By Wade Haugen
It’s that time of the year again. The craziness that is the college football regular season has come to a halt, leading the way into the postseason. With the postseason comes a plethora of bowl games, some good, some not so good. One thing is a constant every year, however: the Heisman Trophy. Since the inaugural trophy was awarded in 1936 to Jay Berwanger, the award has always carried an aurora around it that contains excellence on and off the field. This year is no different, as Monday night this year’s five finalists were announced.
Lamar Jackson, Louisville Cardinals: From the onset of the season, Jackson has shined, inserting himself as the Heisman favorite since week 1 when he tallied up 8 total touchdowns against Charlotte. Jackson has been the key playmaker for the Cardinal’s offense all season, with both his talents through the air and on the ground. Jackson finished the regular season with 3,390 yards through the air and 30 touchdowns to go along with only 9 interceptions. While Jackson is a threat through the air, his greatest attributes come from his ability to evade the pocket and scramble. Jackson finished the season as the Cardinal’s leading rusher at 1,538 yards with 21 touchdowns. Ask anyone at the end of October, and he or she would have said Jackson was a shoe-in to win the Heisman. November had its ebbs and flows for the star QB however, including two losses to end the season against Houston and Kentucky in which Jackson was held in check.
Jabrill Peppers, University of Michigan: Peppers true worth to Harbaugh’s boys in blue can’t be clearly stated solely by statistics. On the season, Peppers finished with 66 tackles, 1 INT, and 3 sacks. He made an impact on much more than just defense, however. Peppers also played some running back for the Wolverines, including quarterbacking the wildcat formation that Michigan would run. To go along with his offensive contributions, Peppers also returned kicks and punts for Michigan. He was a jack-of-all-trades player for this team and was undoubtedly the leader of arguably the best defensive unit in the country this season. While the likelihood of Peppers winning the award is very slim, it’s always an honor for any defensive player to be invited to NYC for the ceremony.
Baker Mayfield, University of Oklahoma: Mayfield will be in familiar territory under the bright lights of NYC. The gun-slinging QB for the Oklahoma Sooners finished fourth in the voting last year and is hoping to improve on that number this year. While he was on the Heisman radar coming into the year, Mayfield has had to work very hard to get here. After a less than stellar 1-2 start in which Mayfield struggled against both Houston and Ohio State, #6 bounced back to finish the year with 3,669 yards through the air, with 38 touchdowns and only 8 interceptions. Mayfield also boasted a stellar 71.2% completion rate and added 6 touchdowns with his legs. Oklahoma’s star QB has a lot of momentum going into the Heisman ceremony, especially after his efficient performance Saturday against Oklahoma State in which Mayfield overcame the sloppy conditions to throw for 288 yards and 3 touchdowns, with no interceptions.
Dede Westbrook, University of Oklahoma: If someone had told me before the season that Dede Westbrook would be in NYC for the Heisman Ceremony in December, I would’ve said two things: 1. That’s not going to happen, and 2. You must be a die-hard Oklahoma football fan. Thanks to an inhuman stretch throughout Big 12 play, Westbrook’s lifelong dream has become a reality. Westbrook and Mayfield, who’re only the fifth pair of teammates ever to both be invited to the Heisman ceremony, developed an extraordinarily strong deep-ball connection this season. Westbrook went on a tear through conference play in which he averaged 146 yards per game, 25 yards per catch, and almost 2 TD’s per contest. Westbrook’s big play ability is similar to that of Lamar Jackson’s. It was evident by the end of the year that Oklahoma’s star receiver could take it to the end zone on any given down.
Deshaun Watson, Clemson University: Coming into the season, out of all the finalists this year, Deshaun Watson was on everyone’s Heisman radar more than anyone. Watson has led his team back to the College Football Playoff for the second straight season and will be heading to NYC for the Heisman trophy ceremony once again as well. Watson finished the season with 3,914 yards, 37 touchdowns, and 15 INT’s. Watson has looked out of tune with his receivers at times this year, which has contributed to his high interception numbers compared to the other QB candidates. However, he nearly threw for 4,000 yards, surpassed 40 total touchdowns, and lead his team back to the Final Four.
My Prediction: It was very hard for me to decide, but if I had to predict who I think will win the Heisman this year I would go with Lamar Jackson. Jackson was the most dominant playmaker in college football this season, and although the Cardinals had a rough end to the season, I think the award was already won by Jackson in September and October.