The Heisman Trust announced the finalists for the 2020 Heisman Trophy on Thursday night, narrowing the field of contenders in one of the more wide-open races in recent memory. After the record-setting win by Joe Burrow in 2019 and overwhelming victories by Marcus Mariota in 2014 and Baker Mayfield in 2017 (all three earned at least 85% of the possible voting points with Burrow taking a near-unanimous 93.8% in last year’s balloting), we head to the next stage in the 2020 process with far more intrigue as to who will be hoisting the stiff-arm trophy.
The race has had its twists and turns through the season, but the names are no surprise to anyone that’s followed the best teams in college football this season. Included are the top three quarterbacks in the sport this season along with college football’s most explosive playmaker.
Let’s take a closer look at each finalist’s resume.
Mac Jones, QB, Alabama: The evolution of Alabama’s offense under Nick Saban is made clear with the way Jones has carved his name in the school’s record book in 2020. For example, there are only 10 passing performances of 400+ yards in Alabama history, and Jones has four of them this year, the most by any one quarterback. Jones is also on pace to have the highest completion percentage (76.5) by an Alabama QB in school history while throwing for the second-most passing yards in the nation (3,739). He’s also brought his A-game to the biggest tests with 18 touchdowns and just three interceptions against ranked opponents. With a win, Jones would become just the third Alabama player and first Crimson Tide QB to win the award.
Trevor Lawrence, QB, Clemson: An MVP performance against Notre Dame last Saturday made Lawrence the first starting quarterback to win three ACC Championship Games, and he followed that recognition as the ACC Player of the Year this week. Lawrence is one of the winningest quarterbacks in FBS play since the Division I split in 1978, carrying a 34-1 record into his third-straight College Football Playoff appearance. Lawrence missed two games after a positive COVID-19 test but still managed to total more than 2,700 passing yards, 22 touchdowns and just four interceptions. He ranked in the top 10 nationally in yards per attempt (9.6) and total offense (329.3 yards per game). If Lawrence wins the award, it would be the first for Clemson, though Deshaun Watson was a finalist twice and the runner-up in 2016 during his time as the Tigers’ star quarterback.
DeVonta Smith, WR, Alabama: History is on the line as Smith could be the first non-quarterback to win the award since Derrick Henry in 2015 and the first wide receiver since Desmond Howard in 1991. But even if Smith isn’t hoisting the trophy on Jan. 5, this has been an all-time season by the Crimson Tide wide receiver. Smith is the nation’s leader in receptions (98), receiving yards (1,511) and yards after the catch (768) while ranking second nationally in receiving touchdowns (17) and receiving yards per game (137.4). The added flare to Smith’s performance this year was how he stepped up following the injury to teammate Jaylen Waddle with 13 of those 17 touchdowns coming in the six games after Waddle suffered a fractured ankle returning a kickoff against Tennessee. Smith’s already got himself a place in Alabama history with the program record for career receiving yards (3,620) and single-season receiving touchdowns with the opportunity to build on his second-place status for the single-season reception total in the College Football Playoff.
Kyle Trask, QB, Florida: No one in all of college football has been more prolific than Trask. The redshirt senior leads the FBS in total touchdowns (46), touchdown passes (43), passing yards (4,125) and passing yards per game (375). With three touchdown passes against Alabama in the SEC Championship Game, Trask became just the ninth player in FBS history to throw at least 43 touchdowns through the first 11 games of a season and only the third to accomplish that feat with fewer than 50 attempts per game. He’s the only SEC quarterback to log five 400-yard passing games in a season and his total touchdown count is second only in Florida history to Tim Tebow’s 55 touchdowns (32 passing, 23 rushing) from his Heisman-winning season in 2007. Trask was named to the CBS Sports All-America First Team earlier this week and is hoping to join Tebow, Danny Wuerffel and Steve Spurrier as a Heisman Trophy winner after already staking out his claim as one of the great Florida quarterbacks with his brilliant performance on the field in 2020.
2020 Heisman Trophy top 10 voting
5. Najee Harris, RB, Alabama
6. Breece Hall, RB, Iowa State
7. Justin Fields, QB, Ohio State
8. Zach Wilson, QB, BYU
9. Ian Book, QB, Notre Dame
10. Kyle Pitts, TE, Florida
Pitts became the first tight end to finish in the top 10 of Heisman voting since 1977. He finished with 770 yards and 12 touchdowns in just eight games this season.
As always, the reveal of the voting will be as interesting as the winner itself, especially with multiple players worthy of being tabbed as the “most outstanding player in college football.” There are only three spots on the ballot so voters not only faced the challenge of limiting their choices to three players but then assigning a first, second and third choice value to each one. That information won’t be available until after the winner is announced, at which point we’ll know whether the race was actually as wide open as it seems here at the end of the season.
The 2020 Heisman Trophy will be awarded in a virtual ceremony on Jan. 5 at 7 p.m. ET on ESPN. While we won’t get the line up of former winners or the trip to New York City for each of the finalists, the moment will be no less special for whoever does end up winning the award in this unprecedented season.
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