photo via Rob Christy, US Presswire
Rarely does a preseason odds-on favorite win the Heisman Trophy. Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota broke a 10-year drought when he won it in 2014.
Heisman is fickle.
In 2015, Ohio State's Ezekiel Elliott was the frontrunner but TCU's Trevone Boykin caught up to him before a game had even kicked off. LSU's Leonard Fournette was also a frontrunner until Alabama's Derrick Henry, the eventual 2015 Heisman winner, stole his thunder in a 30-16 beatdown.
Ohio State quarterback JT Barrett has been a watch-lister for how many years?
Louisville quarterback Lamar Jackson was named the 2016 Heisman Trophy winner but he was not in any conversations prior to the beginning of the season.
The preseason hype is as predictable as a Swiss train: a Pac-12 quarterback, SEC running back, Big 12 quarterback or an ACC skilled player will, according to the pundits, win the Heisman Trophy. Stir in a Buckeye quarterback to appease the folks in the Heartland. Then shake things up in November with a new frontrunner.
Lather, rinse, repeat.
Here are the current odds for the 2017 Heisman Trophy winner.
Sam Darnold, QB, USC (4-1)
Saquon Barkley, RB, Penn State (7-1)
Baker Mayfield, QB, Oklahoma (15-2)
JT Barrett, QB, OSU and Lamar Jackson, QB, Louisville (8-1)
Darnold, if he meets the exceedingly high expectations set upon him, will be the greatest quarterback USC has ever fielded in one season. He is a game-changer every time he scrambles out of the pocket. He's got this, right?
Since he is the preseason frontrunner, count him out.
Barkley is fun to watch. He has great speed and is such a threat in the open field. If Barkley were playing for Alabama, this would be an easy pick. But he plays for a Big Ten team that is coached by a former SEC head coach.
Tough luck, kid.
Mayfield is a sleeper. While most of the so-called experts do not expect the offense to change much under Lincoln Riley, the Sooners are still going to have to win the Big 12 outright (without a non-conference loss) in order for Mayfield to get more respect.
Since Oklahoma plays at Ohio State, that looks like too tall of an order.
Barrett has been a Heisman watch-lister for three years running. He's the Big Ten's Andrew Luck.
We all know how that turned out for the Cardinal bridesmaid.
Jackson is this year's marked man. It would be cool for a Louisville quarterback to become only the second player in history to win the Heisman twice. The Midwest voters might not allow that to happen.
Archie Griffin can once again relax this year.
So who is left to pick up the pieces and mark his stake in the Heisman race? These players should be watched closely.
UCLA quarterback Josh Rosen has the arm to win it. Unfortunately, his personality might polarize some Heisman voters, especially those living in the Deep South.
Washington quarterback Jake Browning was in the race last year but USC's defense took him out of the running. The Huskies avoid the Trojans this year but face Colorado and Stanford on the road.
LSU's Derrius Guice is not getting enough attention although his appearance at SEC Media Days was the talk of SEC Country. If Guice runs for more than 150 yards against Alabama, he can add New York City to his December travel plans.
On the flip side, if Alabama quarterback Jalen Hurts beats Florida State with his arm and feet in the Crimson Tide's season opener, then the only thing standing in his way of winning the Heisman is LSU on November 4.
Florida State quarterback Deondre Francois has huge upside but if he cannot beat Alabama on September 2, his chances of winning the Heisman are greatly diminished.
Texas quarterback Shane Buechele turned some heads in last season's thrilling overtime victory against Notre Dame. He will need to be more consistent if he wants a New York invite.
Oklahoma State quarterback Mason Rudolph is flying way below the radar. Rudolph's 28-4 TD-INT ratio was impressive but he wants more Heisman love then he must become more of a field general.
The Heisman race can get complicated when a team has too much talent. When there is more than one Heisman contender on a team, they often split Heisman votes and in essence, cancel each other out.
The potential canceled:
Georgia running backs Nick Chubb and Sony Michel.
Arizona State running backs Demario Richard and Kalen Ballage.
Oregon quarterback Justin Herbert and running back Royce Freeman.
Notre Dame running backs Josh Adams and Dexter Williams.
Penn State quarterback Trace McSorley, via running back Barkley.
Playing in a Power Five conference certainly elevates one's visibility. More eyes are watching Saturday morning and afternoon games. Unfortunately, the Group of Five schools in the West play the majority of their games in the late afternoon or evenings. They lose a large portion of viewers east of the Mississippi River.
Since the Group of Five's schedules tend to be softer, voters may dismiss the gaudy numbers posted by quarterbacks or running backs.
BYU quarterback Tanner Mangum gets canceled out by his team's weak schedule. So do
South Florida quarterback Quinton Flowers and Memphis quarterback Riley Ferguson.
Can a Group of Five school overcome? Maybe.
Last year I had San Diego State running back Donnel Pumphrey in the first slot of my Heisman ballot.
Toledo quarterback Logan Woodside was in my Top 5 in mid-November. (Interestingly, I also had Darnold and Hurts on that list). The Rockets' crushing loss to No. 14 Western Michigan took Woodside out of the Heisman race. He is back in the race this year and all eyes should be on him when Toledo travels to Miami to take on the Hurricanes.
Boise State has beaten enough Power Five teams to demand respect from pollsters and voters. Quarterback Brett Rypien, nephew of former NFL quarterback Mark Rypien, was a 4-star prepster and could lead the Broncos to a College Football Playoff semifinal.
The bottom line is that there is plenty of talent to make 2017 one of the more contested Heisman races in history.
Despite the media's proclivity in wanting to predict a Heisman winner before the season has ended (just ask West Virginia quarterback Geno Smith), there are too many candidates that have yet to make their impact known.