What We Learned From Championship Weekend

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Playing this weekend without Lamar Jackson stealing the highlights was a first for many of the Heisman candidates. With the bright lights and the big stage, who improved their position, who showed their true Heisman colors and who stumbled underneath the immense pressure HeismanWatch.com puts on college football players to make our website great.

Jake Browning proved once again that he is a really good, extremely efficient quarterback.  Having 42 TD passes to only seven INT’s backs that up.  However, Washington is so balanced that they’ve never really relied on Browning to carry the load.  His 252 passing yards is impressive but it’s only good for 36th in the country.  To be honest, I’m not entirely convinced Browning is even the best offensive player on his own team.  RB Myles Gaskin went over 1,300 yards for the 2nd consecutive year.  Wide receiver John Ross is exceptional with his run-after-catch ability and it’s shown with 1,122 and 17 TD’s including this insane catch in the PAC-12 Championship:

Washington and Jake Browning have had a ‘team first’ mentality all year long.  There has been very little Heisman campaigning from the school in Seattle compared to other candidates.  There’s nothing wrong with that, nothing but respect actually.  But in terms of the Heisman race it hasn’t exactly helped his argument. Friday’s game proved that Washington is really good all-around and has bigger priorities than the Heisman.


 

Opposite of Browning, Clemson relies heavily on Deshaun Watson and the pass game to win football games, and win football games is what Deshaun Watson does best.  With 373 total yards and five TD’s on Saturday, it’s feasible to think that Watson may have done enough to combat first place votes away from ‘Heisman front-runner’ Lamar Jackson.  What Watson lacks in rushing yards and rushing TD’s that Jackson has, he makes up for in wins and lack of losses.  Depending on any Heisman voters criteria, Watson checks a lot of Heisman boxes:

Competing for National Championship: ✅

Huge numbers throwing (3,914 yards, 37 TD’s):✅

Conference Champions: ✅

Saturday night, Watson proved that he can carry the team.  As well as leading the game in passing, Watson led the game in rushing, making big play after big play to seal the ACC Championship once again, for the Clemson Tigers.  Did Watson do enough to overtake Jackson and win a Heisman?  That depends on where a voter’s priorities are; stats or wins/losses.


Does the quarterback make the receiver or the receiver make the quarterback?  Not sure but I do know when they’re both exceptional you have one of the most dangerous duos in college football.  That duo is  Baker Mayfield and Dede Westbrook.  Westbrook unfortunately left the game early against Oklahoma St. due to concussion protocol.  He was on pace for another huge game, having 4 catches for 111 yards and a sick 69 yard TD catch.

Westbrook finished his Heisman resumé with 1,465 yards (6th in FBS), 19.8 yards per reception (1st among receivers with min. 60 receptions), and 16 TD’s (t-4th in FBS).  Not only are his season stats impressive, he’s basically done it all the last nine games.  Since Oct. Westbrook has averaged 145.7 receiving yards per game and scored all 16 of his TD’s.  Hitting the Heisman race with momentum.

For his teammate, Baker Mayfield has been….well….Baker Mayfield.  The same Mayfield we saw last year only finely tuned.  He’s run less which has protected his health and has completed passes at a higher rate (71.2%, first in FBS) but still creates big play after big play with his scrambling pocket awareness. There are two stats work in Mayfield’s favor in regards to the Heisman; yards/attempt and QB rating.  Odd I know, but check out recent winners and where they ranked in these stat categories:

2014 – Marcus Mariota: Y/A -10.0. QB rating – 181.7 (1st in both)

2013 – Jameis Winston: Y/A – 10.6. QB rating – 184.8 (1st in both)

2012 – Johnny Manziel: Y/A – 8.5.  QB rating – 155.3 (not close to 1st or 2nd but made up for it by running for 1400 yards and 21 TD’s)

2011 – Robert Griffin III: Y/A – 10.7.  QB rating – 189.5 (1st in y/a, 2nd in rating)

2010 – Cam Newton: Y/A – 10.2.  QB rating – 182.0 (1st in y/a, 2nd in rating)

2008 – Sam Bradford: Y/A – 9.8.  QB rating – 180.8 (2nd in y/a, 1st in rating)

2007 – Tim Tebow: Y/A – 9.4.  QB rating – 172.5 (1st in y/a, 2nd in rating)

Baker Mayfield is 1st in the FBS in Y/A with 11.1 and 1st in the FBS in QB rating with 197.8.  Both of which are higher than any of these previous Heisman winners.  Interesting.

The best and worst part about having another teammate as a serious Heisman contender: one is going to take votes away from the other, but at least they can fly together to NYC if it all works out for the two Sooners.


Jalen Hurts is going to win a Heisman.  It’s just not going to be in 2016.  Alabama is a juggernaut and Hurts is going to reap the benefits from having an All American cast around him at some point.  Saturday proved that the Tide can win and win big without Hurts having a huge game…without Hurts having an average game…without playing a quarterback at all they were going to beat Florida.  They’re that good.  Playing like a seasoned vet, Hurts’ game is going to grow into a weapon so dangerous, he alone will strike fear into opponents, let alone his NFL-ready teammates.  So don’t feel bad for him if he’s not invited to NYC.  Sky’s the limit for Hurts.


Unfortunately this underdog story never reached the climax before Heisman votes will be turned in.  SDSU running back Donnel Pumphrey fell 10 yards shy of leading the country in rushing.  More importantly, Pumphrey is 108 yards shy of Ron Dayne’s all-time rushing record.  It’s certainly possible he can reach that milestone in the Aztecs’ bowl game against Houston, (although the Cougars have the 2nd best rush defense in the country) the moment has passed for Pumphrey to make a lasting impression on Heisman voters.  It’s too bad because personally, I was rooting for him to break the record, go undefeated, win a Heisman for a small conference school (a feat that hasn’t been done in 26 years) and proceed to thank HeismanWatch.com during his acceptance speech.  We can all dream big.


So if we learned anything it’s that Lamar Jackson is still the guy to beat, despite getting beaten in consecutive weeks and not having played this weekend.  What he’s accomplished this season is forever imprinted on the minds of football fans across the country.  Sure these candidates that played this weekend will be able to make a strong case for Heisman glory in their area of the land, but Jackson is known coast-to-coast as the best player in college football and its been that way for a long, long time now.

 

 

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