As the college football season winds to its end, the annual argument about the best football player in the nation is rekindled. Last season, the three front runners for the honor were Stanford running back Christian McCaffrey, Clemson quarterback Deshaun Watson, and eventual winner Derrick Henry of Alabama.
Henry captured the award because of his vital contributions during the last portion of the season and eventually the national championship for Alabama. Henry has since left the college scene, now toting the ball for the Tennessee Titans. McCaffrey and Watson stayed for another year, and are preseason favorites for the award. McCaffrey has performed poorly up to this point in the season, so his hopes of a Heisman have been dashed. Watson, on the other hand, is playing well with his undefeated Tigers. His dreams for a Heisman, as well as those of other college football superstars, are well alive.
As it stands currently, Lamar Jackson of Louisville is the favorite to win the award. The Cardinals have been on a mission this season, posting a strong 7-1 record. Their one loss came at the hands of Clemson. Clemson was ranked third at the time of the game, and Louisville lost by a close margin of 36-42. Jackson is the motor that makes the team go. His stats this year have been out of this world. Going into the season as a run-first quarterback, Jackson has posted a whopping total of 996 rush yards through eight games. He has scored 16 touchdowns on the ground, and averages 6.8 yards per carry.
If any running back had those numbers, he would be a Heisman favorite without a doubt. The thing is, Jackson has also distanced himself from his running reputation. The guy can sling the pigskin as well as anyone. At this point in the season, he has thrown for 2,522 yards and 22 touchdowns. Not only is his style of play explosive and potent, he also takes care of the ball. He has thrown just 5 interceptions. If Louisville continues their winning ways in the latter half of the season, as they should, Jackson should be the obvious choice for Heisman.
Deshaun Watson has kept up his play from the previous season. The quarterback of the Clemson Tigers has been the obvious offensive leader, navigating them through tough games against Louisville and Florida State to the 8-0 record they boast now.
Clemson is favored to make a return to the college football playoff if they win the remainder of their games. A dual threat option like Jackson, Watson has rushed for 331 yards and thrown for 2,328. Watson has thrown for 22 touchdowns and rushed for one. His dangerous arm and potentially dangerous legs make him a game planning nightmare for opposing defensive coordinators, but since he has been playing for the past three seasons, coaches have had time to figure him out, which can explain why he isn’t torching every opponent like he did last season.
That has not stopped him from being successful, as he has only lost one game the past two seasons. If Watson and the Tigers continue their inspired play and Watson plays out of his mind, he has a legitimate shot at winning the prestigious award.
One player that absolutely can’t be ruled out of the race is Michigan star Jabrill Peppers. The linebacker is a bit of an outlier as a defensive player hasn’t won the Heisman since 1997. Where did that player play, you ask? You guessed it, Michigan.
Peppers has been playing outstanding on the defensive side of the ball, tallying 44 total tackles and three sacks. He is the obvious leader of the stingy Michigan defense. His athleticism is not used primarily on defense, however. He is averaging 17 yards per return on punts and 28 yards per return on kickoffs and one brought all the way back for a touchdown. Oh, but the legend of Jabrill Peppers does not end there.
Coaching genius Jim Harbaugh has also used him in the offense. He has rushed for 131 yards on a measly 15 carries, scoring three times. In every facet of the game, Peppers is a threat. That in and of itself makes him a viable option for the Heisman. If Michigan wins their big matchup with Ohio State and Peppers keeps dominating the game, who knows? We could have another Charles Woodson on our hands.
Though these three, and others, are qualified to take home the award, I think Lamar Jackson of Louisville is the clear choice. Yes, others have been outstanding this season, but words can’t describe the eloquent play of Jackson. The way he makes plays, both through his incredible arm and fast legs, is unparalleled in college football. He is a dominant athlete that is head and shoulders above his competitors. The scary thing is, he knows that. He knows he is a beast, and has been taking advantage of defenses all season.
Lamar Jackson is undoubtedly deserving of the Heisman trophy, and anything different is an atrocity to the sport.