All of the bowl games have been set and the College Football Playoff teams have been selected. Now, for many teams, it’s bowl preparations. For coaches, it’s time to hit the road for recruiting. However, there is one minor detail that must be solved before transitioning to the postseason. That is the matter of the 2016 Heisman Trophy winner. In a season full of great players and unbelievable games, only one person can stand as the best player in College Football. That list has been paired down to five outstanding student-athletes. Lamar Jackson, Deshaun Watson, Baker Mayfield, Dede Westbrook and Jabrill Peppers have received the invitation.
THE HEISMAN TROPHY CONTENDERS
The finalists have had plenty of those opportunities to make plays and haven’t disappointed. Looking at the statistics for the season, let’s break down each of the contenders.
Lamar Jackson has been the obvious leader through a majority of the season. Although this may be true, his stock has plummeted over the last two weeks. Loses to Houston and Kentucky have made the race much closer. Not withstanding, Jackson has some unbelievable moments on the year. Look no farther than his rushing totals to confirm that fact. Lamar has ran for 1,538 yards and 21 touchdowns on the ground. When you look at his totals through the air, the numbers don’t disappoint either. 3,390 yards with 30 touchdowns and nine interceptions confirms that he is not just a running back playing quarterback. Statistically, the only drawback you see is the 57% completion percentage. While that is not atrocious, it makes him the #81 most accurate quarterback in the country.
EZ FOR END ZONE
Effectionately, Deshaun Watson is known by his teammates as “EZ” because you can always find him in the end zone. Watson started off a bit slow and has come on strong late in the season. Early on, Watson came into the season as one of the favorites based on his finish last year. Watson possesses all of the measurable standards that you would look for. He has thrown for over 3,900 yards. He has accounted for 37 touchdowns through the air, while running for another 15 on the ground. On the other hand, there is a 13th game that Watson has played in which inflates the numbers slightly. In addition, he has 15 interceptions on the season which would account for the third most for a Heisman Trophy winner.
SHAKE AND BAKE
Finally, we come to Baker Mayfield. Mayfield has never had the prototypical quarterback body, but he is arguably the biggest leader in college football. The passing efficiency record was set by Russell Wilson in 2011 with a rating of 191.78. After the regular season, Mayfield has a passing efficiency of 197.76. Baker fell behind in the Heisman Trophy race after losing two of the first three games of the season. However, after winning nine games in a row, that tone has changed. More touchdowns (38) have been thrown by Mayfield even though he has significantly less attempts. The biggest obstacle at this point for him will be the perception of the Big 12 conference. Even so, the numbers are difficult to ignore.
DEDE, THE GREAT
Dede Westbrook is one of the hottest players over the last nine games. Invitations are hard to come by at the wide receiver position, so coming away with the trophy will be very difficult. Larry Fitzgerald was the last receiver to be part of the ceremony. Westbrook has nine consecutive games with over 100 yards receiving. For the season, his 74 catches for 1,465 yards and 16 scores make him tops in the FBS. A few points spell trouble for Westbrook, and he will have some votes split with his teammate. The lack of competitive defense in the conference will also be a concern.
DON’T FORGET ABOUT THE DEFENSIVE GUY
Jabrill Peppers may very well be the most impressive player in 2016. Peppers has played a role in every facet of the game. Michigan was in the top five and competing for a playoff spot largely because of his versatility. In a day and age where statistics gauge how well an individual rates, Peppers won’t have the numbers but he certainly has made a tremendous impact. The lack of touches and opportunities will be the culprit for his chances to potentially take home the hardware. Whether it be just the four touchdowns that he has accounted for or only having touched the ball on 40 occasions throughout the season, the opportunities are just not there. It’s important to realize for a primary defensive player to make it as a finalist is an outstanding achievement.
The Heisman Trophy is one of the most prestigious awards in sports today. Whether it’s the Heisman House commercials or the number of previous winners to welcome the current winner into the fraternity, it’s a special honor. Every season there is a “Heisman moment” that catapults a player into history. There have been many incredible moments like these through the years. In 1972, Johnny Rodgers returned a punt against Oklahoma in the “Game of the Century” to help his chances. Doug Flutie broke the hearts of Hurricane fans everywhere after a “Hail Mary” won the game. And, who could forget the “Hello Heisman” punt return by Desmond Howard against Ohio State which culminated in the Heisman pose.
While this year’s participants didn’t necessarily have these moments, they certainly had games to remember. Great single game performances and ridiculous stats was the theme for these Heisman finalists.
LAMAR JACKSON PUTS UP MONSTER NUMBERS AGAINST CHARLOTTE
Lamar Jackson began his Heisman candidacy with a bang on a Thursday night in August. Jackson accounted for eight touchdowns and over 400 yards of total offense. He brought a new meaning to sharing the wealth as Jackson hit eight different receivers with scoring plays.
DESHAUN WATSON HELPS CLEMSON RETURN TO THE PLAYOFFS
After a loss to Pittsburgh, Deshaun Watson has been trying to get his team back in the playoff race. He did so with emphasis against rival South Carolina, throwing for 347 yards and six touchdowns in a 56-7 romp of the Gamecocks.
BAKER PLACES SOONER ON HIS SHOULDERS IN 60 POINT EFFORT
The Sooners have struggled to stop the pass this year. No game was more evident than a trip to Lubbock against Texas Tech. Baker threw for 545 yards and seven touchdowns leading Oklahoma to a 66-59 victory.
DEDE BREAKS OUT IN A BIG WAY
Westbrook suffered from a lingering hamstring issue early in the season that hurt his production against Ohio State and Houston. Once conference play began, Westbrook stood out in a seven catch 158 yard performance against TCU. This game catapulted his run through the Big 12 conference.
PEPPERS PACES THE WAY IN SCORING BARRAGE
In the most impressive game for Michigan this season, Jabrill Peppers was quite literally all over the field. Apart from his dominating play on defense, Peppers ran for 74 yards with a pair of scores in the Wolverines dominating victory over Rutgers, 78-0.
With the late season emergence of Baker Mayfield and Deshaun Watson, accompanied by the back-to-back loses that Lamar Jackson has suffered, it makes it a very tight race. First of all, with all due respect to Dede Westbrook and Jabrill Peppers, this is really a three-person race. Both Westbrook and Peppers had tremendous seasons, but not enough numbers or opportunities to stack up to the rest. Many times this award goes to the best player on the best team of those considered to be finalists. Derrick Henry was a great player, but a solid argument could be made for Christian McCaffrey last season.
With that being said, Deshaun Watson will bring home the 2016 Heisman Trophy. Jackson and Mayfield are very deserving, but based on preseason hype and the fact that Clemson is the best team among the remaining candidates, that is what we are going with.