2018 Heisman Trophy Dark Horse Candidates

2018 Heisman Trophy Dark Horse Candidates

Summer hasn’t “officially” started yet, but it will be over before we know it, which means college football will be in full swing soon enough. Everyone knows about guys like Bryce Love and Trace McSorley as Heisman Trophy favorites for this season, but these five players could emerge as legitimate contenders in 2018. For the top 25 Heisman Trophy candidates for 2018, check out the countdown here.

 

L.J. Scott (Michigan State RB)

L.J. Scott has over 1,000 total yards in each of the past two seasons, but he’s never had over 1,000 yards rushing in his college career. However, he’s still one of the best running backs in the country, and the fact that he returned to school for his senior season instead of entering the NFL Draft indicates he believes a big year for both the team and himself could be coming. It would be a surprise if Scott hasn’t worked really hard to improve his game this offseason, and we could see a magical senior-season. Scott’s career-high in carries for a season is 201, so there’s room for a bigger workload.

 

A.J. Dillon (Boston College RB)

Boston College wants to run the football, and A.J. Dillon is right at the center of that gameplan. As a freshman last season, Dillon was handed the ball 300 times and rushed for 1,589 yards and 14 touchdowns. With a year of experience in the offense, he should be more comfortable and could increase his yards per carry by a decent margin. Considering the massive workload that’s expected for Dillon, over 2,000 yards rushing is certainly possible.

 

Brian Lewerke (Michigan State QB)

Two Spartans make the list, as L.J. Scott’s quarterback could surprise as a Heisman contender in 2018. Entering his redshirt junior season, Brian Lewerke is looking to lead Michigan State to a Big Ten title, which could put him in the Heisman race. His numbers last season weren’t eye-popping, but he clearly has the look of a future NFL quarterback, so he has the talent to take a step forward statistically this season. Lewerke had 417 pass attempts in 2017, so the opportunity should be there to be atop the leading passers in the nation.

 

Devon Modster (UCLA QB)

UCLA has a handful of quarterbacks in contention for the starting quarterback job, and there’s a chance more than one quarterback plays. But if someone wins the job outright, it could lead to some huge numbers in Chip Kelly’s offense. Devon Modster is probably the favorite for the job right now, and he could have the benefit of commanding an offense that Kelly had a year off from coaching to perhaps make some adjustments and improvements—which is a scary thought for defenses.

 

Nick Bosa (Ohio State DL)

Houston’s Ed Oliver and some of Clemson’s talented big fellas up front could also be in the mix, but Nick Bosa probably has the best chance to put up the required numbers to win the Heisman Trophy as a defensive player. It’s not likely to happen considering Charles Woodson is the only primary defensive player to win the prestigious award, but Bosa might have a chance to make it happen. Ohio State should be in contention for a Playoff spot, and if Bosa is a big part of it with huge sack numbers, he could take home the Heisman.

2018 Heisman Candidate Countdown #1: Bryce Love

2018 Heisman Candidate Countdown #1: Bryce Love

The 2018 Heisman Trophy candidate countdown concludes with a running back that was a potential first-round NFL draft choice but returned to school for his senior season. Here is the entire countdown in case you missed anything:

 

#25: Jalen Hurts

#24: Adrian Martinez

#23: Travis Etienne

#22: Shane Buechele

#21: Nick Fitzgerald

#20: Rodney Anderson

#19: Justice Hill

#18: A.J. Brown

#17: Damien Harris

#16: Drew Lock

#15: McKenzie Milton

#14: Khalil Tate

#13: Will Grier

#12: Justin Herbert

#11: Dwayne Haskins

#10: Shea Patterson

#9: Tua Tagovailoa

#8: Kelly Bryant

#7: Jarrett Stidham

#6: Jake Fromm

#5: D’Andre Swift

#4: J.K. Dobbins

#3: Trace McSorley

#2: Jonathan Taylor

 

Stanford’s Bryce Love dealt with an ankle issue for parts of last season, but he still rushed for 2,118 yards and finished second in the Heisman voting. He’s our number one candidate for the award heading into 2018.

 

Why he can win it

Love being a top candidate for the Heisman Trophy doesn’t need much of an explanation. He rushed for an absurd 1,240 yards in the first six games last season, rushing for at least 152 yards in each of those games. The next game against Oregon, Love suffered a high-ankle sprain and had only 147 rushing yards, but then he missed the team’s next two games. After that, Love was never quite 100% but toughed it out and finished the year with well over 2,000 yards. His patience, vision, and breakaway speed is what allowed him to set an FBS record number of runs over 50 yards last season. If Love remains healthy all season long, he could put up some astronomical numbers with the type of workload he’s expected to get; and he should get more work in the passing game this season (he had six receptions last year). Also, Stanford figures to be one of the best teams in the Pac-12, while USC, UCLA, and Washington State all lost their starting quarterbacks.

 

Why he won’t win it

Because Love has a bright future in the NFL, Stanford might decide to limit his touches in some games—particularly blowouts. Other teams are going to be focused on trying to stop Love each week after the year he had in 2017.

 

What needs to happen

Love just needs to stay healthy and the huge numbers should come. If Stanford wins their conference or is at least one of the best teams in the nation, Love will be at the forefront of the Heisman conversation.

 

Stat projection

293 CAR | 2,344 RUSH YDS | 24 RUSH TD | 8.0 AVG

19 REC | 145 REC YDS | 1 REC TD | 7.6 AVG

2018 Heisman Candidate Countdown #2: Jonathan Taylor

2018 Heisman Candidate Countdown #2: Jonathan Taylor

The 2018 Heisman Trophy candidate countdown is down to its final two. Here’s the countdown to this point:

 

#25: Jalen Hurts

#24: Adrian Martinez

#23: Travis Etienne

#22: Shane Buechele

#21: Nick Fitzgerald

#20: Rodney Anderson

#19: Justice Hill

#18: A.J. Brown

#17: Damien Harris

#16: Drew Lock

#15: McKenzie Milton

#14: Khalil Tate

#13: Will Grier

#12: Justin Herbert

#11: Dwayne Haskins

#10: Shea Patterson

#9: Tua Tagovailoa

#8: Kelly Bryant

#7: Jarrett Stidham

#6: Jake Fromm

#5: D’Andre Swift

#4: J.K. Dobbins

#3: Trace McSorley

 

Jonathan Taylor stepped in as a true freshman and was immediately a stud workhorse running back for Wisconsin, finishing sixth in the Heisman voting. He figures to be in strong contention for the prestigious award again this season.

 

Why he can win it

In 2017, Taylor ran 299 times for 1,977 yards and 13 touchdowns as Wisconsin won the Leaders Division in the Big Ten for the second straight year. His 1,977 rushing yards set a new NCAA record for freshman, breaking the great Adrian Peterson’s mark. The Badgers love to run the football, and Taylor is likely to get at least a similar workload to the one he had last year, if not a few more carries per game. Taylor is simply an exceptional running back, as he’s big at around 5-foot-11 and 214 pounds but has track-star speed; also, his vision, acceleration, and tackle-breaking ability all stand out. Wisconsin has a long history of great running backs, and Taylor has quickly become one of them.

 

Why he won’t win it

Taylor wasn’t involved much as a receiver last season, catching only eight passes for 95 yards. If his role doesn’t increase much there, he’ll really need to put up monster rushing numbers with so many other strong candidates for the Heisman this year. Former Badger Melvin Gordon had 2,587 rushing yards and 29 rushing touchdowns as a senior in 2014, but it wasn’t enough to win the award—though he did finish second and Marcus Mariota had a magical season for Oregon that year. Wisconsin might need to win the Big Ten or at least their division again, which won’t be easy.

 

What needs to happen

Taylor must rush for over 2,000 yards and 20 touchdowns, and he must have memorable performances in the toughest games on the schedule. Wisconsin needs to be as good as they were last season when they were in Playoff contention all year.

 

Stat projection

328 CAR | 2,230 RUSH YDS | 21 RUSH TD | 6.8 AVG

13 REC | 137 REC YDS | 1 REC TD | 10.5 AVG

2018 Heisman Candidate Countdown #3: Trace McSorley

2018 Heisman Candidate Countdown #3: Trace McSorley

Trace McSorley has been one of college football’s most underrated players over the past couple of seasons, and he should be near the top of all Heisman Trophy shortlists heading into 2018.

 

#25: Jalen Hurts

#24: Adrian Martinez

#23: Travis Etienne

#22: Shane Buechele

#21: Nick Fitzgerald

#20: Rodney Anderson

#19: Justice Hill

#18: A.J. Brown

#17: Damien Harris

#16: Drew Lock

#15: McKenzie Milton

#14: Khalil Tate

#13: Will Grier

#12: Justin Herbert

#11: Dwayne Haskins

#10: Shea Patterson

#9: Tua Tagovailoa

#8: Kelly Bryant

#7: Jarrett Stidham

#6: Jake Fromm

#5: D’Andre Swift

#4: J.K. Dobbins

 

McSorley is arguably the best quarterback in the nation heading into his senior season at Penn State. He has a legitimate chance to make it two straight “shorter” quarterbacks to win the Heisman Trophy.

 

Why he can win it

Even with Saquon Barkly (now in the NFL) in the backfield, the Nittany Lions have put a lot on McSorley’s plate, and he has handled it very well. McSorley’s overall numbers looked about the same from his sophomore season to his junior season, but he took a jump in completion percentage from 57.9% to 66.5%. As a senior, expect him to play lights out all season as Penn State looks to make the College Football Playoff. McSorley loses some key pieces on offense in addition to Barkley—like tight end Mike Gesicki and wide receiver DaeSean Hamilton—but he makes the guys around him better, and players should step up in bigger roles. Penn State figures to be in contention for a Big Ten title and the Playoff, in which case McSorley would be near the top of every Heisman list. The Nittany Lions host Ohio State, Michigan State, Iowa, and Wisconsin instead of going on the road to face them.

 

Why he won’t win it

Perhaps the loss of key skill position players on offense (remember, they also lost wide receiver Chris Godwin to the NFL after the 2016 season), along with offensive coordinator Joe Moorhead taking the Mississippi State head coaching job will be difficult to overcome. Also, the Big Ten is probably the toughest conference in college football, even with home matchups against some of the conference’s top teams.

 

What needs to happen

Penn State must win the Big Ten or make the College Football Playoff, and McSorley needs to continue to play the way he has while putting the ball in the end zone through the air a few more times this season.

 

Stat projection

276/406 (68.0%) | 3,978 PASS YDS | 37 PASS TD | 8 INT

138 CAR | 497 RUSH YDS | 9 RUSH TD | 3.6 AVG

2018 Heisman Candidate Countdown #4: J.K. Dobbins

2018 Heisman Candidate Countdown #4: J.K. Dobbins

After D’Andre Swift began the top five of the 2018 Heisman Trophy candidate countdown, fellow sophomore running back J.K. Dobbins is next up on the list.

 

#25: Jalen Hurts

#24: Adrian Martinez

#23: Travis Etienne

#22: Shane Buechele

#21: Nick Fitzgerald

#20: Rodney Anderson

#19: Justice Hill

#18: A.J. Brown

#17: Damien Harris

#16: Drew Lock

#15: McKenzie Milton

#14: Khalil Tate

#13: Will Grier

#12: Justin Herbert

#11: Dwayne Haskins

#10: Shea Patterson

#9: Tua Tagovailoa

#8: Kelly Bryant

#7: Jarrett Stidham

#6: Jake Fromm

#5: D’Andre Swift

 

Dobbins was very productive as a true freshman last season, totaling over 1,500 yards on offense for the Buckeyes. He enters 2018 as one of the top Heisman Trophy candidates in the nation.

 

Why he can win it

Dobbins has drawn comparison to former Ohio State running back Ezekiel Elliott, which indicates how good of a player he is. The compact, powerful runner has already shown he can be highly productive in the Big Ten, and there’s no reason to believe his production will decline from last year. It’s still early in his career, but Dobbins is likely going to fly up Ohio State’s all-time rushing leaderboards and might even threaten Archie Griffin’s school record 5,589—but it’s going to have to start with a monster season in 2018. As a headliner for one of the top programs in the country, Dobbins will get plenty of hype if he’s playing well.

 

Why he won’t win it

Junior running back Mike Weber is still with the Buckeyes, and he’s a very good runner too. Last season, Weber battled injuries and ended up with 101 carries for 626 yards and ten touchdowns—those numbers could potentially take a jump this year if he’s healthy and making an impact. Also, quarterback Dwayne Haskins (who is also on the Heisman countdown) could sling the ball around more than we’ve seen the past few seasons. And while Haskins can run, the threat of J.T. Barrett as a runner is no longer there for defenses to worry about.

 

What needs to happen

Dobbins needs to get over the 250-carry mark after he had 194 carries last season. Ohio State must win the Big Ten.

 

Stat projection

264 CAR | 1,848 RUSH YDS | 19 RUSH TD | 7.0 AVG

33 REC | 264 REC YDS | 4 REC TD | 8.0 AVG

2018 Heisman Candidate Countdown #5: D’Andre Swift

2018 Heisman Candidate Countdown #5: D’Andre Swift

D’Andre Swift starting the top-five of the 2018 Heisman Trophy candidate countdown makes it two straight Georgia Bulldogs on the list.

 

#25: Jalen Hurts

#24: Adrian Martinez

#23: Travis Etienne

#22: Shane Buechele

#21: Nick Fitzgerald

#20: Rodney Anderson

#19: Justice Hill

#18: A.J. Brown

#17: Damien Harris

#16: Drew Lock

#15: McKenzie Milton

#14: Khalil Tate

#13: Will Grier

#12: Justin Herbert

#11: Dwayne Haskins

#10: Shea Patterson

#9: Tua Tagovailoa

#8: Kelly Bryant

#7: Jarrett Stidham

#6: Jake Fromm

 

It takes about two seconds to conclude that Swift has a ton of ability on the football field. As the clear leader in Georgia’s backfield, he should have a solid chance at the Heisman Trophy this season.

 

Why he can win it

Despite having future first- and second-round picks Sony Michel and Nick Chubb in front of him as exceptional upperclassmen, Swift forced his way onto the field as a true freshman and did some damage last season. Swift carried 81 times for 618 yards (7.6 yards per carry) and three rushing touchdowns along with 17 receptions for 153 receiving yards and one receiving touchdown. With Michel and Chubb (who combined for a whopping 379 carries for Georgia last year) both now in the NFL, this is Swift’s backfield; and after what he showed last season, there actually might not be any drop-off in production. Swift is fully expected to be the next great Georgia running back in a long line of them. Also, the Bulldogs should again be Playoff contenders after they won the SEC and made the title game last season.

 

Why he won’t win it

Brian Herrien and Elijah Holyfield (the son of legendary Hall of Fame boxer Evander Holyfield) are both in the backfield mix as juniors, and they could potentially take more work away than Swift than is expected. We expect he can handle a heavy workload without issues, but perhaps Swift won’t be as effective and explosive with a large number of touches per game.

 

What needs to happen

Swift needs to make the same gamebreaking plays he did as a freshman while handling a heavy workload for the Bulldogs. Georgia needs to at least come close to making the College Football Playoff.

 

Stat projection

268 CAR | 2,010 RUSH YDS | 20 RUSH TD | 7.5 AVG

23 REC | 206 REC YDS | 2 REC TD | 9.0 AVG

2018 Heisman Candidate Countdown #6: Jake Fromm

2018 Heisman Candidate Countdown #6: Jake Fromm

The 2018 Heisman Trophy candidate countdown continues with Georgia quarterback Jake Fromm. Here’s the countdown to this point:

 

#25: Jalen Hurts

#24: Adrian Martinez

#23: Travis Etienne

#22: Shane Buechele

#21: Nick Fitzgerald

#20: Rodney Anderson

#19: Justice Hill

#18: A.J. Brown

#17: Damien Harris

#16: Drew Lock

#15: McKenzie Milton

#14: Khalil Tate

#13: Will Grier

#12: Justin Herbert

#11: Dwayne Haskins

#10: Shea Patterson

#9: Tua Tagovailoa

#8: Kelly Bryant

#7: Jarrett Stidham

 

Fromm showed uncommon poise as a true freshman while leading Georgia to an SEC title and the national championship game last season. In 2018, he should be near the top of the Heisman race.

 

Why he can win it

Fromm already put up excellent numbers during his first college season, throwing 24 touchdowns compared to seven interceptions while throwing for 2,615 yards on just 291 attempts. He also added three touchdowns on the ground. Fromm could be even better with a year of experience, and there’s a chance Georgia puts more on his plate after he’s shown he can handle it. The Bulldogs should be squarely in the SEC and College Football Playoff hunt again. The season hasn’t even started yet, but Georgia doesn’t appear to have a very imposing out-of-conference schedule; their toughest game overall is probably against Auburn, but they get to play them at home.

 

Why he won’t win it

Georgia is losing some really good players on both sides of the ball, so they could take a step back with guys filling in. Even while losing running backs Nick Chubb and Sony Michel, and key defenders like Roquan Smith and Lorenzo Carter on defense, Georgia might be committed to running the ball and relying on great defense, so Fromm might not be asked to do much more than last season. It would be a bit of a surprise, but talented freshman quarterback Justin Fields could take some time from Fromm. Also, sensational sophomore running back D’Andre Swift could get most of the Heisman recognition for the Bulldogs.

 

What needs to happen

Fromm showed he can play at a very high level, and he must play even better in his second college season. Georgia needs to win the SEC or make the College Football Playoff as a non-conference champion.

 

Stat projection

214/326 (65.6%) | 3,000 PASS YDS | 31 PASS TD | 5 INT

56 CAR | 110 RUSH YDS | 4 RUSH TD | 2.0 AVG

2018 Heisman Candidate Countdown #7: Jarrett Stidham

2018 Heisman Candidate Countdown #7: Jarrett Stidham

Jarrett Stidham’s first season as Auburn’s starting quarterback went very well, and he’s near the top of the Heisman discussion entering 2018.

 

#25: Jalen Hurts

#24: Adrian Martinez

#23: Travis Etienne

#22: Shane Buechele

#21: Nick Fitzgerald

#20: Rodney Anderson

#19: Justice Hill

#18: A.J. Brown

#17: Damien Harris

#16: Drew Lock

#15: McKenzie Milton

#14: Khalil Tate

#13: Will Grier

#12: Justin Herbert

#11: Dwayne Haskins

#10: Shea Patterson

#9: Tua Tagovailoa

#8: Kelly Bryant

 

Last season, Stidham helped lead Auburn to an SEC West division win. He’ll look to take the team further this season, which could lead to a fourth Heisman Trophy winner for the school.

 

Why he can win it

Gus Malzahn is one of the best offensive coaches in the country, and Stidham enters his second season leading Auburn’s attack. With star running back Kerryon Johnson gone to the NFL, Malzahn might decide to put more on his quarterback’s shoulders in 2018. Stidham had four games without a passing touchdown last year, but two of them came in his first three games and he hadn’t played football the year before because of transfer rules. Overall, Stidham showed flashes of outstanding play as the trigger-man for the Tigers’ offense, and he should be more consistent with more comfort heading into the second year at the position. Auburn won the SEC West last season, and they won games against both Georgia and Alabama—the two national title game participants; team success is important for an individual winning the Heisman.

 

Why he won’t win it

While his team came out on top and he played well in those games against Georgia and Alabama, Auburn needs to head on the road for those matchups in 2018. The Bulldogs and Crimson Tide figure to be two of the best teams in the country again this season, and a loss or two to them could end Auburn’s Playoff chances—and likely Stidham’s Heisman chances. Auburn’s offensive line also isn’t as experienced as last season, and the loss of Kerryon Johnson could be difficult to overcome.

 

What needs to happen

Stidham needs to lead the Tigers to an SEC title, and he needs to be more consistent in his second season commanding Malzahn’s offense.

 

Stat projection

256/379 (67.5%) | 3,297 PASS YDS | 29 PASS TD | 7 INT

99 CAR | 168 RUSH YDS | 6 RUSH TD | 1.7 AVG

2018 Heisman Candidate Countdown #8: Kelly Bryant

2018 Heisman Candidate Countdown #8: Kelly Bryant

Clemson quarterback Kelly Bryant is next up in the countdown of the top Heisman Trophy candidates for 2018.

 

#25: Jalen Hurts

#24: Adrian Martinez

#23: Travis Etienne

#22: Shane Buechele

#21: Nick Fitzgerald

#20: Rodney Anderson

#19: Justice Hill

#18: A.J. Brown

#17: Damien Harris

#16: Drew Lock

#15: McKenzie Milton

#14: Khalil Tate

#13: Will Grier

#12: Justin Herbert

#11: Dwayne Haskins

#10: Shea Patterson

#9: Tua Tagovailoa

 

Tasked with taking over for the great Deshaun Watson as Clemson’s starting quarterback, Kelly Bryant had a good season and helped lead the school to an ACC title and the College Football Playoff. Now he’ll look to take the next step and become one of the nation’s top Heisman candidates.

 

Why he can win it

During his first two years at Clemson, Bryant had to sit and watch behind Watson. But based of Bryant’s play as a junior last season, it looked like he had been paying attention and learned a thing or two from Watson. Despite barely getting any time in his first two college seasons, Bryant looked like an experienced quarterback while leading the Tigers; he kept the offense moving, and his potential as a dual-threat quarterback was evident. Clemson is again the heavy favorite in the ACC, so they’ll have a great chance at yet another Playoff appearance—potentially with Bryant leading the way.

 

Why he won’t win it

True freshman quarterback Trevor Lawrence is a very talented player that people are extremely high on. Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney has not declared that Bryant will be the starter in 2018, and there’s a chance the freshman Lawrence starts right away. Also, if Bryant is the starter, he’ll still need to improve throwing the ball after he showed promise last season. Bryant had only 13 passing touchdowns and eight interceptions in 2017. It’s also worth noting that Deshaun Watson didn’t win the Heisman despite exceptional seasons at Clemson.

 

What needs to happen

Bryant needs to remain the Tigers’ starting quarterback as he enters his senior season, and Clemson must win the conference and get to the College Football Playoff again. The passing stats for Bryant need to increase.

 

Stat projection

265/405 (65.4%) | 2,957 PASS YDS | 23 PASS TD | 10 INT

188 CAR | 752 RUSH YDS | 14 RUSH TD | 4.0 AVG

2018 Heisman Candidate Countdown #9: Tua Tagovailoa

2018 Heisman Candidate Countdown #9: Tua Tagovailoa

The 2018 Heisman Trophy candidate countdown continues with another talented quarterback from a premiere school. Here’s the countdown to this point:

 

#25: Jalen Hurts

#24: Adrian Martinez

#23: Travis Etienne

#22: Shane Buechele

#21: Nick Fitzgerald

#20: Rodney Anderson

#19: Justice Hill

#18: A.J. Brown

#17: Damien Harris

#16: Drew Lock

#15: McKenzie Milton

#14: Khalil Tate

#13: Will Grier

#12: Justin Herbert

#11: Dwayne Haskins

#10: Shea Patterson

 

Tua Tagovailoa stepped into last season’s national title game against Georgia and was a hero for Alabama, helping lead them to yet another championship. He could have a chance to compete for college football’s most prestigious individual honor this season.

 

Why he can win it

The second half of the national championship displayed all you need to know about why Tagovailoa can win the Heisman Trophy. In that game, Tagovailoa tossed three touchdowns including the game-winner in overtime. His passes were accurate and on-time, and he looked like a four-year senior instead of a true freshman. With another year of experience, Tagovailoa could put up big numbers every week in 2018. The Crimson Tide are a good bet to be in contention for the SEC championship and in the College Football Playoff discussion, which could be necessary for Tagovailoa to be in the Heisman race.

 

Why he won’t win it

The big obvious roadblock to Tagovailoa competing for the Heisman Trophy is Jalen Hurts. The junior Hurts has more experience under-center for Alabama, and he could ultimately get the nod as the team’s starting quarterback this season. If not, it’s possible Hurts gets enough playing time behind Tagovailoa that it’s difficult for either of them to put up Heisman-worthy numbers. Tagovailoa is the riskiest of the top-ten Heisman candidates.

 

What needs to happen

Basically, Tagovailoa is going to need to win the job outright and have Hurts transfer. He needs to show the poise he did on the big stage last season and help lead Alabama to another outstanding year.

 

Stat projection

248/389 (63.8%) | 3,268 PASS YDS | 34 PASS TD | 5 INT

78 CAR | 367 RUSH YDS | 7 RUSH TD | 4.7 AVG

2018 Heisman Candidate Countdown #10: Shea Patterson

2018 Heisman Candidate Countdown #10: Shea Patterson

Jim Harbaugh and Michigan have a new quarterback, as former Ole Miss star Shea Patterson transferred and is eligible to play immediately in 2018. He comes just ahead of Ohio State quarterback Dwayne Haskins in the Heisman Trophy candidate countdown.

 

#25: Jalen Hurts

#24: Adrian Martinez

#23: Travis Etienne

#22: Shane Buechele

#21: Nick Fitzgerald

#20: Rodney Anderson

#19: Justice Hill

#18: A.J. Brown

#17: Damien Harris

#16: Drew Lock

#15: McKenzie Milton

#14: Khalil Tate

#13: Will Grier

#12: Justin Herbert

#11: Dwayne Haskins

 

Despite not being a graduate transfer, Ole Miss eventually worked with Michigan to allow Patterson to play this season. Patterson is one of the most talented free-agent-like transfers of all-time.

 

Why he can win it

Patterson isn’t as explosive as a runner, but he looks similar to former Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel with his ability to extend plays and make off-platform throws to his receivers. He’ll be able to create memorable highlight plays, and there will be plenty of opportunities to do so in huge games against Big Ten opponents. Michigan opens the season against Notre Dame, which will obviously be a high-profile matchup that could be the opening argument for Patterson’s Heisman candidacy. Harbaugh is one of the best offensive coaches in the nation, and the fact that Michigan doesn’t have an offensive coordinator yet could indicate he’s had a huge hand in molding this year’s attack. If the Wolverines win the Big Ten, it likely means Patterson is near the top of Heisman lists.

 

Why he won’t win it

Winning the Big Ten isn’t going to be easy. Penn State has senior quarterback Trace McSorley leading them, while Ohio State and Michigan State are always in it. Michigan has struggled against all of them, and Patterson might not be able to change that. Patterson is coming off a knee injury and hasn’t played since last October, which could affect his play early in the season. Also, defense has been the calling card for Michigan since Harbaugh has arrived there.

 

What needs to happen

Patterson needs to lead Michigan to a Big Ten title and/or the College Football Playoff, and he needs to show up in the big games against top Big Ten opponents.

 

Stat projection

249/378 (65.9%) | 3,213 PASS YDS | 33 PASS TD | 11 INT

61 CAR | 262 RUSH YDS | 3 RUSH TD | 4.3 AVG

2018 Heisman Candidate Countdown #11: Dwayne Haskins

2018 Heisman Candidate Countdown #11: Dwayne Haskins

J.T. Barrett was a stalwart for the Ohio State football program over the last four seasons, but new Buckeyes starting quarterback Dwayne Haskins should immediately insert himself into the Heisman Trophy conversation.

 

#25: Jalen Hurts

#24: Adrian Martinez

#23: Travis Etienne

#22: Shane Buechele

#21: Nick Fitzgerald

#20: Rodney Anderson

#19: Justice Hill

#18: A.J. Brown

#17: Damien Harris

#16: Drew Lock

#15: McKenzie Milton

#14: Khalil Tate

#13: Will Grier

#12: Justin Herbert

 

Last season, when Barrett missed some time because of a knee injury suffered from a collision with a cameraman pre-game, Haskins stepped in and showed a major preview of what we could see in 2018.

 

Why he can win it

Haskins is a very gifted passer, with the ability to extend plays with his legs whether it’s to run for some yardage or to buy time and throw the ball downfield. The redshirt sophomore certainly had the on-field ability to start from the moment he stepped onto Ohio State’s campus, but he was just stuck behind one of the best players in school history. Haskins beat out Joe Burrows, who is also a talented player and transferred to LSU, for the starting job, and he now has a chance to lead one of the most talented teams in the country. The Buckeyes are a great bet to be competing for a Big Ten title and a spot in the College Football Playoff, and Haskins is likely to be a big part of it if that happens.

 

Why he won’t win it

Haskins is expected to be the starter, but it’s not a 100% lock quite yet. Redshirt freshman quarterback Tate Martell, who was the high school player of the year in 2016 and was undefeated as a starter in high school, is also a very talented young player that could push Haskins for the job. As an excellent runner, Martell might get enough time on offense in certain packages even if he isn’t the starter, which could take away from Haskins’ numbers. Also, running backs J.K. Dobbins and Mike Weber could be the focus of the offense.

 

What needs to happen

Haskins needs to be the clear starter for Ohio State, with Martell getting very little time at quarterback. The Buckeyes need to allow Haskins to air it out about as much or more than they let J.T. Barrett throw the ball the last couple of seasons.

 

Stat projection

281/408 (68.9%) | 3,713 PASS YDS | 37 PASS TD | 8 INT

101 CAR | 445 RUSH YDS | 4 RUSH TD | 4.4 AVG

2018 Heisman Candidate Countdown #12: Justin Herbert

2018 Heisman Candidate Countdown #12: Justin Herbert

Not many players can carry their team like Oregon quarterback Justin Herbert can, and he’s one of the top Heisman Trophy candidates in 2018.

 

#25: Jalen Hurts

#24: Adrian Martinez

#23: Travis Etienne

#22: Shane Buechele

#21: Nick Fitzgerald

#20: Rodney Anderson

#19: Justice Hill

#18: A.J. Brown

#17: Damien Harris

#16: Drew Lock

#15: McKenzie Milton

#14: Khalil Tate

#13: Will Grier

 

Last season, Herbert led Oregon to a 6-2 record as a starter, while the team went just 1-5 without him at quarterback. A healthy Herbert could potentially have Oregon in the Pac-12 title mix this season.

 

Why he can win it

Given his ability, along with Oregon’s record with and without him, Herbert is one of the most important players in college football. He’s a really talented player that got better from his freshman to sophomore season, and he’ll eventually be a potential top-five pick in the NFL Draft. The Pac-12 might not be as strong this year overall, and Oregon gets to host Stanford, Washington, and UCLA—perhaps their three toughest opponents—instead of going on the road to face them. Oregon lost head coach Willie Taggart to Florida State, but last year’s co-offensive coordinators Mario Cristobal (now the head coach) and Marcus Arroyo both still being with the Ducks allows Herbert to remain in the same offense.

 

Why he won’t win it

It’s the case for everyone, but health is the obvious obstacle for Herbert as a potential Heisman Trophy winner. He needs to stay on the field and lead his team to victories. Also, the bar is high for an Oregon quarterback to win the Heisman after the magical season Marcus Mariota had a few years ago.

 

What needs to happen

Herbert needs to stay healthy and lead the Ducks to a Pac-12 title. Herbert’s numbers need to be at least what he was on pace for last season.

 

Stat projection

213/309 (68.9%) | 2,998 PASS YDS | 31 PASS TD | 7 INT

67 CAR | 302 RUSH YDS | 8 RUSH TD | 4.5 AVG

2018 Heisman Candidate Countdown #13: Will Grier

2018 Heisman Candidate Countdown #13: Will Grier

After missing the entire 2016 season after a PED suspension, former Florida quarterback Will Grier had an excellent first season at West Virginia. Heading into his final college season, he’s seen as one of the best players in the country and a potential first-round selection in the 2019 NFL Draft. Here’s the 2018 Heisman Trophy countdown to this point:

 

#25: Jalen Hurts

#24: Adrian Martinez

#23: Travis Etienne

#22: Shane Buechele

#21: Nick Fitzgerald

#20: Rodney Anderson

#19: Justice Hill

#18: A.J. Brown

#17: Damien Harris

#16: Drew Lock

#15: McKenzie Milton

#14: Khalil Tate

 

With Baker Mayfield and Mason Rudolph gone, Will Grier is now arguably the clear top quarterback in the Big 12. He’ll be pushing for a conference title and a Heisman Trophy in 2018.

 

Why he can win it

To win the Heisman, your team typically needs to have a successful season. The opportunity is there for Dana Holgorson’s squad to have their best season in the Big 12 since joining the conference in 2012, and Grier will be leading the way on offense. Grier was close to putting up Heisman-worthy numbers in 2017, as he threw for 3,490 yards and 34 touchdowns in just 11 games, and that was coming off a year of not being able to play football because of his suspension and transfer. The Mountaineers have a strong supporting cast for Grier, including future potential first-round wide receiver David Sills, so the pieces are there to have a sensational year. And it doesn’t hurt to play in the Big 12, where defense can be downright bad at times.

 

Why he won’t win it

There’s a chance the Heisman voters don’t like that Grier was suspended for PEDs, and they might knock him for that as they cast their ballots. Because West Virginia isn’t a traditional powerhouse, they are probably going to need to win the Big 12 for Grier to get strong consideration for the Heisman. Also, while Big 12 defenses could lead to some huge days, Heisman voters might not want to give the award to a second straight quarterback from the conference if the subpar defense remains difficult to watch.

 

What needs to happen

Grier needs to build on his good first season in West Virginia by emerging as the top quarterback in the nation and a sought-after NFL draft prospect, which will help his hype. The Mountaineers must win the Big 12 or come very close with double-digit wins.

 

Stat projection

260/400 (65%) | 4,225 PASS YDS | 39 PASS TD | 11 INT

65 CAR | 136 RUSH YDS | 2 RUSH TD | 2.1 AVG

2018 Heisman Candidate Countdown #14: Khalil Tate

2018 Heisman Candidate Countdown #14: Khalil Tate

Khalil Tate put up big numbers on the ground as Arizona’s quarterback last season, and many pushed for him to be a Heisman finalist. He could again be in the mix for the prestigious award in 2018.

 

#25: Jalen Hurts

#24: Adrian Martinez

#23: Travis Etienne

#22: Shane Buechele

#21: Nick Fitzgerald

#20: Rodney Anderson

#19: Justice Hill

#18: A.J. Brown

#17: Damien Harris

#16: Drew Lock

#15: McKenzie Milton

 

Despite being a favorite among some fans and media members, the Arizona quarterback didn’t finish in the top ten of the Heisman voting last year. However, he has a ton of talent and upside, so he could finish a lot closer to the top this season.

 

Why he can win it

The Pac-12 lost quarterback Sam Darnold, Luke Falk, and Josh Rosen to the NFL, which could create a potential opening for Arizona in the conference. Also, not having those future NFLers around could mean more shine for Tate this year. While Rich Rodriguez is a respected coach, many people see the hiring of former Texas A&M head coach Kevin Sumlin to the same position is a positive for the second-year starting quarterback. It’s a new offense, but Tate heads into 2018 with experience and more comfort as the team’s leader—which could lead to a big increase in his passing numbers. Tate is still a good bet for 1,000 yards rushing in the new offense, too.

 

Why he won’t win it

Tate has a lot of talent, but there’s a chance he doesn’t yet develop into the type of passer that can consistently throw 30+ attempts per game if necessary. Working as the starter last season will help as he enters his junior year, but Tate is still a relatively inexperienced player. It’s a bit concerning that Tate’s rushing numbers fell off a bit after he got off to a red-hot start in the first several games of last season.

 

What needs to happen

Tate again needs to be the dynamic runner he was at the beginning of last season while also increasing his numbers as a passer. Arizona must win double-digit games and compete for a Pac-12 title.

 

Stat projection

168/261 (64.4%) | 2,288 PASS YDS | 21 PASS TD | 12 INT

174 CAR | 1,392 RUSH YDS | 14 RUSH TD | 8.0 AVG

2018 Heisman Candidate Countdown #15: McKenzie Milton

2018 Heisman Candidate Countdown #15: McKenzie Milton

Last season, McKenzie Milton helped lead UCF to an undefeated season. He lands in the top 15 of our 2018 Heisman Trophy candidate countdown.

 

#25: Jalen Hurts

#24: Adrian Martinez

#23: Travis Etienne

#22: Shane Buechele

#21: Nick Fitzgerald

#20: Rodney Anderson

#19: Justice Hill

#18: A.J. Brown

#17: Damien Harris

#16: Drew Lock

 

It might be difficult to replicate the magical run from 2017, but Milton will be among the strongest Heisman candidates if he and the Knights do.

 

Why he can win it

After last season, Milton and UCF are on everyone’s radar heading into 2018. Milton received four first-place votes for the Heisman Trophy last season, and he finished eighth in the voting. If four voters were willing to give Milton the nod in 2017, an even better season could lead to a legitimate Heisman candidacy. Also, Milton is simply a stud quarterback that throws the ball accurately and on-time, and he can contribute as a runner—he’s just a really good player.

 

Why he won’t win it

UCF being on everyone’s radar could also be a curse, as they could have a target on their back every week after proclaiming themselves as national champions. The bigger concern might be head coach Scott Frost departing for the Nebraska job, as Frost is clearly one of the best offensive coaches in college football. However, Milton does get another former national champion-winning quarterback, as former Oklahoma Heisman runner-up Josh Heupel (who was Missouri’s offensive coordinator the last two seasons) is now his head coach—though the change could take some adjusting.

 

What needs to happen

UCF needs to follow up their undefeated 2017 season with another undefeated year in 2018. Milton needs to play as well as he did last season and take his numbers to another level.

 

Stat projection

292/420 (69.5%) | 4,116 PASS YDS | 39 PASS TD | 8 INT

98 CAR | 500 RUSH YDS | 4 RUSH TD | 5.1 AVG

2018 Heisman Candidate Countdown #16: Drew Lock

2018 Heisman Candidate Countdown #16: Drew Lock

Missouri quarterback Drew Lock put up huge numbers in the SEC last season, and he’s one of the top Heisman Trophy candidates heading into 2018.

 

#25: Jalen Hurts

#24: Adrian Martinez

#23: Travis Etienne

#22: Shane Buechele

#21: Nick Fitzgerald

#20: Rodney Anderson

#19: Justice Hill

#18: A.J. Brown

#17: Damien Harris

 

Drew Lock has a cannon for a right arm and has the personality to quickly push himself into the forefront of the Heisman conversation.

 

Why he can win it

Last season, Lock led the nation and set a school and SEC record in touchdown passes (44) with a respectable 12 interceptions in offensive coordinator Josh Heupel’s offense. Lock has already shown he can put up the eye-popping stats despite playing in a tough conference, so he has as high of a touchdown upside as any player in the country. Being near the top of statistical leaderboards is a prerequisite to compete for the Heisman Trophy, and Lock should have that box checked.

 

Why he won’t win it

Josh Heupel is now the head coach at UCF, so there will be some adjustment for Lock being without his offensive coordinator from a record-setting 2017. Also, the Tigers are not expected to be among the strongest competitors for an SEC title this season. And after setting a conference record in touchdown passes last year, it might be difficult to duplicate and exceed that performance.

 

What needs to happen

If Lock can somehow throw another 40+ touchdown passes while decreasing his interception numbers to single digits, while Mizzou competes for an SEC title, he’ll be squarely in the Heisman race.

 

Stat projection

250/420 (59.5%) | 3,948 PASS YDS | 39 PASS TD | 10 INT

41 CAR | 103 RUSH YDS | 1 RUSH TD | 2.5 AVG

2018 Heisman Candidate Countdown #17: Damien Harris

2018 Heisman Candidate Countdown #17: Damien Harris

Damien Harris could have left Alabama after his junior season, but he opted to return to school. The return could pay off with a 2018 Heisman Trophy run. Here’s the countdown to this point:

 

#25: Jalen Hurts

#24: Adrian Martinez

#23: Travis Etienne

#22: Shane Buechele

#21: Nick Fitzgerald

#20: Rodney Anderson

#19: Justice Hill

#18: A.J. Brown

 

During the beginning of last season, Harris was starting to enter the Heisman conversation. The Heisman campaign didn’t last long, but Harris could remain in the race for the entire season this year.

 

Why he can win it

Nick Saban isn’t just going to hand things out for no reason, but he’ll certainly reward guys for putting the work in. Damien Harris showed his commitment heading into last season, including comically admitting to giving up Honey Buns so he would lose more weight; it showed on the field, and it’s a good bet that Harris continued working hard and progressing heading into his senior season. Saban is going to respect and appreciate Harris returning to school, and he could want to give him with a ton of touches because of his trust in him. Alabama running backs Mark Ingram and Derrick Henry each won the Heisman over the last several years, which could give Harris a boost from the voters. And the Crimson Tide should again be one of the best teams in the country, so he’ll be in the spotlight as one of the team’s better players.

 

Why he won’t win it

There’s another Harris in the backfield: sophomore Najee Harris, who was a top recruit coming out of high school. If the younger Harris, along with Joshua Jacobs and Brian Robinson Jr., take enough work from the senior, it might be tough to get enough touches for monster overall numbers. Also, maybe Alabama’s passing offense takes some of the shine under Tua Tagovailoa this season after he lit it up in the national title game against Georgia.

 

What needs to happen

Damien Harris needs to become a workhorse like Mark Ingram, Trent Richardson, and Derrick Henry have been for Alabama. Also, the Crimson Tide needs to be in the College Football Playoff conversation.

 

Stat projection

225 CAR | 1,620 RUSH YDS | 16 RUSH TD | 7.2 AVG

20 REC | 156 REC YDS | 2 REC TD | 7.8 AVG

2018 Heisman Candidate Countdown #18: A.J. Brown

2018 Heisman Candidate Countdown #18: A.J. Brown

Ole Miss wide receiver A.J. Brown is an extraordinary athlete that put up big numbers as a sophomore last season. He’s up next in countdown of 2018 Heisman Trophy candidates.

 

#25: Jalen Hurts

#24: Adrian Martinez

#23: Travis Etienne

#22: Shane Buechele

#21: Nick Fitzgerald

#20: Rodney Anderson

#19: Justice Hill

 

Coming out of high school as a star outfielder in baseball, Brown was selected in the 19th round of the 2016 MLB Draft despite his intentions to play college sports. Brown is obviously very athletic, and he could end up being a top-ten pick in the NFL draft when he declares.

 

Why he can win it

As a sophomore last season, Brown put up very good numbers for the Rebels, catching 75 passes for 1,252 yards and 11 touchdowns. He is truly an all-around receiver, and his 16.7 yards per reception shows he has the speed to get deep and make home-run plays. He doesn’t play baseball for Ole Miss because he signed with the Padres when they drafted him in 2016, but the multi-sport-athlete storyline could still be something that comes into play if Brown is lighting it up this season. Also, Brown might be more involved as a punt returner in 2018, which could mean more explosive, game-changing plays.

 

Why he won’t win it

Only two wide receivers have ever won the Heisman Trophy: Tim Brown and Desmond Howard. (Three if you count Johnny Rodgers as a wide receiver.) For Brown to win the Heisman, it’s going to take both video-game numbers and Ole Miss exceeding expectations this season.

 

What needs to happen

Ole Miss must drastically improve from last season and become more competitive in the SEC. Brown needs to lead the Power Five conferences in receiving and make game-winning or game-changing plays throughout the year.

 

Stat projection

89 REC | 1,602 REC YDS | 14 REC TD | 18.0 AVG

15 PR | 203 PR YDS | 1 PR TD | 13.5 AVG

2018 Heisman Candidate Countdown #19: Justice Hill

2018 Heisman Candidate Countdown #19: Justice Hill

After Oklahoma running back Rodney Anderson made the list yesterday, Oklahoma State running back Justice Hill comes in one spot ahead of him on the 2018 Heisman Trophy candidate countdown.

 

#25: Jalen Hurts

#24: Adrian Martinez

#23: Travis Etienne

#22: Shane Buechele

#21: Nick Fitzgerald

#20: Rodney Anderson

 

Last season, Hill was a big part of the Cowboys’ offense as he complemented future NFL draft selections Mason Rudolph and James Washington. He’s now the last remaining member of the trio in Stillwater.

 

Why he can win it

With new quarterback Taylor Cornelius under-center for OK State, Mike Gundy will likely rely on Hill more than he did with the experienced Rudolph at quarterback. Hill went from 206 carries as a freshman to 268 last season, and it’s possible he gets up over 300 carries in 2018. He isn’t a big running back, but Hill is explosive and plays a lot bigger than his size. Also, the Big 12 should be wide-open this season with Baker Mayfield leaving Oklahoma, and Hill might be the guy to lead Oklahoma State to a conference title.

 

Why he won’t win it

Cornelius has had to wait his turn to play quarterback for the Cowboys, and he might be ready to step right in and keep the passing offense humming like it was with Rudolph. If Oklahoma State is confident enough to put a lot on Cornelius’ arm, Hill might not get enough of an increase in usage this season. And sophomore running back J.D. King might cut into Hill’s workload and make this more of a committee backfield.

 

What needs to happen

Hill needs to remain the clear top option out of the backfield for Oklahoma State and become the clear focal point of the offense. He needs to be among the nation’s leaders in rushing, and OK State needs to compete for a Big 12 title.

 

Stat projection

280 CAR | 1,596 RUSH YDS | 19 RUSH TD | 5.7 AVG

34 REC | 241 REC YDS | 1 REC TD | 7.1 AVG

2018 Heisman Candidate Countdown #20: Rodney Anderson

2018 Heisman Candidate Countdown #20: Rodney Anderson

Baker Mayfield got a lot of the headlines during his magical Heisman season in 2017, but backfield mate Rodney Anderson was a big part of Oklahoma’s offense. He’s a top 20 Heisman Trophy candidate entering 2018.

 

#25: Jalen Hurts

#24: Adrian Martinez

#23: Travis Etienne

#22: Shane Buechele

#21: Nick Fitzgerald

 

Anderson was a huge playmaker on just over 200 touches for the Sooners last season, but this season he could become the focus of the offense and push for a second-straight Heisman winner in Norman.

 

Why he can win it

The catalyst of Lincoln Riley’s offense during OU’s run to the College Football Playoff was clearly future first overall pick Baker Mayfield. Now, the super-fast Kyler Murray—who is also a coveted MLB Draft prospect and could end up signing a baseball contract—is expected to be the team’s starting quarterback if he remains in college. To make things more comfortable for Murray (a potential Heisman candidate himself), Riley might decide pounding the ball is a good idea. Also, Murray’s own running ability could open up more running lanes for Anderson. Last season, Anderson had only 188 rushing attempts but gained 1,161 rushing yards and was explosive in the passing game with 281 receiving yards on just 17 receptions. More work could lead to some eye-popping numbers.

 

Why he won’t win it

Mayfield is one of the best college football quarterbacks of all-time, so it’s fair to wonder if the offense will have a drop-off without him in the lineup. Also, the team in general could take a step back without Mayfield, which could mean Anderson isn’t in the spotlight. As a running back, he’ll need to put up some massive numbers if the Sooners aren’t competing for a conference title.

 

What needs to happen

Head coach Lincoln Riley needs to give Anderson more work as both a runner and receiver, making him the focal point of the offense. The Sooners must win the Big 12 again.

 

Stat projection

240 CAR | 1,560 RUSH YDS | 17 RUSH TD | 6.5 AVG

26 REC | 325 PASS YDS | 4 REC TD | 12.5 AVG

2018 Heisman Candidate Countdown #21: Nick Fitzgerald

2018 Heisman Candidate Countdown #21: Nick Fitzgerald

Five days into the 2018 Heisman Trophy candidate countdown, our first senior makes the list. But first, here are the four candidates we’ve gone over thus far.

 

#25: Jalen Hurts

#24: Adrian Martinez

#23: Travis Etienne

#22: Shane Buechele

 

Mississippi State quarterback Nick Fitzgerald is a dual-threat quarterback coming off a major leg injury entering his final season with the Bulldogs, and he has a new head coach in former Penn State offensive coordinator Joe Moorhead. Fitzgerald will be in the Heisman conversation to start the year.

 

Why he can win it

Last November, Fitzgerald suffered an ugly dislocated ankle in the Egg Bowl against Ole Miss. It was a crushing injury, but it does mean Fitzgerald will be getting a lot of media attention as his progress and play in his return from the injury is tracked. That extra attention could give him a boost in the Heisman race. A couple of seasons ago, Fitzgerald rushed for 1,375 yards and 16 touchdowns before rushing for 984 yards and 14 touchdowns last year. If he remains healthy, the senior leader should be a lock for 1,000 yards rushing. And while Fitzgerald didn’t put up great passing numbers last season, he’s shown the ability to do some damage as a thrower.

 

Why he won’t win it

The SEC is not an easy conference to just put up huge numbers each week, and there won’t be many cakewalks for the Bulldogs. Dan Mullen, who is now in Gainesville with the Gators, is one of the best offensive coaches in the country, and maybe Fitzgerald won’t click with Moorhead and the new offense right away. Also, as we’ve seen with players before, it might take time for Fitzgerald to get back to his normal self after coming off a severe lower leg injury.

 

What needs to happen

Fitzgerald needs to be 100% healthy and feel comfortable in his new offense. Mississippi State needs to get up around the top five and top ten like they were during 2014, and the Bulldogs need to come close if not topple the Crimson Tide in Tuscaloosa.

 

Stat projection

207/360 (57.5%) | 2,520 PASS YDS | 23 PASS TD | 10 INT

189 ATT | 1,172 RUSH YDS | 15 RUSH TD | 6.2 AVG