Ranking the Top Heisman Candidates for the 2020 CFB SeasonAugust 24, 2020
Ranking the Top Heisman Candidates for the 2020 CFB Season
All-American quarterback Trevor Lawrence is set to enter the 2020 college football season as the Heisman Trophy favorite.
Even before any changes to the fall season, Lawrence would've been a deserving front-runner. Ohio State quarterback Justin Fields had a terrific argument, but they—at the very worst—stood out as the most popular preseason Heisman picks.
However, now that the Big Ten and Pac-12 won't be taking the field, the pool of candidates is effectively trimmed to players only in the ACC, Big 12 and SEC.
College football's most prestigious award is typically given to a quarterback or running back on a successful power-conference team. That trend—which has lasted more than two decades and is unlikely to change in 2020—shaped the list.
The order is strictly an overview of players most likely to win the Heisman, not necessarily a projected order of finish.
More Players to Know
Kyle Trask, QB, Florida
If the Gators are truly contending for an SEC title, it likely means Kyle Trask had a terrific year. That's surely a possibility for Trask, who completed 66.9 percent of his passes in 2019, throwing for 2,941 yards and 25 touchdowns to seven interceptions.
Jamie Newman, QB, Georgia
Georgia will enter the campaign as the SEC East favorite ahead of Florida. That naturally brings pressure for the quarterback, which will probably be Jamie Newman over USC transfer JT Daniels. Newman played at Wake Forest last season, collecting 3,442 yards of total offense and accounting for 32 touchdowns.
Myles Brennan, QB, LSU
Ja'Marr Chase and Terrace Marshall Jr. give LSU an elite one-two punch at receiver. Myles Brennan has the luxury of targeting that duo, though he inherits high expectations as the signal-caller for the reigning national champions. Brennan's effectiveness will likely be the greatest factor in LSU's success this fall.
D'Eriq King, QB, Miami
Two years ago at Houston, D'Eriq King threw for 2,982 yards, ran for 674 and totaled 50 touchdowns. If he performs anywhere close to that level, Miami may actually compete with Clemson for the ACC crown. That combination would guarantee King a place in the Heisman conversation.
Sam Howell, QB, North Carolina
Similar to Miami, UNC is a second-tier ACC contender that has intriguing offensive upside. The Tar Heels return nearly every receiver for Sam Howell, who amassed 3,641 yards and 38 touchdowns through the air as a true freshman.
7. Ian Book, QB, Notre Dame
In this extraordinarily odd "Notre Dame is an ACC football team" season, the Irish enter the 2020 campaign as the league's primary challenger to Clemson. What a strange sentence.
Anyway, senior quarterback Ian Book is coming off an immensely productive year. He eclipsed 3,000 yards passing and 500 rushing while scoring 38 total touchdowns and leading Notre Dame to an 11-2 record. Book is now 19-3 as a starter for the Irish.
Notre Dame overhauled the receiving unit in the offseason, so the offense is leaning heavily on Book in 2020. If he performs well and the Irish dethrone Clemson, Book has a chance to win the Heisman.
The last part, though, will be especially difficult.
6. Chuba Hubbard, RB, Oklahoma State
Oklahoma State quarterback Spencer Sanders totaled 2,693 offensive yards in 11 appearances last season. The rising sophomore deserves a mention, along with star receiver Tylan Wallace.
But the biggest name on the offense is Chuba Hubbard.
In 2019, he rumbled to a Football Bowl Subdivision-high 2,094 yards and scored 21 touchdowns. Hubbard—who also caught 23 passes—eclipsed the 100-yard mark on the ground in every game except a blowout over a lower-division opponent.
Despite the production, Hubbard only finished eighth in the Heisman race. That can partially be attributed to OSU's 8-5 record, which is a reminder of the impact team performance can have on voting.
If the Pokes ascend in the Big 12, Hubbard should be thriving again. And this year, his name carries a little more weight.
5. Travis Etienne, RB, Clemson
In 2018, Travis Etienne scampered for 1,658 yards and 24 touchdowns to finish seventh in Heisman voting. The explosive back again topped 1,600 rushing yards last year, ending with 2,174 all-purpose yards, 23 total scores and an eighth-place finish.
Perhaps the third time really is the charm.
Since he shares the backfield with Trevor Lawrence, Etienne faces a big question: Can the sidekick surpass the quarterback? Short of Lawrence missing games for some reason, it's not particularly likely.
Nevertheless, Etienne has twice produced at an elite level, and even a shaky year from Lawrence doesn't necessarily mean Clemson will struggle. Etienne could be the offense's top performer and receive the acclaim for a successful Clemson season.
4. Sam Ehlinger, QB, Texas
Stats shouldn't be an issue for Sam Ehlinger.
As a sophomore, the Texas quarterback passed for 3,292 yards and 25 touchdowns while running for 482 yards and 16 scores. Last year, he collected 3,663 yards through the air, 663 on the ground and accounted for 39 touchdowns.
The obstacle is rival Oklahoma, which has boasted a Heisman Trophy finalist—including two winners—and earned the Big 12 title in all three of Ehlinger's seasons.
If the Longhorns knock the Sooners from their Big 12 pedestal, Ehlinger will likely be in the argument for the Heisman. Otherwise, his senior year won't be terribly different than the first three.
3. Mac Jones, QB, Alabama
Like his counterpart Myles Brennan at LSU, Mac Jones has a pair of outstanding targets in the receiving corps. DeVonta Smith racked up 1,256 yards and 14 touchdowns last season, and Jaylen Waddle has more than 1,400 yards in two years at Alabama.
Jones himself impressed in 2019 after replacing an injured Tua Tagovailoa. In just 141 attempts, Jones threw for 1,503 yards and 14 touchdowns to three interceptions.
With respect to Auburn, Georgia and LSU, Jones' biggest hurdle to joining the Heisman discussion might actually be a teammate. Bryce Young, the No. 2 prospect in the 2020 recruiting cycle, is considered a threat to leap Jones on the depth chart.
But if that doesn't happen, Jones will feature prominently for an Alabama team expected to contend for a national title, as usual.
2. Spencer Rattler, QB, Oklahoma
Spencer Rattler earned a 5-star billing as a recruit, but he totaled 11 pass attempts and three rushes while taking a redshirt in 2019. Rattler is objectively unproven at the college level.
Oklahoma coach Lincoln Riley, however, is the opposite.
From Heisman winners Baker Mayfield and Kyler Murray to 2019 finalist Jalen Hurts, the Sooners have featured one of the nation's best quarterbacks for a half-decade. Riley has molded the offense to suit their strengths, and there's no reason to anticipate anything different for Rattler.
Whether the freshman can match the hype is a fair discussion, but it's safe to say Riley will put Rattler in a position to succeed.
1. Trevor Lawrence, QB, Clemson
Not only is Trevor Lawrence the best quarterback in the country, he leads the program most likely to reach the College Football Playoff. Relative to the trend of recent Heisman winners, there isn't a better on-paper choice than the Clemson star.
That's not to suggest he's a foregone conclusion to win the award. Clemson has a rebuilt offensive line, and expected top wideout Justyn Ross will miss 2020 because of spinal surgery.
But nobody else in the FBS can offer Lawrence's mix of past production and likelihood of team success.
In two seasons, Lawrence has thrown for 6,945 yards and 66 touchdowns to 12 interceptions while running for 740 yards and 10 scores. Even excluding the Syracuse win in 2018, he's 24-1 as a starter with two ACC titles and a national championship.
Lawrence is the undisputed Heisman favorite in 2020. The better question is whether he finishes the season there too.
All recruiting information via 247Sports. Stats from NCAA.com, cfbstats.com or B/R research. Follow Bleacher Report CFB Writer David Kenyon on Twitter @Kenyon19_BR.