2015 Heisman Trophy Winner Predictions: The Top 40 Contenders
by Mike, NCAA Football Handicapper, Predictem.com
The Curse of the Heisman Trophy has gained notoriety in modern history with the award gaining a synonymous reputation with whoever winning eventually going on to a less than successful NFL career, but its mainly the quarterback position that has been responsible for achieving that status, starting in 1989 with it’s almost poster child, former Houston Cougar quarterback Andre Ware. In the previous four years before Ware, the Heisman produced four who went on to have successful careers in the NFL; Bo Jackson, Vinny Testaverde and Hall of Famers Tim Brown and Barry Sanders. From Ware in 89 to Tim Tebow in 2007, quarterbacks won the award twelve times, and only 2002 recipient Carson Palmer ended up having anything resembling a successful NFL career, leaving a chasm of names that mostly come up as the answers to random trivia questions Ty Detmer, Gino Torretta, Charlie Ward, Danny Wuerffel, Chris Weinke, Eric Crouch, Jason White, Matt Leinart and Troy Smith. That run of awfulness could be coming to an end though, as six of the last seven Heisman winners will begin the season as starters for their respective NFL teams: Sam Bradford-Philadelphia Eagles, Mark Ingram-New Orleans Saints, Cam Newton-Carolina Panthers, Robert Griffin III-Washington Redskins, Jameis Winston-Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Marcus Mariota-Tennesee Titans.
Another change has been the age of the players winning. Tebow was the first sophomore to ever win the award in 2007, and since youth has dominated, with sophomores winning again in 2008 (Bradford) and 2009 (Ingram), followed by back-to-back freshman winners in 2012 (Browns backup QB Johnny Manziel) and 2013 (Jameis Winston).
One thing is for certain, being on the best team in the country definitely increases your chances of winning. In the past fifteen years, ten of the players that won the Heisman were on the team that ended the regular season ranked number one in the polls. Being a quarterback sure doesnt hurt either, in those same previous fifteen years, thirteen times a QB has won the award.
Much like the battle for the four spots in this years College Football Playoff, the 2015 Heisman Trophy race is wide open with a variety of players having a good chance of taking home the award. Below is a quick rundown of the top 40 candidates, each with current odds provided by the web’s best college football betting site: 5Dimes.
40. Scooby Wright (+11500) If the Heisman Trophy was truly awarded to the nations best player, the Arizona linebacker would be my pick for this years winner. Last season he won all three major awards given for being the top defensive player in the country (Bronko Nagurksi, Rotary Lombardi and Chuck Bednarik awards) after finishing the year ranked in the top five in the NCAA in tackles, tackles for loss, sacks and forced fumbles. Despite all of that, he finished a distant ninth in the Heisman voting. 80 players have won the award since its inception in 1935, and only once (Charles Woodson in 1997) has a defensive player won the award. Unfortunately for Scooby Wright, a long standing precedent has been set in which the Heisman voters apparently dont really value players on the defensive side of the ball, and because of that absurdity his chances unfairly remain minimal for taking home the award in 2015.
39. Jacob Coker (+11000) Coker was highly recruited coming out of high school before beginning his career at Florida State. He was beaten out in camp in 2013 by Jameis Winston for the starting position, hurt his knee in November and than transferred to Alabama for the 2014 season, where he was again bested in camp for the starting job, this time by Blake Sims. He has another opportunity in 2015 to take the reins, and if he can become the starter at Alabama as expected, it will put him in an ideal situation as he will be in the weekly spotlight as the on-field general of a top five program. He hasnt been able to establish himself as a leader in two high profile situations that could have catapulted him to national recognition, and will need to do so this year or he will be another after thought of unreached potential.
38. Jerrod Heard (+10500) The dual-threat redshirt freshman is currently battling Tyrone Swoopes for the starting quarterback job for the Texas Longhorns. Swoopes is expected to begin the season as the starter, and while Heards immense potential does make him an interesting flier, it appears 2016 may be the better year to put money on him for the Heisman.
37. Nick Wilson (+10000) Despite not being a full time starter at running back for the Arizona Wildcats last season, Wilson was the number one freshman in the country in total yards, running for 1,375 yards on the ground to go along with sixteen touchdowns in a breakout rookie campaign. The Wildcats should be in for a strong year in 2015 and Wilson will have plenty of chances to shine against quality opponents, but sharing the offensive attention with teammate and fellow candidate quarterback Jarrett Solomon may make things a bit too difficult for Wilson to gain enough attention in a crowded Heisman field.
36. Mason Rudolph (+9000) Due to their quarterback position being decimated by injuries last season, Oklahoma State was forced to remove the redshirt status from Rudolph for the teams final three games. He responded better than anyone could have expected, leading the team to upset wins against rival Oklahoma to end the regular season followed by a Cactus Bowl victory against Washington. Rudolph has the potential for greatness, but it is what surrounds him in 2015 that could be his undoing for the Heisman, as the Cowboy offense has a gaping hole of inexperience at running back along with having lost six of their top seven wide receivers from the year before.
35. Christian Hackenberg (+9000) The Penn State quarterback is rated by some scouts as the top quarterback prospect for the 2016 NFL Draft. Last season was a struggle for Hackenberg though, as the Nittany Lion offense was plagued by inconsistency which didnt translate well to on the field success for the QB as he threw for just twelve touchdowns along with fifteen interceptions. Draft pundits may be drawn to his skill set and possible success at the next level, but the quarterback will have to improve his numbers substantially from 2014 if he wants a shot at the trophy, as no one will ever win a Heisman throwing for more interceptions than touchdowns in a season.
34. Jared Goff (+8500) Much like Hackenberg above, Jared Goff is one of the highest rated quarterbacks for next years NFL draft, but unlike the Penn State leader, Goff has actually proven his worth on the field. In 2014 the California quarterback threw for 35 touchdowns and just seven interceptions, going for a total of 3,973 yards passing which was highlighted by a six game streak to the start the Pac-12 season where he threw for at least 300 yards in each of their games. This year he will have plenty of opportunities to show off his talents on the national stage, as Cal ends the year with five of their last six games against teams ranked in the top 20 to start the year (UCLA, USC, Oregon, Stanford and Arizona State). At his long shot odds, Goff is a quality value on the Heisman board.
33. Kyler Murray (+8000) Murray was the top rated quarterback recruit according to ESPN after finishing his high school career in 2014 with a perfect 43-0 record, highlighted by a senior year in which he passed for 4,713 yards and 54 touchdowns while running for 1,498 yards and 24 scores. He continues to battle his also favored for the Heisman teammate Kyle Allen for the starting job at Texas A&M, and whether he begins the year as starter or not, Kyler appears to be someone we will be reading about for years to come in College Station.
32. Baker Mayfield (+8000) In 2013, Mayfield became the first walk-on true freshman quarterback to start a season opener for a BCS school, and he did so with an exclamation point, throwing for four touchdowns and 413 yards while leading Texas Tech to a home opening win. He has since transferred to Oklahoma, where he is in the midst of a three quarterback race with Cody Thomas and last years Sooner starter Trevor Knight to see who will lead the team in 2015 after last years disappointing 8-5 season that began with the team ranked 4th in the AP preseason poll. While Knight has the experience he struggled throughout last year, and if given a chance to start Mayfield has the potential to put up good numbers on a highly watched team ready to respond to last years underachievement.
31. Joshua Dobbs (+8000)- With Tennessee struggling last year, Dobbs became the starter at quarterback for the last five games of the year. In the second start of his career against South Carolina, he had a true breakthrough performance, rushing for 166 yards and three touchdowns while passing for 301 yards and two touchdowns in leading the team to 45-42 thrilling road victory. He went on to a 4-1 record as a starter, ending the year with a 45-28 TaxSlayer Bowl victory against Iowa in which he was named the MVP of the game. This is the best team the Volunteers have had in recent years, and Dobbs will have ample chances to showcase his talents, starting with a week two battle vs a tough Oklahoma defense followed by the always difficult slate of SEC games.
30. Jalen Hurd (+7500) Dobbs Vols teammate is next on the list, running back Jalen Hurd. As a freshman last year, Hurd ran for 899 yards and five touchdowns while also catching 35 passes for 221 yards and two more scores. He ended the year with his best performance, rushing for 122 yards and two touchdowns in their bowl victory against Iowa. While quarterbacks have been the popular Heisman choice of late, if picking a Tennessee player to wager on in 2015, Id go with the running back Hurd.
29. James Connor (+7500) Of all the longshot picks for the Heisman, Connor would be my top choice at 75-1. The Panther running back won ACC Player of the Year after ranking sixth in the FBS in rushing yards (1,765) and third in rushing touchdowns (26). He became the first Pitt back to win All-American honors since Craig Ironhead Heyward in 1987 and broke Tony Dorsetts team records for yards, touchdowns and points that he set in 1976, the same year he won the Heisman. Running behind an offensive line that returns four starters on a Pittsburgh squad that is expected by some to be a contender in the ACC, Connor is in a great position to surprise many and has a definite shot at taking home this years award.
28. D.J. Foster (+7500) Last year Foster seemed to split duty between running back and wide receiver for Arizona State, and despite the constant back and forth he had quite a productive season, rushing for 1,081 yards and nine touchdowns while also catching 62 passes for 688 yards and three touchdowns. Based upon past Heisman history though, Fosters expected full time move to the wide receiver position this season puts a damper on his chances of winning the award, as Tim Brown in 1987 and Desmond Howard in 1991 are the only true wide receivers to have won award. Since then, just two receivers have managed to even come in the top three in the voting, Larry Fitzgerald in 2003 and Amari Cooper last season. Foster will succeed no matter what position the Sun Devils put him at and whether he comes close to winning the award or not, he will be someone worth watching on TV throughout the year.
27. Corey Clement (+7500) Recent Badger history bodes well for Clement, as running backs for Wisconsin have rushed for at least 1,600 yards in each of the last four seasons (Montee Ball in 2011-2012, Melvin Gordon in 2013-2014). Despite having to back up Gordon and his monstrous 2,587 yard season in 2014, Clement still put up very impressive numbers, rushing for 949 yards and scoring eleven total touchdowns. He will need quarterback Joel Stave to find consistency to prevent teams from stacking the box against him if Clement wants to have a chance at Heisman history, and will have a golden opportunity early to show voters just how good he is when Wisconsin opens at Alabama the first week of the season. Similar to James Connor for Pittsburgh, Clement provides a lot of value at 75-1 odds.
26. Justin Thomas (+7000) The Yellow Jacket quarterback personified what a dual-threat quarterback is in 2014, rushing for 1,086 yards and eight touchdowns while throwing for 1,419 yards and an impressive 18/6 touchdown to interception ratio. He will have a chance to shine with an early season matchup against Notre Dame, a team that has struggled in recent years defending the option, but may find matching last years success a bit tough to muster, considering the team lost its top four running backs from 2014 and their most experienced wide receiver had only three catches last season.
25. Brad Kaaya (+6600) Kaaya performed well for the Hurricanes in 2014 as a true freshman, throwing for 3,198 yards and 26 touchdowns. What has Miami fans so excited is how much he progressively got better as the year went on as he became more acclimated to the offense, as evident by Kaayas touchdown to interception ratio, which went from 13/9 in his first six games to 13/3 in his last seven. His offense faces the challenge of having to replace their top three wide receivers, but a strong game against Nebraska in a nationally televised matchup on September 19th could catapult the U quarterback to early season Heisman contention
24. Kyle Allen (+6600) - Allen started the Aggies final five games in 2014, leading them to a 3-2 record which included a win at Auburn as a 23 point underdog and a bowl victory against West Virginia in which he threw for 294 yards and four touchdowns while also scoring a fifth TD on the ground. Whoever wins the job between him and Kyler Murray will be in a strong position to succeed, with the offense returning eight starters along with five of their six top receivers.
23. Jarrett Anu Solomon (+6000) Going into last season Arizona had questions at the quarterback position, with great uncertainty as to who would lead the team. In stepped Solomon, who became the first freshman to start a season opener for the Wildcats in school history and than went onto lead them to a 10-4 record, matching the second most amount of wins ever for the school and earning him All Pac-12 honorable mention honors. Twice last season Anu threw for five touchdowns in a game, the exact type of eye-popping stats that attract Heisman voters and eventually finished the season with 3,793 yards in the air to go along with twenty eight touchdowns and just nine interceptions. This year gets his two targets back, wide receivers Cayleb Jones and Samjie Grant, and will lead a high-powered Wildcat offense that promises to be exciting to watch all season long.
22. Braxton Miller (+5500) The Ohio State quarterback was third on the Heisman odds list going into 2014 after leading the team to a 24-2 record in the previous two seasons while twice winning Big-10 Offensive Player of the Year. A week before the season began though he injured his shoulder and was out for the year. Due to the log jam at quarterback on the team with J.T. Barrett and Cardale Jones, Braxton will switch to wide receiver to benefit not only the team but also his stock in the draft for next year as the multi-position eligibility can only help his status. His chances of winning the Heisman take a hit moving to WR, but knowing anything can happen with injuries, it wouldnt be wise to count out Miller just yet.
21. Taysom Hill (+5500) Last season began ideally for Hill and his BYU Cougars, with the quarterback leading his team to a 4-0 record thanks in most part to Taysoms leadership and fifteen touchdowns he amassed over that time (eight rushing, seven passing). Unfortunately the QB suffered a leg fracture and ligament tear in week five against Utah State and was lost for the year. If Hill can stay healthy, he has a definite chance of putting up the stats necessary for a Heisman run and will have a strong chance early to showcase his talents against some of the nations best teams, as BYU starts the year with September games against Boise State at home and road matchups against Nebraska, UCLA and Michigan. If he can survive that early season schedule juggernaut the following eight games are significantly easier with Missouri the only possible challenge, meaning he will ample opportunity to put up even more impressive stats against lesser opponents.
20. Josh Rosen (+5000) Rivals, Scouts and Prepstar all ranked Rosen as the top high school quarterback recruit from the class of 2015. He is currently battling Jerry Neuheisel and Mike Fafaul for the UCLA starting quarterback gig and if he wins that battle will be in a good position to shine in his first year in the NCAA. He will just need his offensive line to do a better job than last year when they let last years Bruins QB Heisman candidate, Brett Hundley, get pummeled all year long, rarely giving him enough time to work his magic on the field. Rosen is another freshman quarterback that regardless if he wins the job this year or not, he will seemingly be in the Heisman conversation for the remainder of his NCAA career.
19. Royce Freeman (+4500) With all the attention given to his Oregon teammate Marcus Mariota in 2014, Freemans impressive freshman year performance got lost in the shuffle. He became the first true freshman in school history to rush for over 1,000 yards in a season and also set the conference freshman rushing record, which led to him earning the award for Pac-12 Conference Freshman Offensive Player of the Year. On the year, Freeman scored eighteen touchdowns to go with 1,523 all-purpose yards, and appeared to get better and stronger as the year went on. In the last eight games of the regular season he rushed for 950 yards, going over 100 yards in six of those games and getting 98 and 99 yards rushing yards in the other two. This year the spotlight is no longer solo shining on Mariota as he has moved on to the NFL, which gives Freeman a golden opportunity to prove himself as an offensive force on one of the top teams in the country.
18. Malik Zaire (+4250) The Notre Dame quarterback took over the position at the end of last season when their QB at the time, Everett Golson, couldnt control his addiction to turning the ball over and coach Brian Kelly was forced to make the change. Zaire responded by leading the Irish to a 31-28 upset win against LSU in the Music City Bowl after going 12 for 15 passing with a touchdown and also running 22 times for 96 yards and another touchdown. He will start this year for what coach Kelly has called the most talented team he has since being at South Bend when he was hired as head coach in 2010, and given the amount of attention Notre Dame gets, Malik will have ample chances to showcase his talents on a weekly basis in front of a national television audience.
17. Connor Cook (+4000) Cook is a solid Heisman bet at 40-1 after leading Michigan State to a 23-3 record over the past two years, which included a 16-1 record vs. the Big Ten and a 2-0 mark in high profile bowl games, throwing for over 300 yards and two touchdowns in both the Rose Bowl against Stanford in 2013 and last year against Baylor in the Cotton Bowl. The Spartans will begin the year as one of the top six ranked teams in the nation, and with questions in their backfield, Cook will have to throw more than in the past which may give him the attention getting statistics that Heisman voters look for. Whether he wins the award or not, Cook is a near guarantee to be one of the first quarterbacks off the board in next years NFL draft.
16. Paul Perkins (+4000) As a sophomore last year Perkins became the first UCLA back to lead the Pac-12 in rushing since Deshaun Foster in 2001 when he ran for 1,575 yards along with scoring eleven touchdowns on the season. He also seemed to get better as the year went on, finishing with a bowl game exclamation point when he rushed for 194 yards and two touchdowns in a 40-35 Alamo Bowl victory against Kansas State. This year he will be running behind a strong offensive line that returns all five starters from 2014 which gives him a very good chance of improving on his already very impressive stats from the year before and getting the attention he deserves as the star of a top program.
15. Everett Golson (+3800) The former Notre Dame quarterback makes the list as some expect great things from the now Florida State QB based upon his previous winning experience leading the Irish to a 12-1 record in 2012 and the starting last season of with a 6-0 mark. He is expected to win the starting job over Sean Maguire for the Seminoles in 2015, which puts him a great position, as he will be joining a stacked team that is coming off a 27-1 record over the past two years. The issue is, as pointed out in the Malik Zaire profile three players above, that Golsons season collapsed after week six of last year due to his propensity for the turning the ball over at an absurdedly high rate(14 interceptions, 8 fumbles on the year) . He eventually ran the Irish season into the ground as they only won one more game the rest of the year with him as the starter. He has the talent around him to succeed in 2015 for the Noles, but if he continues to struggle with turnovers, his chances will disappear much like he did for Notre Dame in the second half of 2014.
14. Vernon Adams (+3800) With 2014 Heisman winner Marcus Mariota gone from the Ducks and onto the NFL, you might think there would be great concern at the quarterback position for Oregon fans, but that is surprisingly not the case. The reason is Adams, who transfers over from Eastern Washington after finishing runner-up each of the last two seasons for the Walter Payton award, which is given annually to the best player in the FCS division of college football. He takes over a team that is ranked fifth nationally, has a Heisman candidate at running back that will certainly help take the pressure off of him, and also gets back eight of the Ducks top nine receivers from the year before. These are some of the many reasons that I rank Adams below as one of my top bets for the Heisman in 2015.
13. Seth Russell (+3000) Much like Vernon Adams above, Russell steps into a starting role on a top five team, Baylor, while trying to replace one of the better quarterbacks in school history, Bryce Petty, who finished tenth in Heisman voting in 2014 and now plays for the laughing stock of the NFL, the New York Jets. In mop up duty last year, Russell was an impressive 48 for 85 passing for 804 yards and eight touchdowns with only one interception. This year his offensive arsenal will include two wide receivers who gained over 1,000 yards last season and unheralded running back Shock Linwood, a player I was shocked to see not make the top 75 on the Heisman odds list after rushing for 1,252 yards and sixteen touchdowns last year. The new Bears quarterback will get many chances to put up strong numbers and impress voters this season, none more so than late in the year against TCU in what could be the game of the year in 2015.
12. Samaje Perine (+2500) - The Sooner running back earned Big-12 Freshman of the Year honors and made the conferences first team after an explosive rookie campaign. Perine eclipsed the 1,000 yard rushing mark in week 10, and responded the following week by breaking the NCAA single game rushing record when he ran for 427 yards and five touchdowns against Kansas. He finished the year with 1,713 rushing yards and 21 scores, and the only concerns in matching his breakthrough freshman season is a crowded Oklahoma backfield full of five star recruits and an offensive switch in philosophy that calls for a more pass friendly attack. Even with those factors going against him, Perine should still be able to establish himself as one of the nations best running backs and hopefully help lead his team to a more successful season in 2015 after last years eight win disappointment.
11. Jeremy Johnson (+2300) Johnson started the Tigers season opener in 2014 when Nick Marshall was suspended, completing his first eight passes and throwing for over 200 yards in the first half. That was pretty much it for him at he didnt play much the remainder of the season, which ended with him completing 28 of 37 passes for 436 yards and three touchdowns. Auburn has a gaping in hole in their backfield for the 2015 season, which should give Johnson, who has been compared to by many as a clone of former Tiger quarterback Cam Newton, many opportunities to show off his many talents, especially with standout wide receiver Dhaquille Williams back for his senior season.
10. Derrick Henry (+2200) Despite splitting carries with T.J. Yeldon in the Alabama backfield in 2014, Henry managed to outrush the second round pick of the Jaguars in the NFL draft on 22 less carries, going for 990 yards and eleven touchdowns on the year. He enrolled in Tuscaloosa after becoming the national all-time rushing leader in high school football in 2012, breaking a 51 year old record. Henry shined in the clutch in 2014, with a career high 141 yards rushing and two touchdowns in the SEC title game victory against Missouri followed by 149 all-purpose yards and a touchdown against Ohio State in their BCS playoff game. A new quarterback and the loss of Amari Cooper at wide receiver will make Henry the focal point of the Crimson Tide offense, a team that starts the year ranked number three in the polls and has been in the national championship hunt in each of the past four seasons. As only the tenth player on the Heisman odds board, Derrick Henry is an absolute bargain at 22-1.
9. Cardale Jones (+1900) After J.T. Barrett went down to injury against Michigan in the last game of the regular season, Jones stepped into the role of starter, leading Ohio State to a blowout 59-0 win in the Big 10 title game against Wisconsin. He followed that up with two upset victories in the BCS playoffs against Alabama and Oregon to lead the Buckeyes to a National Championship. Barrett will begin the season as the starter for OSU this year, but if anything happens to him like last season, Jones will have the opportunity to step in to a golden opportunity on a dominant team.
8. DeShaun Watson (+1800) The Clemson quarterback was on his way to a Heisman caliber season in 2014 before it was cut short in week six against Louisville when he suffered a broken bone in his throwing hand. He returned for a game against Georgia Tech late in the season where he suffered a torn ACL, but showed incredible toughness by gutting through it and playing against rival South Carolina to end the season, leading the Tigers to a 35-17 win in which Watson ran for two touchdowns and threw for two more. He ended the year throwing for 1,466 yards and 14 touchdowns with only two interceptions (and a NCAA high 188.6 pass efficiency rating) along with 200 yards on the ground and 5 rushing touchdowns. The Academic All-American certainly has the talent to win the Heisman, and with his toughness, intelligence and leadership, he is also well suited in the intangibles category.
7. Dak Prescott (+1600) Mississippi State started the 2014 season unranked, but thanks in large part to Prescotts skill and leadership, they got to number one in the polls for the first time in school history, a ranking they carried for four weeks before losing to eventual SEC Champion Alabama. The quarterback ended the year with 3,449 yards and 27 touchdowns passing to go with 14 touchdowns and 986 yards rushing, which earned him an eighth place finish in the Heisman voting. This year he will try and become only the second player in conference history after Tim Tebow to pass and run for forty touchdowns in a career, which if previous history continues, he should no problem accomplishing that goal. He is a prototypical dual-threat quarterback, evidenced by his performance last year when he became the first player since Johnny Manziel to average 265 yards and passing and 75 yards rushing per game, while four times rushing for 100 yards and throwing for 200 in the same game. Furthermore, he has twice in his career run, thrown and caught a touchdown in the same game. The Bulldogs wont take anyone by surprise this year, and may find it difficult to repeat last years success with only 7 returning starters, 4 on offense/3 on defense, but it certainly wouldnt be a shock to anyone to see Prescott in the thick of the Heisman race throughout the season.
6. J.T. Barrett (+1500) With the preseason injury to Braxton Miller in 2014, the freshman Barrett was thrown into the starting role where he led the team to 11-1 record which included ten straight wins, earning Miller Big 10 Conference Quarterback of the Year as he set nineteen school and conference records. He was hurt in the regular season finale, where he earned legendary Buckeye status when he passed up going to the hospital after breaking his ankle, instead going into the stands in uniform to watch the remainder of the game with the Ohio State faithful. He has two Heisman candidates behind him on the QB depth chart along with running back teammate Ezekiel Elliot to battle against for Heisman attention, but when you are the starting quarterback on the number one team in the country, and also have the best coach in the nation leading your team, the odds are definitely stacked in Barretts favor when it comes to bringing home this years trophy.
5. Cody Kessler (+1400) The Southern Cal quarterback ended last year with the most efficient passing season in school history, which says an awful lot if you consider the high quality quarterbacks that have played there in the past, including two Heisman winners in the past thirteen years. Kessler threw for 3,825 yards and 39 touchdowns to go with only five interceptions, leading a Trojan passing attack that ranked fifteenth in the country. He has played his best in bowl games, throwing for over 300 yards and seven combined touchdowns in his two postseason contests so far, but he needs to finish the regular season stronger, when the voting is still going on. USC has gone 0-2 the last two years in their end of the year games against rival UCLA, and Kessler performed poorly in both, averaging under two hundred yards passing, which was especially disappointing last season when UCLA had a suspect pass defense that ranked 93rd nationally. His team starts the year with the fourth highest odds to win the BCS National Championship, and if he can continue his passing progression and get past the loss of five of the Trojans top seven wide receivers, being a stat heavy quarterback on a dominant team could pay trophy dividends for Kessler.
4. Leonard Fournette (+1300) - Fans in Baton Rouge were ecstatic when Fournette chose LSU as his landing spot after being one of the most highly recruited running backs coming out of high school in 2014. He certainly didnt disappoint, setting a team rushing record with 1,034 yards on the ground, on his way to leading the SEC in all-purpose yards with an average of 137.4 per game and finishing fourth in the conference in returning kicks with an average of 26 yards per return. The speedy running back can do it all and should be the focal point on offense for a Tiger team expected to compete for an SEC championship. If he continues to succeed as he did last year and lead a running back field in the toughest conference in college football, it could provide Fournette the extra boost needed as he attempts to be one of the players chosen to be in New York for Heisman Saturday in early December.
3. Nick Chubb (+1200) Former Georgia running back Todd Gurley entered last season as a major Heisman trophy candidate, only to get injured for the season in the first month of the year. Freshman backup Nick Chubb came out of nowhere to take over Gurleys starting spot and never looked back, rushing for 1,547 yards and fourteen touchdowns, which earned him SEC Freshman of the Year and First Team All-SEC honors. He ran for over 100 yards in eight straight games, the first Bulldog to do since Hershel Walker in 1982, a year in which Walker took home the Heisman. In the teams final game of the year, the Belk Bowl against Louisville, Chubb ended the season in style, earning MVP honors after rushing for 266 yards and scoring two touchdowns. Georgia is the consensus preseason choice to win the SEC West division, and if Chubb continues to dominate with the consistency that he did as a freshman last year, he should be able to take advantage of the additional notoriety and attention and have a great shot at taking home this years award.
2. Ezekiel Elliott (+850) The leading rusher in the NCAA returns for his junior year in Columbus, hoping to help lead his team to back-to-back National Championships. Ezekiel finished the season with 1,878 yards rushing along with 18 touchdowns, winning all Big 10 honors on the field and off, as he was also an All-Academic conference selection. Elliot played his best when it mattered most, rushing for a combined 696 yards and eight touchdowns in the teams final three games, which where the 59-0 Big 10 Title Game blowout win over Wisconsin and their two BCS playoff upset wins against Alabama and than Oregon in the finals. On a team where the quarterback trilogy gets the most attention along with the defensive dominance of lineman Joey Bosa, Ezekiel has the best chance of them all for hearing his name called on Heisman day.
1.Trevone Boykin (+700) TCU ranked second in the country in scoring and fifth in total offense in 2014 and Boykin was their architect and leader, setting single-season team records for passing yards (3,901), touchdown passes (33), total touchdowns (42) and total offense (4,608 yards). He was a consensus second team All-American, becoming just the third quarterback since 2009 to average at least 300 yards passing and 50 yards rushing, the other two being Robert Griffin III and Johnny Manziel, both of whom won the Heisman in the year they accomplished the feat. The Horned Frogs return 10 offensive starters from last years juggernaut that went 13-1 and will start 2015 ranked number two in the polls. As talked about in the beginning on this article, Heisman voters strongly favor quarterbacks and players on top teams, and putting up the most prolific passing numbers on a squad expected to be near the top of the polls all season long makes Boykin the logical choice as the top favorite on the list of Heisman candidates.
Below are my top choices for the Heisman based upon value. Its difficult not to go chalk on the top two favorites, Trevone Boykin and Ezekiel Elliot, as they play for the two best teams in the country and return after leading their respective positions in many statistical categories, and despite being at the top of the list are still getting decent odds for winning the trophy (Last years top two favorites Winston and Mariota had odds around 4-1). I would take three more players at much higher odds who are on teams at the top of the rankings, Alabama running back Derrick Henry, Oregon quarterback Vernon Adams and Michigan State quarterback Connor Cook. Voters perennially go for players on the best teams, and those three should be in the thick of the BCS playoff race throughout the season. My biggest long shot is Pittsburgh running back James Connor, who is far too talented a player to be getting 75-1 odds.
BEST VALUE PICKS FOR THE 2015 HEISMAN
1. Trevone Boykin, TCU (+700)
2. Ezekiel Elliot, Ohio State (+850)
3. Derrick Henry, Alabama ( +2200)
4. Vernon Adams, Oregon (+3800)
5. Connor Cook, Michigan State (+4000)
6. James Connor, Pittsburgh (+7500) Make your Heisman Trophy picks for FREE by taking advantage of a generous 50% sign-up bonus at BetOnline Sportsbook! They offer live in-game betting too!