So here we go. The Heisman Trophy finalists will be announced early this week. This is always the tough part. You have a full season of games to look at and you find there are plenty of deserving players. Now it’s time to predict who will get to the ceremony in New York City.
So a couple of factors to consider. First, there are always three Heisman finalists. Those are simply the top three vote-getters. Second, the Heisman committee can offer invitations to more players to attend the ceremony, but those invitations are typically based on the closeness of the vote. For instance, if the fourth-ranked vote-getter is really close to the third-ranked vote getter, it’s likely he’ll be invited to New York City.
Here are the three players that I believe are going to be the Top 3 vote-getters in the Heisman race and, by extension, will be invited to New York City.
Lamar Jackson, QB, Louisville. He’s been the front-runner all year and, despite two losses in his final two games, I think he will have no issue getting the votes needed to get to NYC. His numbers are superb — 3,390 yards passing, 30 touchdowns, 9 interceptions along with 1,538 yards rushing with 21 touchdowns. He will be on the Top 3 of just about every voter’s ballot, if you ask me.
Deshaun Watson, QB, Clemson. He’s surged the past two weeks with 11 total touchdowns (9 passing, 2 rushing) in the past two games. He just led the Tigers to the ACC title for the second straight year. As for his season numbers, well, with nearly 4,000 yards passing he certainly competes with Jackson. He doesn’t have the rushing numbers he had a year ago (529 yards this year as opposed to 1,105 yards last year), but his total numbers are among the best in the country. The fact that he’s elevated his Tigers to the College Football Playoff for the second straight year will probably play a role in getting into the Top 3. So will the belief that he’s headed for the NFL.
Baker Mayfield, QB, Oklahoma. The No. 3 person on the ballot is tough. It could be Washington’s Jake Browning or San Diego State’s Donnel Pumphrey. But I believe Mayfield is going to get plenty of second- and third-place votes and that should earn him an invite to the ceremony. This year Mayfield threw for 3,669 yards, 38 touchdowns and 8 interceptions, along with 143 yards rushing and 6 touchdowns. He might lose a few votes after deciding to stay for his senior year, the logic being you could vote for him next year. But I think his play overcomes that. This is the finalist I feel the least confident in. Browning and Pumphrey both have strong cases.
Because of the tightness of the cases between Mayfield, Browning and Pumphrey, I believe one additional player will be invited to NYC for the ceremony.
Donnel Pumphrey, RB, San Diego State. In 2013 Northern Illinois’ Jordan Lynch earned a trip to NYC that felt as much like a career achievement award as it did him finishing in the Top 3. That season Lynch’s statistics lined up nicely with Lamar Jackson’s (2,892 yards passing, 24 touchdowns, along with 1,920 yards rushing and 23 touchdowns). He deserved the invite. So does Pumphrey, who is now the NCAA’s No. 2 all-time leading rusher with 6,290 yards. He saved his best for his senior season as he rushed for 2,018 yards, joining a handful of backs who rushed for 2,000 yards in a season. He also scored 16 times. I think he’ll pull enough second- and third-place votes to be close enough to the Top 3 to earn an invitation.
As for Browning, he had a solid season, but I don’t believe he will get enough second- and third-place votes to earn an invitation. He is set up nicely for a shot at the trophy next season.
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