(CBS Local/CBS New York)- The college football season reaches its midway point this week. Amazing how quickly time flies, isn’t it? Anyway, with the midway point comes the beginning of Heisman Trophy discussion. What player should be considered to be that season’s best.
In its history, the award has largely been won by quarterbacks and running backs, with the signal callers taking further ownership of it since the dawn of the new millennia. Since 2000, the award has been given to 16 quarterbacks and just three running backs. Since 2010, only one running back has won the award, Alabama’s Derrick Henry in 2015. Basically what we’re saying is, if you’re not a quarterback, you’re going to have a hard time winning it, barring a ridiculous season.
Well, there is one back out there putting up crazy numbers so far this year who could get some consideration from the voters. But, he has some stiff competition from a pair of SEC quarterbacks and a former SEC signal caller who has taken the reins of Lincoln Riley’s high-flying offense at Oklahoma. To gauge where things stand right now, we asked CBS Sports Network host Brent Stover who he has as his top four guys in the race at the moment and who he would choose based on the season to this point.
Stover’s pick? Oklahoma quarterback Jalen Hurts. The grad transfer is the latest quarterback to arrive in Norman via transfer and immediately succeed in Riley’s system. Following in the footsteps of the last two Heisman winners, Baker Mayfield and Kyler Murray, Hurts has produced at the same ridiculous rate, which is why Stover likes him to hoist the trophy in New York come December. The biggest question about Hurts comes from the quality of opponent that Oklahoma has played so far. The Sooners have yet to be tested, but there is a big one waiting this Saturday with the Red River Shootout rivalry game against Texas.
“He is unbeaten. I think he is going to beat Texas. He has a 75 percent completion rate and over 1,500 yards. The numbers are there,” said Stover. “He has hammered teams, beat UCLA 48-14, beat Texas Tech 55-16, and took care of business against KU, although everybody does. He had a 150-yard rushing game (UCLA), a 170-yard rushing game against Houston. Against Texas Tech he had nine carries for 70 yards. That dual-threat ability, and I think he is just so flashy out there. He is just a hair flashier than Tua this season.”
Speaking of Tua Tagovailoa, the junior, who wrested the Crimson Tide job from Hurts’ hands last season, has continued to light up teams this season. With an embarrassment of riches at wide receiver, he is completing over 76 percent of his passes for 1,718 yards, 23 touchdowns and zero interceptions. The Tide, like the Sooners, are undefeated and appear to be ready to make a potential playoff appearance. The runner-up to Dwayne Haskins last year has a chance to make statements in November when the Tide face LSU and Auburn.
After Hurts and Tagovailoa, Stover has Wisconsin running back Jonathan Taylor at third in his current rankings. Taylor, a junior for the Badgers, is having the kind of season that gets a running back plenty of attention in this pass-happy era. Through five games, he has rushed for 745 yards at a 7.2 yards per carry clip with 12 rushing touchdowns. Add to that 12 receptions for 114 yards and four touchdowns and you have the recipe for at the least a top-three finish, if he continues on that pace. The Badgers are slowly gaining more recognition as a legit contender to Ohio State’s presumed throne in the Big Ten, and the teams’ matchup on October 26th will be an opportunity for a Heisman moment.
The final guy that Stover pointed out, who has broken out in a big way to this point, is LSU quarterback Joe Burrow. The fifth-year senior’s play has been a revelation to this point, leading an LSU offense that leads the country in points per game, averaging just under 55 per outing. His completion percentage has jumped to 78 percent (last year it was 57.8), and he has thrown for over 1,700 yards with 22 touchdowns and three interceptions. Of the four, Burrow has probably passed the biggest test, beating Texas a few weeks back in a shootout (though Taylor’s performance against Michigan certainly is worthy of mention).
He has another test ahead of him this week with the #7 Florida Gators coming to Baton Rouge. And, if he’s standing on the stage accepting the Heisman in December, he’ll certainly have earned it, as the Tigers still have games against Mississippi State, Auburn and Alabama waiting for them immediately following the Florida game.
Overall, Hurts may have the lead at the halfway mark, but there is still plenty of time and marquee matchups for someone to make a statement and overtake him.