Could one Husky's success cannibalize another's Heisman campaign? UW might be the best team in the Pac-12, but Stanford and Oregon hold the Heisman favorites. Never count out the darkhorses, though.
If recent history has taught us anything about handicapping Pac-12 candidates in the Heisman Trophy race, it’s to presume the unexpected:
Jared Goff was the conference’s betting favorite to start 2015; Christian McCaffrey wasn’t even an afterthought.
McCaffrey was the frontrunner in 2016, only to have Jake Browning finish sixth as the Pac-12’s highest vote-getter.
Sam Darnold was considered the Pac-12’s best bet this time last year, with Josh Rosen and Browning on the second tier. Then Bryce Love bolted past them all.
Now, Love sits atop the list of frontrunners — not only regionally but nationally:
He’s the current betting favorite on Bovada (+700), just ahead of Alabama’s Tua Tagovailoa (+750) and Wisconsin’s Jonathan Taylor (+850).
As a result, our search for Pac-12 candidates began elsewhere and included names that might seem a tad far-fetched … just as declaring Love a serious candidate last August would have raised an eyebrow.
The Hotline’s crack research staff assessed the accumulated candidates against the established Heisman model:
- It leans heavily to quarterbacks: Of the 18 winners this century, 15 have been QBs. The other three are tailbacks from blueblood programs (Alabama and USC).
- The Heisman also requires gaudy stats, consistent national exposure, elite performances in big games, and victories: Nine of the past 10 winners played for teams that won at least 10 games, and seven of them won at least 12.
With that set of criteria … stats and exposure and wins, with a lean to quarterbacks and a nod to the unexpected … the Hotline believes the Pac-12 has one clear favorite in the Heisman race.
Eight names to consider:
8. Arizona State WR N’Keal Harry (Bovada odds: not listed): On this list because he’s a phenomenal talent with big-play ability and an NFL physique; in those respects, Harry fits into the dark-horse category. But so many things have to go right for receivers, particularly from a low-profile school, that it’s close to a mathematical impossibility. (Last WR to win the Heisman: Howard, Desmond K.)
7. Washington TB Myles Gaskin (Bovada: not listed): Seemingly has the offensive line and offensive philosophy (i.e., UW’s commitment to balance) to produce an elite season. But I don’t expect Gaskin to make a serious run at the award for two reasons: quarterback Jake Browning, who will get loads of attention if UW contends for the CFP, and backup tailback Salvon Ahmed, who will get plenty of reps.
6. USC TB Stephen Carr (Bovada: +15000): A backup last season, Carr wouldn’t be considered if he wore any other uniform. But the Heisman dynamic is different for players at the big-brand schools. If Carr has a first-rate season — he’s the No. 1 back with a veteran line and an offensive committed to the running game — it’s not unreasonable to think he might sneak into the discussion.
5. Arizona QB Khalil Tate (Bovada: +1500): Count me as skeptical of Tate’s candidacy, not his talent. Can he separate himself from the other west coast contenders? Are the Wildcats good enough to produce an elite season? The model for Tate, it seems, is Louisville’s Lamar Jackson, who won the Heisman two years ago on a team that was 9-3 when the voting closed. At that point, Jackson had 51 touchdowns. Tate will need something comparable.
4. USC QB JT Daniels (Bovada: not listed): Here’s a way to view Daniels’ candidacy: The likelihood of his performance matching the hype, or coming close to the hype, is less than 50 percent (and perhaps considerably less than 50 percent). But if Daniels does, in fact, prove to be a wunderkind, then there’s a 100 percent chance he’ll be in the Heisman conversation. Because that’s what happens with star quarterbacks at USC.
3. Washington QB Jake Browning (Bovada: +2500): Not surprisingly, Browning has generated considerably less fanfare than you might expect from an established quarterback on a playoff contender. The Huskies’ desire for run-pass balance (with Gaskin) won’t help Browning’s case; nor will his lack of flash. But a big game against Auburn would generate weeks worth of campaign fuel — enough to carry him into the mid-October showdown against Oregon. Outplay Justin Herbert, and another trip to New York just might await.
2. Stanford TB Bryce Love (Bovada: +700): So many headwinds: Is it realistic to think a small tailback who has endured ankle problems … who will face stacked defenses that dare Stanford to pass … and who set a ridiculous standard for himself last year … can produce back-to-back Heisman-worthy seasons? I’m not convinced (think: McCaffrey in 2016). But I know this: One way to divert voters’ attention away from the stat comparisons to ’17 is to go rogue.
1. Oregon QB Justin Herbert (Bovada: +3000): We ran everything through the model, and out came Herbert, an elite passer and potential top-10 pick on a team that should score touchdowns and win games. The soft non-conference schedule doesn’t provide an early platform, but if Herbert sizzles against Stanford in Week Four, he’ll vault into the lead pack. Not to be overlooked: The established acceptance within the Heisman electorate for quarterbacks wearing green.