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Wednesday, September 22, 2021

Mac Jones has been one of college football's most impressive players on one of its best teams.

Gameday V: Heisman Trophy will likely come down to Jones, Trask

As more and more college football games get cancelled each week, we as fans and sportswriters alike cling to any shred of normalcy that we can. This year’s Heisman candidates have given us exactly that; all of the reasonable candidates are quarterbacks, the position that has taken home nine of the last ten trophies. Some of the candidates were expected to be on this list coming into the season. Others, not so much. Without further ado, here are some of the top players in the Heisman race this year.

Mac Jones, QB, Alabama

The junior from Jacksonville has quietly set the SEC on fire this season with 23 touchdowns to just three interceptions. No matter how accustomed one may be to seeing Saban-coached shot-callers putting up numbers like this, they’re impossible to ignore considering the level Alabama has been playing at. 

In just five games, Jones has 2,728 passing yards and a 95.5 QBR, the latter of which is the best in the country. His 8-0 Crimson Tide have knocked off in-state rival Auburn and No. 3 Georgia, and Jones combined for a 72.4% completion rate, 719 passing yards, nine touchdowns and just one interception in those games.

Jones’ impressive marks against high-level competition make him an obvious Heisman candidate, and Vegas agrees; Jones’ +140 odds to win the trophy are second best in the nation.

Kyle Trask, QB, Florida

The only player in the country with better Heisman odds than Jones? Manvel, Texas’ own Kyle Trask. The 6-foot-5 senior quarterback has a 34:3 touchdown-to-interception ratio and 2,810 passing yards through eight games. The Gators do have one loss on the season to Texas A&M, but Trask can’t be blamed for the 41-38 loss; he still threw for 312 yards, 4 touchdowns and zero interceptions in that game.

Against ranked opponents (No. 5 Georgia and No. 21 Texas A&M), Trask has thrown for 786 yards, eight touchdowns, and one interception. Trask’s 474 passing yards against the Bulldogs was likely both his toughest test so far and his highest yardage total for any single game. 

Trask clearly does not have the luxury of the stifling defense that Mac Jones has on the other side of the ball; the Gators have allowed 35+ points to opposing teams three times this season, and twice to unranked opponents. But both Vegas and, seemingly, Heisman voters are smartly not holding that against the bonafide star.

Trevor Lawrence, QB, Clemson

If you asked anyone who knows anything about college football who the 2020-21 Heisman Trophy winner would be before the season started, nine out of ten would have told you Trevor Lawrence. His legendary college career has seen him win a National Championship as a freshman, and he didn’t slow down his sophomore season.

Now, as a junior, Lawrence has had his least impressive season so far, but that isn’t saying much. Lawrence missed two games due to COVID-19, including a marquee matchup against No. 2 Notre Dame. He has 19 passing touchdowns and four rushing scores to just two interceptions on the season and tore apart the only ranked opponent he faced this year in seventh-ranked Miami. 

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Lawrence’s numbers are undoubtedly a step down from previous years, but that doesn’t make him any less of an elite quarterback. Perhaps he can gain some extra Heisman momentum this weekend as his Tigers play Virginia Tech. While he may be a longshot now, college football fans have learned to never count out Lawrence. And perhaps he’ll even have another shot at the trophy next year if he spurns the New York Jets and chooses to return for his senior season.

Zach Wilson, QB, BYU

This 6-foot-3 junior from Draper, Utah is one of college football’s biggest surprises this year. Wilson has tallied 26 passing touchdowns, 2,724 passing yards and just two interceptions. Wilson is significantly more mobile than the other quarterbacks on this list with 191 rushing yards on the season and eight rushing touchdowns. His dual-threat style has led his Cougars to a 9-0 record, albeit against significantly weaker competition than his counterparts.

Wilson’s Cougars are an offensive powerhouse; they have scored 50+ points in four games and scored under 40 in just one (a 27-20 victory against UTSA). BYU has not played since Nov. 21 due to COVID-19, and the program garnered national attention when they seemingly refused to play against the University of Washington until they knew where they were ranked in the weekly AP Poll. But Wilson will be back in action this weekend in what will strangely be his toughest matchup so far: No. 18 Coastal Carolina. 

DeVonta Smith, WR, Alabama

I can’t help but put a non-quarterback on this list, and senior wideout DeVonta Smith has been college football’s best position player this year. He’s a major reason why Mac Jones has been so successful. Smith has four multi-touchdown games this season, and scored four against Mississippi State alone. 

The Amite, La. native has 72 catches, 1,074 yards and 12 touchdowns through the Crimson Tide’s eight games. He tallied a rushing touchdown against Ole Miss as well. 

Smith is certainly an explosive receiver, but he is also incredibly reliable; there’s a reason he has 6+ receptions in every game this season, and double-digit catches in three games. His best performance this year came against No. 3 Georgia, in which he notched 11 catches for 167 yards and two scores.

Smith is a big-time longshot for the Heisman trophy; many of his accomplishments will be attributed to quarterback Mac Jones, even if Smith does most of the work on a given play. Regardless, Smith’s stellar accomplishments this year are worthy of recognition.

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