In the closest race in Heisman Trophy history, an Alabama running back finished just ahead of a hard-charging tailback from Stanford in 2009.
Can you say déjà vu in 2015? Maybe so.
Six years after Mark Ingram edged out Toby Gerhart by a scant 28 points for the trophy, the Heisman Trophy race this season may very well produce the same photo finish, with the top contenders running neck-and-neck-and neck in a way that we have not seen in some time.
Other sports news organizations have done their projections on how the Heisman race is shaping up from week to week, and it made us wonder: I wonder how close the Heisman race would be if I got the other A Lot of Sports Talk Top 25 pollsters to provide their Top 3 candidates?
Well, that’s just we did before we published this story, and we also got our answer below: VERY CLOSE!
We asked each of our Top 25 pollsters to provide their ballot going into this Sunday, and the following is the results of the voting. Again, each pollsters sent in three names, with a first-place vote counting for three points, a second-place vote counting for two points and a third-place vote counting for one point.
1. Deshaun Watson, QB, Clemson (14 points, three first-place votes): It helps that Watson plays the glamour position of quarterback. It also helps that he plays for the team that’s the No. 1 team in the nation. The second we saw Watson perform on a big stage, which was last-season’s near upset of top-ranked Florida State in Tallahassee, we knew he was something special. When we saw him light up rival South Carolina with a blown ACL we knew there was a chance he was superhuman. If it seems as if he doesn’t have one game that stands out as his “Heisman moment,” you might be right, but that may speak to his consistency more than anything else. Though Watson was very pedestrian through the air in the Oct. 3 win vs. Notre Dame (10-for-21, 84 yards), he did throw for two touchdowns and ran for 93 yards with a touchdown rush to boot. In two of his last three games, he’s rushed for over 100 yards to go along with stellar passing numbers in wins against Florida State and Syracuse. He’s a lock to head to New York, and if he can cap off the season with a stellar performance in the ACC Championship Game against a top-ranked North Carolina team, he might become the first Clemson Tiger to ever win the Heisman.
T2. Derrick Henry, RB, Alabama (11 points, two first-place votes): It’s obvious that a good part of the country has experienced some sort of “SEC-is-so-so-great” fatigue at some stage in the past few years, but it’s hard – well, impossible – to deny some of the great individual performers that have made the league what it is today. Also, a number of those players have ended up with the Heisman Trophy (Tim Tebow, Ingram, Cam Newton, Johnny Manziel), and Henry looks to be next in line. If he was a fringe contender last month, he has vaulted to the top in just a few weeks. In a four-game stretch between Oct. 17 and Nov. 14, Henry averaged 198.3 rushing yards per game with nine rushing touchdowns. In three of those games (at Texas A&M, vs. LSU and at Mississippi State), he’s rushed for over 200 yards. Even in the Tide’s only loss, on Sept. 19 vs. Ole Miss, Henry was able to go for 127 yards against the Landshark defense while also catching five passes. After seeing what early Heisman front-runner Leonard Fournette did to Auburn’s wretched run defense earlier this season, what will Henry do to War Eagle in the Iron Bowl?
T2. Christian McCaffrey, RB, Stanford (11 points, two first-place votes): McCaffrey, the son of former NFL wide receiver and Super Bowl champion Ed McCaffrey, might have accumulated more “Heisman moments” than any other player on the list, and he’ll have a huge showcase once again to burn some serious rubber as the Cardinal get ready to play a primetime game on The Farm against College Football Playoff contender Notre Dame. His latest feat of strength came in “The Game” against California, where we went for a school-record 389 all-purpose yards, including 192 rushing yards and 148 return yards. It’s the special teams exploits that have McCaffrey right in the mix, as he’s the FBS leader in all purpose yards per game (255.2).
4. Baker Mayfield, QB, Oklahoma (4 points): Going into this season, the Sooners’ situation at the quarterback position could have been described as one of mystery. Could the Texas Tech transfer, Baker Mayfield, be the answer that Trevor Knight – who won the MVP of the 2014 Sugar Bowl game in a win against Alabama – was thought to be before his disappointing 2014 season? Consider that question answered in the affirmative, as Mayfield has put the Sooners in position to play in the College Football Playoff and has been the best quarterback in a league (Big 12) full of talented signal-callers. After his shaky 19-for-39, three-touchdown, two-interception performance in the double-overtime victory at Tennessee, Mayfield has thrown 27 touchdowns and only three picks in his last 257 passes. Though he left the TCU game last week with a head injury, Mayfield is slated to start the season finale in Stillwater against Oklahoma State. His biggest opponent when he goes up against the sea of orange may actually be…his girlfriend!
5. Keenan Reynolds, QB, Navy (2 points): All the time, players get invited to New York City because they’re one of the best in the country on the field. Sometimes, those players get an invite as a “lifetime achievement award” acknowledgment, which means he’s not necessarily a serious candidate to win the trophy but serving as a way to call attention to the great play and statistics one has put up for many years. The Midshipmen quarterback falls into both categories. Taking this season into account only, Reynolds, who may be the best service academy quarterback not named Roger Staubach, is at 1,009 yards rushing, averages five yards per carry and has 23 total touchdowns (18 rushing, five passing). He’s only been performing at this high level ever since he arrived in Annapolis, as he has scored a total of 82 touchdowns (all rushing), an FBS record for rushing touchdowns and just two shy of the overall Division I record. Oh, and the Midshipmen are 9-1 on the season and on the inside track to earning a New Year’s Six bowl game spot, needing a win in Houston and a triumph in the American Athletic Conference Championship Game to all but sew that up. The fact that he’s from a service academy will be a touch to the Heisman Trophy presentation that it hasn’t seen in a long while, and it would make the occasion even more grand.
That’s out Top 5. What’s yours?
Our sincere thanks to the A Lot of Sports Talk College Football Poll, who not only went above the call of duty of providing their Heisman ballots along with their Top 25 polls, but could also be counted on for Heisman performances any time they take the field for a flag football game. As always, here are the seven people who combine to bring you our insightful aggregate poll: T.J. Basalla (super fan, marketing professional based in Ohio), Evie Van Pelt (managing editor at The Rebel Walk Magazine), Basil Mitchell (former TCU and Green Bay Packers RB), Sandy Weintraub (super fan, Director of Student Conduct and Community Standards at the University of Oregon), Nick Mancuso (patent attorney who attended USC as an undergrad and Oregon for law school), Adesina Koiki (Football Writers Association of America member/voter, A Lot Of Sports Talk editor-in-chief) and an anonymous football staff member at a Division II school who once coached at the FBS level.
Here is ALOST‘s 2015 College Football Top 25 for Week 13. If you have any comments and/or complaints, write them below on the Facebook window or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. We’d love to hear from you.
Looking at all of the possible conference championship matchups, that Clemson-UNC matchup is the juiciest. (T.J. Basalla)
Assuming the Tide defeats Auburn, I guess the Bama-UF matchup would be the least juiciest conference title matchup – and that includes conference title games in The American and the Mid-American. But, going back to the first SEC title game in 1992, those Florida-Alabama games have a penchant for producing lots of drama. (Adesina Koiki)
Go back to August and say this statement to me: “Iowa will be 11-0 and two wins away from a spot in the College Football Playoff.” August me will LAUGH until I cannot breathe. November me is just impressed with Iowa. (T.J.)
Did anybody see Mark Dantonio postgame? Not a happy man after a huge win. Have fun Mark! Your team beat OSU! (Sandy Weintraub)
Am I the only one who hasn’t forgotten that Sparty lost to a terrible Nebraska team and almost lost at home to an even worse Purdue team? The Ohio State win is fantastic, but let’s not forget the full record. (T.J.)
Though they occupy the No. 5 spot here, Boomer Sooner just climbed to the No. 3 spot in the latest College Football Playoff rankings, and can spit in the eye of all the doubters of the Big 12 for not having a conference title game by taking care of the Cowboys in Stillwater on Saturday. (Adesina)
Remember when most pundits just two weeks ago were ready to pencil the Irish into the Playoff while citing how their presence in the Top 4 was going to cause problems for any Big 12 team trying to leapfrog over them? Well, that seems like a long, long time ago. Even a road win against Stanford to end the season might not be enough to save their Playoff bacon. (Adesina)
I give Art Briles and company credit for having three quarterbacks ready to go. That was an underrated and impressive win in Stillwater. I’d be sad to see them looked over in favor of Oklahoma, but “past history and tradition” doesn’t matter to the committee, right? (Sandy)
Lucky, lucky Gators last week against FAU. But can they beat Alabama in the SEC title game and force the committee to keep out the SEC altogether? (Sandy)
We saw the warning signs from the Buckeyes all season, but I don’t think any of us thought we would see what we saw last Saturday. (T.J.)
One emotional – yet successful – road trip down (Virginia Tech), one more emotional road trip to come, this time in Raleigh against the Wolfpack. (Adesina)
No matter what happens with the rivalry game, Year One of the Harbaugh Era is a huge success. Win the rivalry game? Well let’s take that to another level. (T.J.)
How old is Mike Gundy now? (Sandy)
Christian McCaffrey, for my money, is the best player in America, and try to stop these guys on a 3rd-and-1. It can’t be done. (Sandy)
After controversial calls went against both the Wildcats and Wisconsin on the Badgers’ last drive, the ‘Cats dug deep to make a goal-line stand at the end of the game, preserving another landmark win (13-7) and continuing to build upon an already special season in Evanston. (Adesina)
The buildup for the post-Thanksgiving showdown with Baylor has lost its luster, but the Horned Frogs have to be highly encouraged about being a failed two-point conversion away from beating Oklahoma on the road last weekend. (Adesina)
I’m still stunned no bigger program has gone after Ken Niumatalolo yet. (T.J.)
Want to know why? You go into an athletic director’s office for an interview for the head coaching job and tell him/her that you’re going to run the triple option, and see what happens to you next. (Adesina)
If the Seminoles had eked out a win against either Clemson or Georgia Tech, running back Dalvin Cook would be getting a whole lot more love in Doak Walker Award and Heisman Trophy discussions. (Adesina)
Last season, the Rebels wrecked any chance Mississippi State had at making the College Football Playoff with a two-touchdown victory in Oxford. As sweet as that win was (and every win in the Egg Bowl is sweet), winning in Starkville on Saturday, when State is hungry for revenge and wanting to send Dak Prescott out as a winner in his final home game, might be even sweeter if they pull it off. (Adesina)
Remember Mike Leach’s Texas Tech teams? This Cougar team is similar, but always plays at 10:30 Eastern so they never come up in the national media. Watch the Cougs tomorrow (Friday); they need your love. (Sandy)
This would be an extremely dangerous playoff team now, but sadly, they have three losses. (Sandy)
As it turns out, the loss to Connecticut didn’t impact the Cougars too, too much in terms of their standing and their chances at a New Year’s Six game. They fell behind Navy in the pecking order, but can leapfrog back above them with a win against the Midshipmen on Friday. (Adesina)
Assuming Florida loses to both Florida State and then Alabama in the SEC Championship Game (a likely scenario), the Bulldogs can easily find themselves in the Sugar Bowl as long as they cap off their season with a win against the Rebels. The same can be said for Ole Miss, but, hey, this is Mississippi State’s space on this blog, so we’ll look at it through maroon-tinted glasses. (Adesina)
The last time the Bruins won four straight in the crosstown rivalry was when they capped off an eight-game winning streak against the Trojans with a victory in 1998. Jim Mora would be halfway to achieving that feat with a win in The Coliseum this weekend. (Adesina)
Look who’s back in the New Year’s Six discussion? The Rockets are a win against Western Michigan on Friday away from appearing in the MAC Championship Game, and two wins away from putting a lot of pressure on the Playoff committee in including them with the big boys on New Year’s. (Adesina)
Speaking of not being counted out of the New Year’s Six discussion, the Owls are right in the mix as well. Defeat an improved Connecticut team on Saturday and the Owls are off to the American Athletic Conference title game, where they would go on the road and face a ranked opponent there – either Navy or Houston. Win that as well and the Owls would be in real business to taste some Sugar or eat an Orange or a Peach. (Adesina)
Others receiving votes:
Western Kentucky (7 points), Pittsburgh (6), Utah (6), Marshall (5), San Diego State (5), Wisconsin (5), Southern California (3), LSU (2)
* – To break ties, we used a three-step criteria; 1) higher number of first-place votes, 2) higher number of ballots (out of six) the teams appeared in, 3) highest single ranking by an individual pollster (e.g. if Team A and Team B are tied cumulatively and appeared in all six polls, but Team A’s highest ranking by an individual pollster was No. 7 and Team B’s highest ranking by an individual pollster was No. 9, Team A wins tiebreaker)
[Cover photo (Kirk Ferentz/Iowa players) courtesy of Michael Hickey/Getty Images]