Ranking the Heisman Favorites Heading into Week 14

David KenyonFeatured ColumnistDecember 3, 2020

Ranking the Heisman Favorites Heading into Week 14

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    Gerald Herbert/Associated Press

    Mac Jones and Kyle Trask were on the verge of making it a two-man race for the 2020 Heisman Trophy, but Trevor Lawrence's excellent return dulled that perception.

    Unfortunately for Ohio State's Justin Fields, though, he's slipped from the highest tier and likely won't have enough games to recover. That has trimmed the list of legitimate contenders to Jones, Trask and Lawrence.

    Historical trends show BYU's Zach Wilson is an improbable candidate to winβ€”despite his stellar productionβ€”but he's on his own tier between the leading trio and the Fields-led group.

    Ranking factors include total production, Heisman trends and player reputations. The order is a snapshot of this specific week of the 2020 season, not a personal ballot or voting projection.

Unlikely Winners to Know

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    Jay LaPrete/Associated Press

    Justin Fields, QB, Ohio State

    For several weeks, we've cautioned how Fields needs a larger sample size. That is bordering on unlikely to happen, though. Ohio State's absolute best-case scenario is playing Michigan State, Michigan and then Northwestern in the Big Ten Championship Game, finishing 7-0. Fields probably needs to double his production (1,343 total yards, 16 total touchdowns) to have a legitimate Heisman chance.

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    Najee Harris, RB, Alabama

    Like his teammate below, the problem for Harris is Alabama's quarterback, Jones, will garner the most Heisman votes among Tide players. In eight games, Harris has rushed for 893 yards and an FBS-best 17 scores. He's also caught 24 passes for 244 yards.

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    DeVonta Smith, WR, Alabama

    The likely Biletnikoff Award winner as the nation's most outstanding receiver, Smith has reeled in 72 passes for 1,074 yards and 12 touchdowns. Those respective totals are third, third and first nationally. Smith will receive a handful of Heisman votes but primarily earn position-specific honors.

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    Jaret Patterson, RB, Buffalo

    In the last two games, Patterson has assembled a respectable season for most running backs. He scorched Bowling Green for 301 yards and four touchdowns and then obliterated Kent State for 409 yards and eight scores. Patterson has 920 rushing yards and 16 trips to the end zone in fourβ€”four!β€”games.

4. Zach Wilson, QB, BYU

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    Jeff Swinger/Associated Press

    Last week: 4

    Somewhere between five and 20 voters are likely to pick BYU's Wilson as the 2020 Heisman Trophy winner.

    Which, OK! He's enjoyed a spectacular year.

    The junior quarterback is third nationally in completion rate (74.3), yards per attempt (11.5) and passing scores (26). Wilson has collected 2,724 yards through the air and added 191 on the ground, totaling 34 touchdowns and only two interceptions.

    But a handful of voters is not enough for Wilson to legitimately contend in a pool of 900-plus. Voters tend to give scattered second- and third-place nods to non-power-conference players.

    None of UCF's McKenzie Milton (2017, 2018), Memphis' Darrell Henderson Jr. (2018), or San Diego State's Rashaad Penny (2017) or Donnel Pumphrey (2016) finished better than fifth. They combined for 19 first-place votes out of approximately 3,700 total.

    BYU's possible game (per Nicole Auerbach of The Athletic) against Coastal Carolina is incredibly awesome and needs to happen. Still doesn't much affect Wilson's chances.

3. Trevor Lawrence, QB, Clemson

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    Ken Ruinard/Associated Press

    Last week: 3

    Lawrence missed two games because of a positive coronavirus test, and Florida State's issues with the virus resulted in a canceled matchup between the teams. That resulted in a 35-day gap between appearances for Lawrence.

    But the layoff didn't slow him down.

    He picked apart a quality Pitt defense for 403 yards and two touchdowns with no turnovers in a 52-17 win. Clemson improved to 8-1 and will close the regular season at Virginia Tech on Saturday. With a victory in Blacksburg, Clemson will secure a spot in the ACC Championship Game opposite Notre Dame.

    While he's still at a statistical disadvantage compared to Trask and Jones, Lawrence has superb numbers. He's thrown for 2,236 yards and 19 touchdowns with two interceptions, adding four rushing scores. Clemson is a perfect 7-0 in his starts.

    To catch Trask and Jones, though, Lawrence must have strong performances in wins over Virginia Tech and Notre Dame.

2. Kyle Trask, QB, Florida

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    John Raoux/Associated Press

    Last week: 2

    As mentioned in the Week 13 update, we're not opposed to Trask and Jones flipping spots. If you believe Trask should be No. 1, that's reasonable.

    Remember, three weeks remain. The Gators QB has time to establish himself as the consensus top choice.

    We listed Trask at No. 2 last week. Considering his modest showing (256 yards, three scores) in a 34-10 victory over Kentucky, placing Trask above Jonesβ€”after the Alabama quarterback tossed five touchdowns against Auburnβ€”would be awfully inconsistent.

    But, again, Trask is unquestionably a top-two contender. Heading into this weekend's clash with Tennessee, he has 2,810 yards and 34 touchdowns, with only three interceptions.

    The difference is Florida lost to Texas A&M, while Alabama is undefeated. The near-official SEC Championship Game showdown between Florida and Alabama will determine one College Football Playoff team and possibly the Heisman winner.

1. Mac Jones, QB, Alabama

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    Rogelio V. Solis/Associated Press

    Last week: 1

    One of the biggest reasons Jones has remained at No. 1 is his comparable performances to Trask's against top opponents (Georgia and Texas A&M). And now, Jones has a 302-yard, five-touchdown day opposite a then-ranked Auburn to his advantage.

    While a win over Auburn is overvalued in 2020, voters have regularly cited stats against Top 25 opponents as evidence for a vote. That performance fits the billing.

    Through eight games, Jones has a 76.2 completion rate, 2,728 yardsβ€”with an FBS-record pace of 12 per attemptβ€”and 24 total touchdowns against only three interceptions. Alabama closes the regular season against LSU on Saturday and tentatively Arkansas on Dec. 12.

    If Jones struggles in either contest, it could provide clear separation in favor of Trask. Yet if Jones continues to excel, be ready for an extra-meaningful SEC Championship Game on Dec. 19.