Ranking Heisman Contenders' Performances After Week 9 of College Football

David KenyonFeatured ColumnistOctober 29, 2019

Ranking Heisman Contenders' Performances After Week 9 of College Football

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    While an ankle injury sidelined Tua Tagovailoa and an upset frustrated Jalen Hurts, Justin Fields won a marquee clash against Wisconsin and stayed near the top of the 2019 Heisman Trophy race.

    Fields remains a tier below his fellow quarterbacks Tagovailoa, Hurts and Joe Burrow, but his three-touchdown day merits praise.

    Granted, he's the featured attraction here because teammates J.K. Dobbins and Chase Young aren't listed among the top betting options for college football's most prestigious award. Nevertheless, Fields is the closest challenger behind the leading trio.

    The following rankings are a judgment of how such players performed in Week 9. This is merely a snapshot of their 2019 season, not an order of the expected Heisman outcome.

    Factors used to shape the list include individual production, key plays, team success and competition level. All odds are accurate as of Monday and courtesy of Caesars.

The 100-1 Longshots

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    Al Goldis/Associated Press

    Sean Clifford, QB, Penn State

    Simply based on total production, Sean Clifford isn't a legitimate threat to win the Heisman. He's recorded no more than 200 yards in three straight games. The Nittany Lions keep winning, though, and Clifford will remain a long-shot pick as long as that continues. He tossed four touchdowns in a smackdown of Michigan State and has guided Penn State to an 8-0 record.

             

    Sam Ehlinger, QB, Texas

    The Longhorns' third loss is effectively a dagger in Sam Ehlinger's pursuit of the prestigious award. The junior threw four interceptions while completing just 22 of his 48 passes in a loss at TCU. Ehlinger has superb individual numbers, but the context of Texas' season will remove him from major consideration.

              

    Trevor Lawrence, QB, Clemson

    Week 9 brought Trevor Lawrence's best showing of the season. In a 59-7 rout of Boston College, he hit 16-of-19 throws for 275 yards and three scores with zero interceptions. Lawrence added 42 rushing yards. But the primary value was an encouraging performance as Clemson nears a return trip to the College Football Playoff. While he may receive a few votes, he's not really a Heisman contender in 2019.

            

    Jonathan Taylor, RB, Wisconsin

    Now that Wisconsin has two losses, a finalist nod would be an accomplishment for Jonathan Taylor. The All-American runner mustered only 57 yards on 21 touches as the Badgers fell 38-7 at Ohio State. Taylor is a superb NFL prospect, but his pursuit of a Heisman basically ended in Columbus.

Tua Tagovailoa, QB, Alabama

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    Last Week's Heisman Odds: 7-2

    Current Heisman Odds: 4-1

    Stats (W 48-7 vs. Arkansas): Did not play

    Tua Tagovailoa watched from the sideline as Mac Jones helped the Crimson Tide crush Arkansas and improve to 8-0. They're idle in Week 10 before hosting 8-0 LSU for a pivotal SEC showdown.

    Alabama is hoping to have Tagovailoa ready by then.

    "He's absolutely doing even better than expected," head coach Nick Saban said on SEC Nation, per Matt Zenitz of AL.com. "Didn't have a lot of swelling this time around, so that sort of accentuates the ability to rehab. He's doing well."

    The ideal outcome is Tagovailoa is healthy because a full-strength clash with LSU would leave no doubt about the SEC's top team. If he's not available, the College Football Playoff committee might have another Alabama-sized question in the final rankings.

    What's next: LSU, Nov. 9

5. Jalen Hurts, QB, Oklahoma

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    Last Week's Heisman Odds: 5-4

    Current Heisman Odds: 3-2

    Stats (L 48-41 at Kansas State): 19-of-26, 395 YDS, 1 TD, 0 INT; 19 CAR, 96 YDS, 3 TD

    No Heisman contender had a better box score than Jalen Hurts, who nearly totaled 500 yards. Oklahoma battled back from a 48-23 fourth-quarter deficit and was an overturned onside-kick recovery away from having a chance at a game-tyingor, if Lincoln Riley was feeling aggressive, a game-winningdrive.

    But, as Hurts said after the game, the effort fell short.

    "What spark we had, resurgence we had, whatever you want to call it," Hurts said, according to Caleb McCourry of the Oklahoma Daily, "it wasn't enough."

    Oklahoma's CFP and Hurts' Heisman hopes are alive, but a loss at Kansas State is a significant negative on both resumes.

    What's next: vs. Iowa State, Nov. 9

4. Justin Herbert, QB, Oregon

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    Last Week's Heisman Odds: 25-1

    Current Heisman Odds: 40-1

    Stats (W 37-35 vs. Washington State): 21-of-30, 222 YDS, 0 TD, 0 INT

    The theme of Justin Herbert's season is pretty much settled. While the Ducks keep winningand that, for the program, is the goalHerbert is both avoiding mistakes and not putting up amazing numbers.

    Oregon piled up 306 rushing yards in a victory over Washington State, improving to 7-1 and nearly locking up the Pac-12's North Division. The senior had another turnover-free outing yet posted an unspectacular 7.4 yards per throw and didn't score.

    In fairness to Herbert, he went 4-of-4 for 52 yards to lead a game-winning drive that ended with a field goal as time expired.

    Wins are most important. But he's not exactly turning in Heisman-caliber performances to merit the odds.

    What's next: at USC, Nov. 2

3. Chuba Hubbard, RB, Oklahoma State

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    Matthew Putney/Associated Press

    Last Week's Heisman Odds: 50-1

    Current Heisman Odds: 50-1

    Stats (W 34-27 at Iowa State): 22 CAR, 116 YDS, 1 TD; 2 REC, 11 YDS

    Chuba Hubbard is hanging around the conversation.

    While the Pokes have a three-loss record identical to Texas, Hubbard's advantage is his production relative to his position. Heading into November, he leads the Football Bowl Subdivision with 1,381 rushing yards and ranks second with 16 rushing scores.

    Most recently, the sophomore cracked the 100-yard barrier for the sixth straight game and seventh overall this season.

    Hubbard is more likely a fringe finalist than anything, but that should not lessen the excellence of his breakout season.

    What's next: vs. TCU, Nov. 2

2. Justin Fields, QB, Ohio State

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    Last Week's Heisman Odds: 7-1

    Current Heisman Odds: 8-1

    Stats (W 38-7 vs. Wisconsin): 12-of-22, 167 YDS, 2 TD, 0 INT; 13 CAR, 28 YDS, 1 TD

    J.K. Dobbins scored twice while totaling 221 scrimmage yards, and Chase Young racked up five tackles for loss with four sacks. Ohio State didn't require a dominant effort from Justin Fields to dispatch Wisconsin, but he still provided a commendable day.

    Perhaps that's the story of Fields' season.

    While he deserves a place around the Heisman leaders, Fields is averaging fewer total offensive yards (247.3) than Herbert (262.5). Both players trail Tagovailoa (279.9) and are way, way behind Hurts (408.8) and Burrow (366.3) in that category.

    After adding three scores against Wisconsin, Fields is responsible for 33 touchdowns this season. That, along with Ohio State's 8-0 record, is why he's clearly above Herbert, Hubbard and the others.

    But for Fields to become something more than a finalist, he needs a few prolific games in OSU wins down the stretch.

    What's next: vs. Maryland, Nov. 9

1. Joe Burrow, QB, LSU

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    Last Week's Heisman Odds: 5-4

    Current Heisman Odds: 6-5

    Stats (W 23-20 vs. Auburn): 32-of-42, 321 YDS, 1 TD, 1 INT; 13 CAR, 31 YDS, 1 TD

    For the first time all season, Joe Burrow wasn't responsible for at least three touchdowns. However, he still managed two scores and played well enough for LSU to outlast Auburn.

    Burrow's 20-yard passing touchdown was an absolute dime, hitting Terrace Marshall Jr. in the corner of the end zone. Then in the fourth quarter, Burrow sprinted seven yards on a quarterback draw to give LSU a critical 10-point advantage.

    It wasn't all pretty, as Burrow underthrew JaMarr Chase on a potential touchdown, and LSU failed to score on a goal-to-go situation that started at Auburn's 3-yard line.

    Still, his overall performance was solid, and LSU toppled a top-10 opponent. Because of Tagovailoa's injury, Burrow is the deserving Heisman favorite right now.

    What's next: at Alabama, Nov. 9