Heisman Watch 2019: Breaking Down Top Candidates in the Race After Week 10

Joe Tansey@JTansey90Featured ColumnistNovember 3, 2019

LSU quarterback Joe Burrow (9) warms up before an NCAA college football game against the Auburn in Baton Rouge, La., Saturday, Oct. 26, 2019. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)
Gerald Herbert/Associated Press

The top Heisman Trophy candidates received a chance to recharge in Week 10, as LSU, Alabama, Oklahoma and Ohio State all had bye weeks.

The Heisman race will jump into the national spotlight in Week 11, when Joe Burrow and LSU visit Tua Tagovailoa and Alabama. If the victorious quarterback produces a memorable performance, he could be viewed as the front-runner for the award.

Ohio State's Justin Fields and Oklahoma's Jalen Hurts should be able to pad their numbers against Maryland and Iowa State, respectively. The Buckeyes' clash with Maryland could also present Chase Young with another opportunity to showcase his dominant pass-rushing skills.

In recent weeks, Young has generated Heisman buzz. He may not win the award, but the defensive end has a good chance of earning a trip to New York as a finalist.

                          

Top Heisman Candidates

Joe Burrow, QB, LSU 

Gerald Herbert/Associated Press

Burrow has at least 275 passing yards in each of his eight games this term. The LSU signal-caller also boasts 30 touchdowns, four interceptions and a 78.8 completion percentage.

All of those numbers will be put to the test against an Alabama defense that allows 180.1 passing yards per game.

An argument can be made that the Crimson Tide have not faced a quarterback close to as talented as Burrow, so that statistic may be altered in Week 11. In three clashes with ranked foes, the LSU senior has 1,085 passing yards and eight touchdowns, with his best outing coming against Texas in Week 2.

If Burrow throws for at least 275 yards in a close game versus the Crimson Tide, he will remain in the Heisman race no matter the result. If he ends up with large totals and a road win at Bryant-Denny Stadium, Burrow is likely to move ahead of the competition as the Heisman favorite.

After Alabama, Burrow should be able to extend his incredible season against Ole Miss, Arkansas and Texas A&M.

In the best-case scenario, the transfer from Ohio State could solidify his Heisman candidacy at the SEC Championship Game.

                      

Jalen Hurts, QB, Oklahoma

Charlie Riedel/Associated Press

Hurts is 312 passing yards away from eclipsing his single-season high from 2016.

In Lincoln Riley's offense against a Big 12 defense, Hurts could hit that total before the fourth quarter Saturday. At home, the Sooners have outscored four opponents 226-75, so Iowa State may be in for a rough Week 11.

Hurts is coming off a four-touchdown outing against Kansas State, but two of those scores occurred in the fourth quarter with Oklahoma trying to erase a 25-point deficit.

Iowa State has conceded more than 20 points to four of its five Big 12 opponents, so Hurts could thrive in a superior offense than those across the conference. Getting back on track against the Cyclones is key with a Week 12 meeting against Baylor on the horizon.

A victory in Waco, Texas, could catapult the Sooners back into the College Football Playoff discussion and boost Hurts' Heisman hopes.

                        

Tua Tagovailoa, QB, Alabama

Vasha Hunt/Associated Press

Tagovailoa enters the LSU-Alabama clash at a slight disadvantage. The left-handed signal-caller has played one less game than his counterparts because of an ankle injury.

In preparation for the LSU game, he returned to practice Thursday but did not do much, as Nick Saban noted to Alex Byington of the Montgomery Advertiser:

"Tua was able to take some snaps today at practice, did a few things [against] air but was not involved in any team situations. Again, this is going to be a day-by-day, game-day decision. And there's nothing really else I can say about it."

A year ago, the junior went 25-of-42 for 295 yards and a pair of scores in Alabama's win over LSU.

Although he has not thrown many interceptions, Tagovailoa turned over the ball four times in 2018 against ranked foes, and one of his two interceptions this season occurred against then-No. 24 Texas A&M. If he has more giveaways Saturday, that could be one of the small details voters use against him if the process comes down to slim margins.

But if he shines at home against the No. 1 team in the country, the southpaw could surge to the front of the Heisman race.

                         

Justin Fields, QB, Ohio State

Jay LaPrete/Associated Press

Fields enters Week 11 with 33 total touchdowns and a single interception.

In the past two games, the Georgia transfer had under 200 passing yards, but he still picked up six scores through the air. In fact, Fields has not eclipsed the 250-yard mark during his first season with Ryan Day's squad.

The quarterback has a chance to inflate his numbers in Weeks 11 and 12 against Maryland and Rutgers, respectively, but those will not be the performances we evaluate his Heisman candidacy off of.

Beating Penn State and Michigan in back-to-back weeks is the accomplishment that could send Fields above Burrow, Hurts or Tagovailoa. If he passes both of those tests, Fields could finish the most difficult closing stretch of all the Heisman hopefuls against a ranked foe in the Big Ten Championship Game.

The opportunity is there for the sophomore to thrive, but until November 23, he will likely sit behind the other favorites.

                       

Chase Young, DE, Ohio State 

Darron Cummings/Associated Press

Young is attempting to become the first defensive player to land in the top three of Heisman voting since Notre Dame's Manti Te'o in 2012.

The junior defensive end cracked the conversation with a slew of impressive performances in Big Ten play. In the 38-7 win over Wisconsin, he recorded four sacks and forced a pair of fumbles.

Young leads the FBS with 13.5 sacks, which is 3.5 more than SMU's Patrick Nelson in second place, and he is second in forced fumbles with five. If he continues the high level of production, Young will force his way to New York as a Heisman finalist.

At minimum, he will go down as the best defensive player in college football and a potential top-10 pick in the 2020 NFL draft. He is projected as the No. 3 overall pick by Bleacher Report's Matt Miller.

                     

Follow Joe on Twitter, @JTansey90Statistics obtained from ESPN.com.

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