Ranking the Heisman Favorites Heading into Week 5
The early Heisman Trophy picture is messy.
While most ACC teams kicked off the 2020 season three weeks ago, the SEC opened its campaign Saturday. The Big 12 entered the year alongside the ACC but planned an idle week to accommodate any postponements—and there have been a few.
Since every conference has a different schedule, there is no perfect way to separate top Heisman contenders. Throw in the leagues still not playing, and it's even more chaotic.
Ohio State quarterback Justin Fields, for example, was a consensus preseason front-runner along with Clemson's Trevor Lawrence but hasn't played a game. For now, Fields is mentioned and not ranked.
While the rankings are a continual work in progress, the order is a reflection of actual performance. To provide an accurate representation of what may happen, preseason hype and Heisman trends are also considered.
Looming Debuts and Others to Know
Justin Fields, QB, Ohio State
Ohio State is slated to return Saturday, Oct. 24, against Nebraska. Justin Fields totaled 284 yards and four touchdowns in a comfortable 48-7 victory over the Huskers last season. Fields finished third in Heisman voting as a sophomore.
JT Daniels, QB, Georgia
Last Saturday, Georgia needed a second-half surge to topple Arkansas. This week, the Dawgs face a much tougher challenge with seventh-ranked Auburn coming to town. Will they stick with Stetson Bennett or turn to USC transfer JT Daniels? He wasn't medically cleared until Monday but is the presumed long-term starter.
Spencer Rattler, QB, Oklahoma
Since the Sooners lost to Kansas State, it's fair to drop Spencer Rattler in the Heisman chase. While the defense collapsed, too, his three-interception day played a considerable role in the outcome. At the same time, Rattler has 677 passing yards and eight scores in two games. We'll keep an eye on the redshirt freshman.
Mac Jones, QB, and Najee Harris, RB, Alabama
Great players are supposed to do this opposite lower-tier teams. Alabama rolled Missouri while learning on quarterback Mac Jones and running back Najee Harris. Jones threw for 249 yards and two touchdowns, and Harris tallied 98 yards and three scores.
Travis Etienne, RB, Clemson
After running for 102 yards and a touchdown at Wake Forest, Travis Etienne had a quiet, efficient outing against The Citadel. He picked up 68 yards on only eight carries, heading to the bench early because of the lopsided first-half score. Etienne also scampered 44 yards on his first career punt return.
6. Dillon Gabriel, QB, UCF
Let's start with a disclaimer: Dillon Gabriel needs a miracle to win the Heisman Trophy. Right or wrong, voters overwhelmingly choose star power-conference players.
But in this small-sample moment, he merits a mention.
Gabriel opened the season with a 417-yard, four-touchdown showing in a smackdown of Georgia Tech. He followed that up with 408 yards and four scores in a blowout win at East Carolina. Overall, Gabriel has completed 67 percent of his passes.
If there's ever a year to ignore established Heisman trends, it's 2020. And if Gabriel continues to put up these numbers and UCF keeps winning, he deserves strong consideration for the award.
5. K.J. Costello, QB, Mississippi State
Stanford transfer K.J. Costello broke the SEC single-game passing record with 623 yards to help Mississippi State upset LSU. He tossed five touchdowns in the 44-34 victory.
How's that for a debut?
Between the magnitude of the win, his production and a power-conference affiliation, he's a step above Dillon Gabriel. Granted, Costello also threw a pair of interceptions, while the four quarterbacks higher than him in these rankings have combined for one.
But since Mississippi State hosts Arkansas this weekend, Costello has a great chance to put up massive numbers again.
4. Kyle Trask, QB, Florida
During a 51-35 victory at Ole Miss, Kyle Trask connected on 30-of-42 passes for a career-best 416 yards, six touchdowns and zero interceptions. And he connected with tight end Kyle Pitts eight times for 170 yards and four scores.
It's safe to say the senior signal-caller has a favorite target.
That combination will be a popular one as the Gators chase an SEC title, but Trevon Grimes, Kadarius Toney and Jacob Copeland should also be key receivers for Trask.
Florida takes on South Carolina this weekend before heading to Texas A&M and hosting rival LSU the following Saturday.
3. D'Eriq King, QB, Miami
As the Hurricanes wasted elite defenses in recent years, fans begged for the offense to simply be average. Houston transfer D'Eriq King has quickly raised the bar even higher.
In three appearances, the dual-threat quarterback has completed 67 percent of his passes for 736 yards, six touchdowns and zero interceptions. He's also scampered for 157 yards and a score, leading Miami to a 3-0 record and No. 8 national ranking.
The 'Canes couldn't ask for anything more at this point. But they're about to demand a whole lot.
Miami is idle in Week 5 but travels to Clemson for a prime-time showdown next Saturday. If the 'Canes win there, King would likely supplant Trevor Lawrence as the Heisman favorite.
2. Sam Ehlinger, QB, Texas
Had the Longhorns fallen to Texas Tech—like Spencer Rattler and Oklahoma did against Kansas State—Sam Ehlinger wouldn't be here. Texas eked out a 63-56 overtime win, though.
And, my word, his production.
In two games, Ehlinger has racked up 688 yards and 10 touchdowns through the air. He's notched a 71.2 completion rate and tossed one interception. The senior has also powered his way to 81 yards and a score on the ground.
"I've got a pretty decent vocabulary, but I'm running out of adjectives to describe him," Texas coach Tom Herman said of Ehlinger, per Joe Cook of Inside Texas.
After nearly losing to Texas Tech, the Longhorns shouldn't be looking past TCU this weekend. But we can! The annual showdown with rival Oklahoma looms next Saturday.
1. Trevor Lawrence, QB, Clemson
Given the relatively low level of competition in Clemson's first two games, Lawrence has performed exactly as expected.
The junior picked apart Wake Forest, completing 22-of-28 passes for 351 yards and totaling three touchdowns in a comfortable win. Then against The Citadel, he went 8-of-9 with 168 yards and three scores, also running for a fourth.
Considering he entered the year as the Heisman favorite and has thrived, there's no sense in removing Lawrence from the pedestal.
Next up for Clemson is a clash with Virginia before that marquee matchup with King and the Hurricanes.