News / college football
Two of the top 3 Heisman vote getters from 2016 are back including the winner Lamar "Action" Jackson. But like last year Jackson came from out of nowhere to win the school's first ever Heisman Trophy for Louisville so don't take this list as the end all, be all.
Here is a look at the preseason candidates I feel have the best chance of hoisting the hardware in New York City.
Lamar Jackson, QB, Louisville: A playmaker with his arms and legs the reigning Heisman winner will have his work cut out for him this season as every opponent's objective will be to contain him. He took an insane amount of sacks last year: 46. Needs to cut it in half if he hopes to even walk to NYC.
Baker Mayfield, QB, Oklahoma: Wake n Bake has back-to-back NYC invites in his back pocket as a Heisman finalist. If he wants to win one this season he has to beat Ohio State in Columbus.
Sam Darnold, QB, USC: Darnold seems to have the early momentum going for him in terms of preseason Heisman hype. Not a starter at the beginning of the 2016 season, he led USC to 9 straight wins to close out the year. If he puts up the numbers he did or exceeds them he's a lock for an invite.
JT Barrett, QB, Ohio State: It was a rocky up and down season for Barrett last year despite getting the Buckeyes to the College Football playoffs. His QBR continues to decline as he gets older which is alarming.
Jake Browning, QB, Washington: After having shoulder surgery it appears the Pac-12 Offensive player of the year is ready to roll and get the Huskies back to the playoffs. After finishing 6th last year in Heisman voting his main competition will be Darnold for West coast votes.
Deondre Francois, QB, FSU: Francois will get plenty of chances to make a Heisman push starting with week 1 in Atlanta vs Alabama.
Saquon Barkley, RB, Penn State: The Big Ten offensive player of the year appears to be the best returning back in the nation. If Barkley puts up another 2000 plus all-purpose yards and has Penn State in National Title consideration he should "hurdle" to get an invite.
Jalen Hurts, QB, Alabama: The SEC offensive player of the year as only a true freshman Hurts will need to improve his passing efficiency as teams will continue to stack the box in order to stop the run.
Mason Rudolph, QB, Oklahoma State: The rising senior had a spectacular 28 TD-to-4 INT ratio last year. Perhaps one of the more underrated players in the nation, if Rudolph can get the Cowboys a Big 12 Championship he will be a contender for the Heisman.
BACK FROM INJURY
Seth Rosen, QB, UCLA: Coming off shoulder surgery the Rosen One will need to live up to his high school hype and beat the likes of crosstown rival USC in order to crack consideration.
Derwin James, S, FSU: James is coming off a meniscus tear in his left knee that caused him to redshirt 2016 season. While he is a safety he is also a special enough athlete to garner recognition like Jabrill Peppers did last year for Michigan.
Bo Scarbrough, RB, Alabama: Coming off a broken leg in the National Title game vs Clemson no Heisman list would be complete without at least one Bama running back on it. Scarbrough will get plenty of chances to make a statement like Mark Ingram and Derrick Henry did starting in week 1 vs FSU.
DON'T FORGET ABOUT
QUARTERBACKS: Trace McSorley (Penn State), Luke Falk (Washington State), Nick Fitzgerald (Mississippi State), Quinton Flowers (South Florida), Josh Allen (Wyoming)
RUNNING BACKS: Royce Freeman (Oregon), Nick Chubb (UGA), Josh Adams (Notre Dame), Derrius Guice (LSU), Kamryn Pettway (Auburn)
WIDE RECEIVERS: James Washington (Oklahoma State), Calvin Ridley (Alabama), Equanimeous St. Brown (Notre Dame), Courtland Sutton (SMU)
THE MULTIPURPOSE CANDIDATES
Christian Kirk, WR, Texas A&M: Coming off nearly a 1000 yard season receiving Kirk also had 3 kick returns for TDs last season. He's one of the most dynamic players in the nation and will be feared by all special teams coordinators.
Jarrett Stidham, QB, Auburn: The Baylor transfer is already getting serious Heisman dark horse consideration talk down in Auburn because of his dual-threat capabilities. If Stidham can lead Auburn to a SEC Championship game you better believe he can also make it to NYC for a Heisman invite.
Brandon Wimbush, QB, Notre Dame: The redshirt sophomore is the unquestioned leader of the ND offense now with Deshone Kizer in the NFL. Wimbush has the same build and leadership skills of Brady Quinn who was a two-time finalist and also has plenty of offensive weapons around him to lead a potent Fighting Irish attack this fall.
Kyle Allen, QB, Houston: The Texas A&M transfer put up some impressive numbers in the SEC before suffering a AC sprain in his shoulder. At Houston he will be given the chance to run Major Applewhite's offense that should put up points and contend for a New Year's six bowl.
Ed Oliver, DT, Houston: Defensive players have basically next to none shot at winning the Heisman but I still gotta put Oliver on this list because he's that special. As a true freshman last year he started all 12 games and despite the constant double teams he managed to sack the QB five times.
Arden Key, DE, LSU: Key is one of the top underclassmen's in Mel Kiper's 2018 NFL Draft position rankings. Coming off a 12 sack season the rising junior will be a force to be reckoned with all year vs the Bayou Bengals.
Dexter Lawrence, DT, Clemson: Still just considered a freshman Lawrence is a future #1 overall draft pick who is so great it would be impossible for me to keep him off this list. While playing nine games as a true freshman Lawrence racked up 7 sacks, two fumble recoveries, two block kicks and a team-leading 20 QB pressures. It would not be shocking to see Lawrence get double digit sack numbers this season.
With the Coaches and AP preseason polls both out I figured I would look at the programs who are the most underrated going into the 2016 season. These teams are all predicted to either finish middle of the road or near the bottom of their respective conferences despite their numerous starters returning and top head coaching ability.
1) Pittsburgh Panthers - Pitt went 8-5 in their first season under coach Pat Narduzzi. They return 8 starters on each side of the ball including cancer survivor James Conner, the ACC Player of the Year in 2014. I could see them contending for the ACC Coastal division even though many pundits have them finishing near the bottom half of the division.
2) Wisconsin Badgers - The Badgers won 10 games in their first season under coach Paul Chryst. They have a roster capable of winning the Big Ten North over Iowa. If they can somehow manage to beat LSU in their opener at Lambeau Field I could see them upsetting the likes of Michigan and Ohio State this year because of the confidence factor.
3) TCU Horned Frogs - TCU is projected to finish 5th in their conference behind Oklahoma, Baylor, Oklahoma State and even Texas (a team they beat 50-7) despite winning 11 and 12 games the last two seasons. You know head coach Gary Patterson is going to have them ready to make some noise and it wouldn't shock me to see them win the Big 12 even with Kenny Hill at QB.
4) Utah Utes - The Utes have the best defensive talent in the PAC 12 and return a veteran offensive line from a team that won 10 games last season including beating the likes of Michigan and Oregon by 42 points in Eugene! But still most pundits have them finishing in the back of the PAC 12 South. If they can find a consistent QB and some solid playmakers on offense I don't see any reason why they can't contend for a PAC 12 Title under coach Kyle Whittingham.
5) BYU Cougars - Taysom Hill is back at QB! BYU also returns 16 starters and while their coaching staff is brand new and the schedule is rather brutal the first half I can see them upsetting the likes of Utah, UCLA, West Virginia, Michigan State and Mississippi State. They should score a ton of points under first year coordinator Ty Detmer's offense.
College Football week 1 betting lines are already out. Here are some games I'm going heavy on to get the ball rolling for early Christmas shopping aka filling up the SportsCrack Pub with booze and victory cigars.
Georgia Tech (-3) vs Boston College in Dublin - Last year was a disastrous season for Justin Thomas and the Yellow Jackets. Big expectations were thrown on Paul Johnson and his crew because of an 11 win 2014 season. Now everyone thinks they suck because they went 3-9. They are playing an awful Boston College team in Dublin and since I've been to Dublin to watch college football (ND vs Navy 2012) I'm 100% confident the Yellow Jackets run all over the Golden Eagles. GT covers big!
Houston (+10) vs Oklahoma - How in the world is Houston at home a double digit underdog? This game will be close and right now I'm leaning on Tom Herman and his Cougars for the down right win. 10 points is way too much. Oklahoma is a tad overrated going into this season anyways. Houston as the homedog!
Wisconsin (+10) vs LSU at Lambeau Field - While it's not on their homefield you know Wisconsin is going to play their asses off on Lambeau Field. It's basically a home game for them and SEC teams don't travel well north of the Mason Dixie line. Leonard Fournette will have a big game and I think LSU wins a close one but you gotta take Wisconsin as the double digit dog here!
USC (+10.5) vs Bama at JerryWorld - In terms of pure talent USC with maybe the exception of LSU might be the only team that can match up with Bama athletically on their schedule. Everyone has been talking about how Bama is going to blow out the Trojans in Dallas but I don't see it. I think USC gives them a run for their Nick Saban bail money. Take FUSC as the dog!
Notre Dame (-4.5) at Texas - Last year ND throttled Texas 38-3. This year they return a seasoned QB (Deshone Kizer or Malik Zaire it won't matter) going into Austin vs a true freshman QB for the Horns. Charlie Strong is already fighting like mad to keep his job but this result will not help. ND beats Texas and wins big!
Ole Miss (+6) vs FSU in Orlando - For some reason and it's really the only reason I can't shake how bad FSU got beat by Houston in the Peach Bowl. I also can't forget how Ole Miss has beaten Bama the last two seasons. The Rebels match up well here with the Criminoles and will be sending in Swag Kelly to face a likely first time starter in Deondre Francois. I'm betting my money on Kelly to get the job done. Ole Miss wins a close one!
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