I want to preface this by saying that Lamar Jackson is almost definitely going to win the Heisman Trophy. He’s been awesome all year, his odds coming into this week were 1-50, and the hype around him has reached a point where it would take something absurd for him to lose the award.
But let’s play a fun game, prompted by Jackson struggling in Louisville’s thrashing at the hands of Houston. A lot of people asked the question “will this cost him the Heisman?” It will not, because it’s not Jackson’s fault that the Cardinals’ offensive line was mauled by Ed Oliver and the Cougars’ front seven and then…
*Louisville’s offensive line commits a false start again*
But yeah, this award is still going to Jackson barring something absurd happening. This doesn’t mean we can’t have some fun and consider what happens if a doomsday scenario happens and the award goes to someone else, though.
The name that immediately comes to mind is Jabrill Peppers for two reasons. The first is he’s been fantastic this year – even when he’s not loading up the box score, he’s somehow this magical force that manages to be everywhere at once for the Wolverines’ defense. Plus he’s a return man who is capable of breaking a game open whenever he touches the ball. Sure maybe his stock has fallen a bit in recent weeks. That doesn’t mean he’s not still the nation’s best all-around football player.
More importantly, we haven’t had a “Heisman moment” from anyone this year, mostly because Jackson has been the favorite all year and it’s kind of been a foregone conclusion that he’ll win. But let’s say Michigan is able to walk into Columbus next weekend and beat Ohio State. And let’s say Peppers is everywhere on defense, breaks one in the return game, and makes an impact on offense (he was the team’s leading rusher against the Buckeyes last year and his speed/physicality could be huge against a fast/physical Ohio State defense). Add in the fact that the Wolverines would then take on a Wisconsin team they already beaten in the conference title game and Peppers has more potential to take the award from Jackson than anyone.
There are a bunch of really good running backs who deserve some love – D’Onta Foreman, Dalvin Cook, Saquon Barkley, etc. – but of course, Donnel Pumphrey is the best back in America. If he doesn’t get an invite to the ceremony, I will be furious. Wide receiver has a bunch of dudes who are really good, but Oklahoma’s Dede Westbrook has more hype than anyone else (some love to East Carolina’s Zay Jones, though, because he has 139 catches and 1,473 yards this year, which is absurd, and for the record, the FBS record for receptions in a year is 155, which is about to be broken).
There are a ton of great quarterbacks this year, although Jackson has kind of taken away from how great a lot of dudes have been. Jalen Hurts has been a monster for Alabama. Jake Browning was running in second for a while, but he slipped a bit during Washington’s loss to USC. Speaking of the Trojans, Sam Darnold has been unreal since taking over under center. Deshaun Watson has been really good, even if he’s underwhelmed at times this year, while Luke Falk and Baker Mayfield have both been on point this year.
Oh! I almost forgot Alabama’s Jonathan Allen, who is beyond disruptive along the Crimson Tide’s defensive line. I’ll also put Vanderbilt’s Zach Cunningham in here, because he is the best linebacker in America and deserves love from every single college football fan on earth. Also: if there’s anyone else who deserves some dap, feel free to make their case in the comments, because there is so much talent in the sport this year and not enough time to praise everyone.
So yeah, Jackson is going to win, but in the event that the wheels come off for Louisville and Jackson’s stock plummets for some odd reason, look for Peppers to be the guy who is most likely to make a move. Pumphrey, Hurts, Browning, and Darnold are the other dudes to keep an eye on, and as an aside, those three quarterbacks are the three guys who are most-likely to win the award next year.
Anything can happen over the next two weeks, though – keep your eyes on Barkley (who could help Penn Sate win the Big Ten by running over Rutgers, Michigan State, and Wisconsin) and Westbrook (who may go off against West Virginia and Oklahoma State and lead the Sooners to a potential Playoff birth) as potential late risers who earn invites to New York. Well, anything other than Jackson losing the award. That isn’t happening … probably.
Anyway, let’s talk about this week’s games.