Ranking the Heisman Favorites Heading into Week 9
While the return of the Big Ten hasn't caused an enormous change in the Heisman Trophy rankings, Ohio State quarterback Justin Fields is officially back in the conversation.
Fields joins a group headlined by respective Clemson and Alabama quarterbacks Trevor Lawrence and Mac Jones. Lawrence is the favorite, but a below-expectations performance Saturday has created a little more opportunity for Jones, Fields and the other candidates.
The selections are based on a combination of total production, Heisman trends and player reputations. While you might not believe the latter two points should be considered, the list is intended to reflect how voters historically shaped a ballot.
One final, critical note: The order is a snapshot of this exact moment in the 2020 season—not a projected finish.
Honorable Mention: Graham Mertz, QB, Wisconsin
For a fleeting moment, Graham Mertz joined the Heisman race.
The redshirt freshman went 20-of-21 in his first career start, throwing for 248 yards and five touchdowns. Mertz played the key role in Wisconsin steamrolling Illinois 45-7.
However, per Dennis Dodd of CBS Sports, Mertz has tested positive for COVID-19. Because of Big Ten protocols, Mertz will be sidelined for a minimum of 21 days before he's allowed to return.
That prolonged absence will remove him from award consideration, but the initial game merited a one-week shoutout.
7. Justin Fields, QB, Ohio State
Quarterbacks don't get extra credit for impressive box scores against Nebraska. That is what's supposed to happen.
Justin Fields completed 20 of 21 passes for 276 yards with two scores and zero interceptions. The junior quarterback notched a team-high 54 rushing yards and added a third touchdown on the ground, propelling the Buckeyes to a mostly painless 52-17 triumph.
As a result, he starts at the back of the rankings. But an opportunity to rise is coming this weekend at Penn State, where a strong performance and Ohio State win would provide the first boost for Fields.
6. Kyle Trask, QB, Florida
Kyle Trask has a tenuous hold on the No. 6 spot.
Since the Gators fell to Texas A&M last time out, overall production is the only thing preventing Trask from falling. In three games, he's posted 1,024 yards of total offense and thrown for 14 touchdowns with a single interception in 103 attempts.
Trask has received a little extra benefit of the doubt because the A&M loss can hardly be pinned on the offense. But that blemish on the record means Trask is likely to slip behind Fields before UF's pivotal clash with Georgia on Nov. 7.
After two rescheduled games due to COVID-19 concerns, Florida is slated to host Missouri this weekend.
5. Najee Harris, RB, Alabama
Najee Harris might be running out of celebrations.
As the Crimson Tide smacked Tennessee 48-17, Harris added three touchdowns to his nation-high mark. He's scored 14 times in five games, already eclipsing his 2019 total of 13 rushing touchdowns. Harris also scampered for 96 yards, improving to 595 for the season.
Despite that enormous production, he's fighting an uphill battle in the Heisman conversation. Harris' numbers are spectacular, yet most attention is on Alabama quarterback Mac Jones.
Since star receiver Jaylen Waddle is out for the season, perhaps the Tide will lean on Harris a little more. But it's also reasonable to expect the narrative to focus on Jones for leading the offense through such a key injury if Alabama keeps winning.
Harris may have to settle for merely being an All-American.
4. Zach Wilson, QB, BYU
Every week, we'll remind you of the unlikelihood Zach Wilson hops Lawrence and Jones. But until he stops obliterating defenses or BYU loses once, Wilson is very likely to have a place on the list.
The junior quarterback hit 19 of 25 passes for 287 yards and four touchdowns in BYU's 52-14 smackdown of Texas State. Throw in his 15 rushing yards, and Wilson had 302 total in the game—his second-lowest output in six games this season.
Yeah, things are going well in Provo.
Wilson has a 78.3 completion rate at a sterling 12 yards per attempt. He's thrown for 1,928 yards and 16 touchdowns to one interception, while also running for 115 yards and six scores.
3. Travis Etienne, RB, Clemson
Frosted Flakes may be good, but only having cereal for breakfast when you are Travis Etienne is bad.
During Clemson's win over Syracuse, Etienne needed an IV to deal with cramping. Per Gavin Oliver of the Clemson Insider, the senior running back attributed that to not eating well enough and said he'll eat a more filling breakfast next week.
"I got up, got a little bowl of Frosted Flakes and just hit the road," he said. "I've definitely got to, next time, get me some eggs, some sausages, eat well because you see what happens when I try to eat Frosted Flakes and just come out there and play a full game."
Etienne still managed to rush for 86 yards, catch three passes for 20 yards and score three touchdowns. He's now up to 816 yards from scrimmage and nine touchdowns for the season.
2. Mac Jones, QB, Alabama
Mac Jones assembled yet another efficient stat line in Alabama's win at Tennessee, finishing 25-of-31 for 387 yards. Though he didn't throw a touchdown, Jones tallied his first rushing score of 2020.
When excluding Big Ten quarterbacks, Jones is the nation's leader in completion rate (78.8) and yards per attempt (13.0). He's racked up 1,905 yards and 12 touchdowns in five games.
Unfortunately for Jones, Waddle is no longer available. Although his absence is a substantial one, Jones still has DeVonta Smith and John Metchie III. Plus, Slade Bolden stepped in for Waddle with six catches and 94 yards against Tennessee.
Jones' steadily elite numbers are putting some pressure on Lawrence, who just navigated his worst game of 2020.
1. Trevor Lawrence, QB, Clemson
Through five games, Trevor Lawrence hadn't provided a window of opportunity for everyone else. But after a merely adequate day against Syracuse, his grip on the Heisman isn't quite as tight.
Now, to be perfectly clear, the junior remains the front-runner. Lawrence has a 70.7 completion rate with 1,833 yards and 17 touchdowns to only two interceptions. He's also scored four times as a runner while guiding Clemson to a 6-0 record.
Here's the but.
Last week, Lawrence averaged just 6.7 yards per pass attempt—his second-worst mark since the beginning of 2019. Given that he acknowledged the subpar performance to reporters, per Anna Hickey of 247Sports, this isn't an unnecessarily harsh critique.
Clemson earned a 47-21 win anyway, so the sky isn't close to falling on the Tigers or Lawrence's award chances. Nevertheless, they'll be hoping for a more efficient game against Boston College.