This has been one of the hardest choices in years when it comes to the Heisman Trophy. How do you decide between two record-setting SEC quarterbacks? What about their top receivers?
Trevor Lawrence is the favorite to be the No. 1 overall pick in the NFL Draft next spring, but he played fewer games (nine) than 46 teams this season. If Lawrence wins the Heisman Trophy, he would be the first to miss at least one game since Charlie Ward for Florida State in 1993.
But instead of finding ways to nitpick, let’s celebrate their accomplishments. As offense continues to flourish, the Heisman becomes more relevant. In other words, it has become less about being a popularity contest and more about being the best player in America.
Alabama wouldn’t be in the College Football Playoff again without Mac Jones (and his receivers). Kyle Trask wouldn’t have gone from backup to possible first-round draft choice without Florida coach Dan Mullen’s quarterback whispering. Lawrence is trying to become the first starting quarterback to win two national championships since Matt Leinart in 2003-04.
Heisman ballots were due Monday. Voters aren’t allowed to publish, speak or write about who they voted for until the announcement. Consider this a pregame treat, then. Here is how my Heisman ballot would have looked.
1. DeVonta Smith, wide receiver, Alabama: After losing the best receiver in the country (Jaylen Waddle), the Crimson Tide replaced him with … the best receiver in the country. That makes sense because Smith stepped up after the season-ending injury to Waddle in Game 5 against Tennessee. Smith not only blew the top off secondaries, he was sure-handed enough to make 35 catches of at least 15 yards to lead the country. His 98 catches and 1,511 yards also led the nation. Summing it up, Smith was the most dominant Power Five receiver since another famed Alabama pass catcher, Amari Cooper, in 2014. Smith’s Heisman moment came in the final regular-season game. An 84-yard punt return for a touchdown against Arkansas was the first of his career. No one has shut down or slowed Smith this season. That’s good news for the Tide going into the College Football Playoff.
2. Mac Jones, quarterback, Alabama: Jones is the embodiment of this offensive era. Replacing perhaps the best quarterback in Alabama history, Jones was at least Tua Tagovailoa’s equal. With 227 more passing yards, he will surpass Tagovailoa’s best season. Six times this season Jones threw for at least four touchdowns. Alabama averaged a touchdown every 10.8 snaps with Jones in control. If his pass efficiency numbers the NCAA single-season record will be broken for the fifth consecutive year. He’s in good company. Baker Mayfield (twice), Tagovailoa and Joe Burrow have set the record in each of the last four years. Jones, the highest-graded quarterback in Pro Football Focus history, beat out some distinguished company. The next highest-graded QBs were Burrow, Florida’s Trask, Jones was spectacular throwing five touchdowns to Trask’s three. If that is Jones’ Heisman moment, it came at the right time. Alabama needed all 52 of those points against the Gators to win by six.
3. Kyle Trask, quarterback, Florida’s: If not for a three-turnover game in a loss to LSU, Trask might have been the runaway Heisman winner. He started the season with six straight games of at least four touchdown passes. The comparisons to Burrow were valid. Through 11 games, Trask has thrown 43 touchdown passes. That would have put him on a pace for 59 TD passes through 15 games. Burrow threw a single-season record 60 in last year’s 15-0 season. Trask was an inspiring story having not started a game until last season, even then it was only because of an injury to Feleipe Franks. This season proved Dan Mullen still might be the No. 1 quarterback maker in the game.
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