The Heisman race is pretty much over.
After Louisville QB Lamar Jackson piled up another 7-touchdown day, he’s a near lock to win the award. But that doesn’t mean an SEC player won’t go home with some hardware.
The SEC still has plenty of talented playmakers. So with that in mind, here are the five players who have the best chances of bringing home the SEC’s Offensive Player of the Year.
Alabama QB Jalen Hurts: 1,685 passing yards, 635 rushing yards, 22 total TDs
Much like how the Heisman Trophy winner often has different criteria, so does this award. Hurts doesn’t lead the conference in passing, that belongs to Chad Kelly, and Texas A&M’s Trevor Knight has put up comparable numbers on the ground.
But what makes Hurts’ case is that he’s the best offensive player on the best team. There are plenty of players who have put up inferior stats to their peers yet they’ll come home with the trophy due to team success. Last year Derrick Henry had fewer total yards than Christian McCaffrey of Stanford, but since Henry played on a better team, voters gave him the benefit of the doubt.
It also helps your case when you make clutch plays, like Hurts did against LSU.
Jalen Hurts breaks the tie with this 21-yard TD run pic.twitter.com/lmqAG1jSZK
— Marq Burnett (@Marq_Burnett) November 6, 2016
Auburn RB Kamryn Pettway: 1,106 rushing yards, 7 TDs
In a conference with Nick Chubb, Leonard Fournette and countless other talented running backs, it’s Pettway that is leading the conference in rushing. And he’s doing it, despite registering zero carries in two games.
Pettway became the first Auburn player since Bo Jackson in 1985 to rush for 150 yards in four straight games. He’s also led Auburn’s turnaround this season, as the Tigers are playing like one of the best team’s in the country.
If Pettway continues to put up monster numbers and Auburn keeps winning, his case will be similar to that of Tre Mason, the last Auburn player to win the award.
Texas A&M WR Christian Kirk: 61 catches 590 yards, 10 total TDs
Even after Trevor Knight went down on Saturday, Kirk continued to put monster numbers. He leads the SEC with 3 punts returned for a touchdown, and has a conference best 61 receptions.
It’s not impossible for a wide receiver to win the award. Alabama’s Amari Cooper did it two years ago, but the Aggies’ loss to Mississippi State put a serious dent into Kirk’s chances. With the SEC championship game likely out of the picture for Texas A&M, a big performance against LSU on Thanksgiving could give Kirk a chance to garner some attention.
Arkansas QB Austin Allen: 2,291 passing yards, 19 TDs
Allen is actually third in the SEC in passing and tied for first in touchdowns. But the guys he trails, Ole Miss QB Chad Kelly and Drew Lock, both play for losing teams.
Arkansas has been able to churn out wins this season despite Allen constantly being under pressure. The Razorbacks have given up the second most sacks in the conference. A strong final month from Allen and the Razorbacks could make him a serious threat to win the award. The last Razorback to win SEC Offensive Player of the Year was running back Darren McFadden, who did it back in 2007.
LSU RB Leonard Fournette: 705 yards, 5 TDs
A vote for Fournette would be a vote for his outstanding career. Fournette has played in only five games this season, but still ranks in the top 10 in the SEC in rushing. He has nearly 3,700 rushing yards in his career and has had great games against anyone not named Alabama.
As he showed against Ole Miss, Fournette can create a highlight on almost any play. And with marquee games against Arkansas, Florida and Texas A&M left, the LSU running back has plenty of chances for statement games. Fournette may want to catch up to Pettway, though, if he is to win the award. The last four running backs to win the award — Derrick Henry, Tre Mason, Trent Richardson and McFadden — all led the conference in rushing.