Just when we thought the SEC’s streak of 10 straight years with a Heisman Trophy finalist was about to be snapped …
THE CASE FOR HURTS (OR KNIGHT)
The SEC’s two legitimate candidates will collide Saturday in Tuscaloosa. Depending on which team wins, either Alabama true freshman Jalen Hurts or Texas A&M senior Trevor Knight should start getting a lot more Heisman love. Why? Because the numbers are good enough and finalists get invited to New York.
During the last 10 years, nine teams that have reached the BCS title game or (more recently) College Football Playoff undefeated had a Heisman finalist.
Hurts, who just ran all over Tennessee, is on pace for roughly 2,600 yards passing, 800 yards rushing and 32 total touchdowns in 13 games (regular season plus the SEC title game, after which ballots are due). Knight is on pace for 3,250 yards passing, 1,088 yards rushing and 39 total touchdowns in 13 games.
Voters love great teams and tend to seek out a star to reward — like LSU cornerback Tyrann Mathieu in 2011 or Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te’o in 2012 getting invited to New York. Or undefeated Ohio State quarterback Troy Smith winning the award in 2006 with numbers less impressive than either Hurts or Knight’s projected totals.
So to both of them: Just win, baby.
Jalen Hurts' grin to the camera after scoring is great pic.twitter.com/e9gU0uLKej
— Chris Kirschner (@ChrisKirschner) October 15, 2016
SHOULD GET INVITED BUT WON’T
DE Derek Barnett, Tennessee: If the Volunteers were still undefeated, Barnett would have a heckuva case to be in the Heisman race. He had 2 tackles for loss, a sack, a forced fumble and an interception Saturday against No. 1 Alabama. He is up to 11½ tackles for loss on the season. As usual, Barnett has been at his best in conference play. He now has 35½ tackles for loss and 23 sacks in 20 career SEC games.
— Paul Shahen (@paulshahen) October 17, 2016
KEEP ANY EYE ON …
RB Rawleigh Williams III, Arkansas: The sophomore is your new SEC rushing leader after ripping off 180 yards on 27 carries in a win over Ole Miss. That brought him to 785 yards for the season, which ranks eighth nationally. He might not finish this season on many Heisman lists, but he could start next year on some.
RB Trayveon Williams, Texas A&M: He was off last week, but watch out if this freshman follows up 217 yards rushing against Tennessee with a big day against the Crimson Tide. He ranks 13th nationally with 117.3 yards per game and ninth in the country with 8.6 yards per carry. What we said about next year for the other Williams also applies to this one, too.
QB Lamar Jackson, Louisville: Even in his worst performance of the season, the Heisman front-runner produced 325 total yards and 2 touchdowns in a win. In six games, he’s up to 1,806 yards passing, 832 yards rushing, 30 total touchdowns and just 4 interceptions. Insane.
QB J.T. Barrett, Ohio State: After an awful start at Wisconsin, which put the Buckeyes’ playoff hopes in peril, Barrett rescued Ohio State from the Badgers. He threw for 226 yards, ran for 92 and produced 3 total touchdowns in a come-from-behind victory. Barrett now has 22 total touchdowns and just 4 interceptions.
— Ohio State on BTN (@OhioStateOnBTN) October 17, 2016
RB Dalvin Cook, Florida State: Likewise, Cook’s bad day was still better than most Saturday. With 115 rushing yards, he’s up to 900 for the season (third-most in the country) and no FBS player has more than his combined 1,256 yards rushing and receiving.
QB Deshaun Watson, Clemson: The Tigers got a scare from N.C. State, but Watson delivered 413 total yards and all 3 touchdowns in a narrow victory to remain undefeated. His 20 touchdown passes rank sixth nationally.
RB Donnel Pumphrey, San Diego State: The nation’s leading rusher delivered his third 200-yard game of the season, rumbling 38 times for 220 yards and 2 scores in a win at Fresno State. He’s up to 1,111 yards and 11 touchdowns through six games.
LB Jabrill Peppers, Michigan: He was off last week, but his 10 tackles for loss, 442 all-purpose yards and 3 touchdowns (2 rushing, 1 on a punt return) have him very much in the mix.
IF WE VOTED TODAY
- Lamar Jackson
- J.T. Barrett
- Jalen Hurts