched both Notre Dame and Alabama for 300-plus yards and three scores in the College Football Playoff.
This level of expectations is unfair for anyone, yet Lawrence is talented enough—and so are his surrounding pieces—to prove everyone right.
1. Tua Tagovailoa, QB, Alabama
All it took for Murray to surge past Tua Tagovailoa in the 2018 Heisman hierarchy was a record-setting season. No big deal.
The Alabama star racked up 3,966 yards on a magnificent 11.2 yards per passing attempt and tossed 43 touchdowns compared to six interceptions. He also scampered for 190 yards and five scores, totaling 4,156 offensive yards while throwing just 17 fourth-quarter passes all year.
Yes, Tagovailoa has untapped statistical upside.
Defensive coordinators are going to have sleepless weeks preparing for Tagovailoa and Alabama's stellar quartet of receivers. As long as he stays healthy this season, Tua should return to New York as a Heisman finalist—and likely the favorite.