We are down to 75 days remaining until the kickoff of the 2018-19 college football season. It’ll be the fifth anniversary of the College Football Playoff system, and so far Alabama has received an invite to all of them. Since the playoff system was established during the 2014 season, Alabama has celebrated two national championships (2015, 2017) and one Heisman Trophy winner (Derrick Henry, 2015). Henry became only the 3rd running back to win the Heisman since 2000, although Reggie Bush forfeited his award from the 2005 season due to breaking NCAA rules.
Since the NBA season has now come to an end, it’s never too early to take a look at the field for the Heisman Trophy in 2018. Let’s begin by breaking down some interesting facts:
- Looking at every Heisman winners since the start of the CFB Playoff, three of the four winners were on playoff-bound schools.
- 10 of the last 15 winners ended their Heisman campaign playing in the National Championship game.
- Since 2003, only two seniors have won the Heisman Trophy (over 73% have been sophomores or juniors)
- The first sophomore to win the Heisman was Tim Tebow in 2007 for the Florida Gators.
- The first freshman to win the Heisman was Johnny Manziel in 2012 for the Texas A&M Aggies (followed by Jameis Winston as the second freshman ever in 2013 for Florida State).
- Stanford’s head coach, David Shaw, has now coached four different Heisman Trophy Candidates (Toby Gerhart, Andrew Luck, Christian McCaffery, and Bryce Love).
- Archie Griffin of Ohio State is the only player in history to repeat as the Heisman Trophy winner (1974, 1975).
- Lamar Jackson was the youngest Heisman Trophy winner in 2016 (19 years, 337 days), and Chris Weinke in 2000 was the oldest (28).
- Notre Dame and Ohio State are tied with the most Heisman Trophy winners (7)
As the weeks go by this summer moving us closer to Fall camp, we will undoubtedly hear about injuries, off-field instances, violations and more. That is why we will not go too deep into this in June. Instead, here are the top-10 Heisman Trophy candidates based on their odds heading into 2018, followed by my front-runner, wildcard, and dark horse.
Top-10 Heisman Trophy Candidates for the 2018-19 Season (odds via Bovada)
- Jonathan Taylor (RB, Wisconsin, So.) 7-1
- Bryce Love (RB, Stanford, Sr.) 8-1
- Tua Tagovailoa (QB, Alabama, So.) 8-1
- Trevor Lawrence (QB, Clemson, Fr.) 9-1
- Jake Fromm (QB, Georgia, So.) 12-1
- Khalil Tate (QB, Arizona, Jr.) 14-1
- J.K. Dobbins (RB, Ohio State, So.) 15-1
- Jarrett Stidham (QB, Auburn, RS Jr.) 16-1
- Justin Herbert (QB, Oregon, Jr.) 18-1
- Trace McSorley (QB, Penn State, RS Sr.) 18-1
Jonathan Taylor (RB, Wisconsin, 7-1) — There’s a reason Taylor has the best odds heading into his sophomore season with the Wisconsin Badgers. As a freshman, JT broke the college football freshman rushing record. He surpassed Adrian Peterson’s record of 1,925 yards, gaining 1,977 yards after a 130 yard game in their Orange Bowl victory over Miami. Even scarier than a running back coming off of nearly a 2,000-yard season, is that fact that Wisconsin returns their entire starting offensive line for 2018. Taylor finished 2017 with 13 rushing touchdowns and only 3 touchdowns in his final 8 games of the season. He will need to find the end zone more in 2018 in order to find himself as a finalist in December.
Trevor Lawrence (QB, Clemson, 9-1) — Again, only two freshmen have ever won the Heisman Trophy. However, both of those players were selected in the last six season. Johnny Manziel paved a new path for freshman phenoms, proving that experience is not needed in order to be crowned the most outstanding player in college football. There has been a lot of hype surrounding the #1 QB and overall player in the 2018 high school class. Lawrence threw for 13,902 yards, 161 touchdowns (breaking DeShaun Watson’s Georgia state touchdown record), and only 21 interceptions at Cartersville High School in Georgia. He stands 6’6”, has a rocket of an arm, and has the ability to extend plays with his legs. Lawrence showed off that ability during Clemson’s spring game, where he completed 11 of 16 for 122 yards and a touchdown. Although the quarterback battle is still between him and Kelly Bryant, Lawrence only helped his chances this spring. If given the opportunity, he will be given the keys to a program eyeing their fourth straight CFB Playoff appearance.
Cam Akers (RB, Florida State, 25-1) — The Seminoles did not have a great season, finishing 7-6 and seeing head coach Jimbo Fisher pack his bags for Texas A&M. However, Akers had himself a terrific freshman campaign. Akers broke Dalvin Cook’s freshman rushing record that was set in 2014. He finished the 2017 season with 1,024 yards on the ground and 8 total touchdowns. There were only two games that he carried the ball more than 20 times, but that is sure to change with Willie Taggart entering his first season as head coach of the ‘Noles. Taggart brings with him a Gulf Coast offense that will be perfect for Akers and fellow teammate Jacques Patrick. Patrick is the thunder, and Akers is the lightning. Look for the Florida State offense to utilize the explosiveness and big-play ability of Akers by getting him more involved in the passing game, and maybe even throwing a pass or two himself. If Florida State is able to showcase Akers as their go-to playmaker in 2018, don’t be surprised to see him in the Heisman conversation come November.