Leonard Fournette is going to win the Heisman Trophy. Well, at least that’s what we all thought before the first snap of the season. Clearly one of the best returning players from a year ago, Fournette was the Heisman front-runner for the majority of the 2015 season. It took one bad week along with one team loss voters to rethink who the Heisman Trophy should be bestowed upon.
All it took was one week for us to put Fournette behind us once again. After Week 1 we were introduced to Lamar Jackson. In one half of play Jackson produced 405 yards of total offense and eight touchdowns! At the time we thought it was simply happenstance that a pretty explosive offense met a poor team/defense in Charlotte. In similar fashion, OSU JT Barrett produced 349 yards and seven TD’s against Bowling Green. To be honest, Jackson still had that “who’s this guy?” label preceding him at this point. The actual immediate leader(s) for the Heisman after Week 1(according to us) had to be between Georgia RB Nick Chubb who ran for 222 yards in a win against North Carolina or Greg Ward Jr for Houston as they outplayed Baker Mayfield in an upset over then #3 Oklahoma.
*Remember Josh Rosen? Yeah, he well had three picks in UCLA’s opening game and his name would never be synonymous with the ‘Heisman’ again. Preseason wise he was right up there with Fournette.
After Week 2, Jackson was all but a household name. Jackson compiled an ACC record 610 yards of total offense, five touchdowns, and one ridiculous hurdle (otherwise known as the Lamar Leap) in a route of Syracuse.
The little engine that almost did, SDSU RB Donnel Pumphrey put his name in the discussion with 281 yards against Cal. Royce Freeman ran for over 200 yards back when Oregon was still considered good. Leonard Fournette didn’t play due to an ankle injury and his Heisman campaign all but died at this moment.
After Week 3 the Heisman Trust basically began engraving Lamar Jackson’s name onto the stiff-arming trophy. Personally it felt too soon, but it felt so right. In Week 3, Jackson and Louisville torched then #3 Florida State, eliminating Seminole Heisman candidate Dalvin Cook from the discussion at the moment and supplanting Jackson into the minds of college football fans around the country permanently. At this time, Stanford’s Christian McCaffrey and Deshaun Watson, former Heisman finalists from 2015, were playing terrific football, unfortunately it was the same old story with them. Jackson was new, fresh, different. Louisville was exciting, explosive, energetic. College football looked easy for them and nobody saw it coming.
*Jabrill Peppers entered the discussion by showing off his unique skill set. A skill set that is basically every skill set any player could have in college football.
Just when you thought Jackson couldn’t do anything crazier, his Week 4 stat line looked like this: 479 yards and seven TD’s later. We’re only in Week 4 and Jackson has lapped everybody else. At this point, many really good football players had a good game here or there. Nobody was on Jackson’s level week in and week out. Greg Ward Jr. and Josh Dobbs of Tennessee all playing well at this point to garner some attention as well, but their stats were great any other year, just JV this year.
Week 5 featured the game of the season and a what would eventually be the top two Heisman candidates when Louisville battled Clemson. Even in defeat, Jackson looked phenomenal. The trend of looking good and losing would later prove at the end of the season that win/losses were not as heavily weighted as performance for a certain Heisman winner. In victory, Deshaun Watson made his case for Heisman relevancy once again after a relatively sluggish start by Watson’s standards. Jackson had over 450 yards of offense and two TD’s, Watson had nearly 400 yards of offense and five TD’s. This is probably the only game Watson would get the better of Jackson.
Week 6, with Jackson on a bye many candidates came out of the the wood-works to showcase their Heisman potential. Washington’s Jake Browning threw six TD’s in a route of Oregon. Jabrill Peppers, utility player extraordinaire, had three carries for 74 yards and two touchdowns. Deshaun Watson did Deshaun Watson and threw for four TD’s. Although several players had terrific games, even on a bye week Jackson’s statistical total was still so astronomically beyond what everyone else had, not much ground was covered in Week 6.
Week 7 featured a bad game by Jackson. Of course a bad game by Jackson was still 144 yards rushing and accounting for a couple TD’s in a close victory against Duke. Donnel Pumphrey kept on trucking, leading the country in rushing at this point and on pace to become the FBS all-time leading rusher before Heisman votes would be cast. Certainly a significant feat that would have gone a long way to receiving Heisman votes.
Week 8 and back to the same for Jackson, 400+ yards of total offense and four TD’s. Jake Browning is probably the runner-up for the Heisman at this point. The fact that Jackson is, was and will be the definitive Heisman front-runner with no sure-fire runner-up for the majority of the season, really demonstrates the amount of separation Jackson had on everybody else at this point.
Week 9 and the Lamar Jackson Show just continued. A last minute game-winning TD pass against Virginia and there really was nothing Jackson could not do. The only argument against Jackson at this point is simple fact that other “candidates” are on undefeated teams. Browning, Watson, Peppers, Alabama DL Jonathan Allen, are all having outstanding years at this point and they are playing on the top teams in college football. Other than that, Jackson is a one man wrecking ball destroying every candidate (on paper) in site.
Week 10 and you already know the story. As for the other guys, Jake Browning is back up to runner-up with six TD’s and 378 passing yards against Cal. Week 10 featured a new guy to the party, D’Onta Foreman, RB for Texas ran for 341 yards and three TD’s against Texas Tech. Unfortunately Foreman played on a bad team otherwise he likely would’ve pushed Jackson’s a bit.
Week 11 and Washington loses to USC, Michigan loses to Iowa, Clemson loses to Pitt, and Browning, Peppers, Watson lose whatever argument they might have had over Jackson in the process. Meanwhile in Norman, Oklahoma, Baker Mayfield and Dede Westbrook are running through the Big-12. Once the forgotten Heisman candidate with two early losses, Mayfield was actually the hottest player in the country at this point and Westbrook was the beneficiary. The vice-versa could also be said on the Sooners dynamic duo.
Week 12 and wait, what? Lamar Jackson has an awful game. What terrible timing. Louisville gets lampooned in Houston, 36-10 and Jackson looked pedestrian. Certainly this could drop him in the Heisman ranks. Or nah? Turns out Jackson could have stopped playing after week 9 and his stats would still be the outlandish.
Week 13 and another loss for Jackson and Louisville. Wait, what? Again? This loss was more reminiscent of the loss against Clemson than at Houston. Jackson put up great numbers in defeat, 281 yards passing, 171 yards rushing and four TD’s. Deshaun Watson booked his ticket to NYC with a six TD performance against South Carolina.
Conference Championship week followed immediately after the conference season. No Lamar Jackson, so there was one final opportunity to impress voters before Heisman deliberation. It was during this championship week that we would come to learn that voters did in fact reward players who won on the field and compiled numbers on the stat sheet. With 288 yards passing, three TD’s & 111 yards receiving and one TD, Baker Mayfield and Dede Westbrook were the hottest tandem this side of Kimye. Deshaun Watson, proved why he would later win the Davey O’Brien Award (Best Quarterback). Watson accounted for 5 TD’s and 373 total yards in the ACC Championship Game. Oklahoma, although not an official title game did win the BIG-12 with the victory over OK ST. Across the country Jake Browning and Washington thumped Colorado to win the PAC-12 Championship. Browning was not very impressive in victory and, despite putting up admirably efficient numbers, the candle had all but fizzled out on the Browning-for-Heisman flame.
So that brought us to the Heisman Trophy Ceremony. Invited were Jackson, Watson, Oklahoma’s dynamic duo – Mayfield and Westbrook, and Michigan’s Jabrill Peppers. If you’ve read this far I assume you know that Jackson won the Heisman in the exact order I just mentioned by name.
The case against Jackson winning opposed to the other players was simple, Jackson lost more than they did, particularly late in the season. That’s usually a deathwish when compiling a Heisman resumé. In Jackson’s case, he had built up a lead so distant from everybody else, it’s like he took a 10 run lead to the bottom of the ninth and gave up a couple grand slams. He still won. What he did the first dozen or so football games was mind-blowing. Video game characters don’t put up the stats that he did, nor do they dominate with such ease and grace as Jackson did.
Congratulations to Jackson and to all the other Heisman contenders. Jackson blew the lid off from the beginning and nobody could put together enough spectacular games to even touch Jackson. The best part is, we get to do it all over again with Lamar Jackson.