Heisman Finalists Announced: Ranking The Candidates

    The Heisman Trophy Finalists were announced. Who are the top candidates and who were the best players?

    December 8, 2015

    E-mail Rich Cirminiello
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    The Heisman Trophy finalists have been announced: Alabama RB Derrick Henry, Stanford RB Christian McCaffrey, and Clemson QB Deshaun Watson. But who else deserved to be in the mix?

    Everyone’s entire body of work is in, save for Navy QB Keenan Reynolds, who still has Army left on the schedule this weekend. It’s time to dive into three months of data before casting ballots and determining who’ll be immortalized as the 81st Heisman Trophy winner. And while handicapping the race is far easier now that championship weekend is over, there’s no consensus in which direction the vote will go.

    As a quick refresher on the process, there’ll be 929 total, comprised of 870 media votes evenly distributed throughout six geographic regions, 58 former winners and a fan vote.


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    Heisman Trophy Rankings

    7. The Field

    There’s tremendous equity in finishing in the top 10 of the Heisman vote, and a slew of players will be jockeying to be this year’s Tevin Coleman or Bryce Petty.

    Reynolds is going to get recognition for a record-setting career and for leading Navy into the Top 25 for the first time in over a decade. QB Luke Falk is the reason Washington State was the Pac-12’s biggest surprise of 2015. Baylor’s Corey Coleman finished quietly, but was far and away the game’s best wide receiver. TCU QB Trevone Boykin was special before throwing four picks against Oklahoma State and then getting injured a week later. And how will voters handle LSU Leonard Fournette, clearly a premier player, but one that fell off the radar following a 31-yard effort versus Alabama a month ago?

    6. RB Dalvin Cook, Florida State

    In a different year, such as 2013 or 2014, Cook probably wins the award.

    Really, the only reason Cook won’t win the Heisman is because this happened to be the season that the Seminoles weren’t in national title contention and took a backseat to Clemson in the ACC. Makes no sense, true, but it’s a fact. In the year of the running back, it could be argued—convincingly—that no one was better than Cook. He didn’t have nearly the same support as, say, Derrick Henry, yet still rushed for 1,658 yards and 18 scores on only 211 carries. Cook had to carry the FSU offense, while injured at times, highlighted by a 222-yard, two-score effort to beat Miami on a night he was suffering from a bad hamstring.

    5. RB Ezekiel Elliott, Ohio State

    That debacle against Michigan State on Nov. 21 didn’t just cost the Buckeyes their perfect season. In all likelihood, it also derailed Elliott’s hopes of winning the Heisman.

    Oh, Elliott will get plenty of well-deserved love, particularly from Midwest voters who understand why he railed on the staff for not feeding him against the Spartans. When No. 15 was used properly, he was unstoppable, rushing for at least 100 yards in every other game. And his totals, 1,672 yards and 19 scores, stack up with anyone. However, even after torching a stout Michigan D for 214 yards and two scores in a validation effort last week, the Michigan State game was so visible that it’ll be tough to overcome.

    4. QB Baker Mayfield, Oklahoma

    The Sooners are all the rage these days. And no individual in Norman is benefitting more from the increased exposure than the team’s quarterback.

    You can’t mention Oklahoma’s second-half surge without bringing up Mayfield. The two are inseparable. The quarterback has been the face of a team that’s overcome a nasty loss to Texas on Oct. 10 to reel off seven straight wins and earn a certain playoff berth. Mayfield possesses the requisite numbers, 3,809 total yards and 42 total touchdowns, to win the award. However, he also has that intangible ‘it’ factor, which has helped spark his team, and which will not be lost on those casting ballots this week.

    3. QB Deshaun Watson, Clemson

    Watson did about all he could to improve his Heisman chances Saturday night in Charlotte. But will it be enough in the year of the running back in college football?

    At a minimum, Watson has earned a trip to New York City by leading his Tigers to an ACC title and a perfect season. Plus, he’s a slight favorite to be the highest ranked quarterback ahead of Mayfield, especially since he had the luxury of one final game on the most important weekend for voters. Watson was the offensive catalyst in Saturday’s 45-37 win, accounting for 420 yards and five scores to snap Carolina’s 11-game winning streak. In just his second year on campus, he’s already one of the game’s most polished passers and leaders.

    2. RB Christian McCaffrey, Stanford

    If anyone is going to leapfrog Derrick Henry on the final weekend, it’s McCaffrey who delivered an epic—and most timely—night to lead the Cardinal to a Pac-12 clincher over USC.

    As far as statements go, McCaffrey made one of the best lasting impressions in Heisman history in Santa Clara. The sophomore smashed Barry Sanders’ single-season all-purpose record in grand style, showcasing every imaginable angle of his repertoire. Downgraded a bit after Stanford fell to Oregon three weeks ago, McCaffrey erupted for 461 total yards, while accounting for touchdowns as a runner, a passer and a receiver. And for a change, his exploits occurred in primetime, so no excuses for East Coasters who’ve missed many of his games this fall.

    1. RB Derrick Henry, Alabama

    Spoiler alert … in all likelihood, everyone else is competing for third place behind Henry and McCaffrey this week.

    There are plenty of good choices for the Heisman this season. There exists a wide range of options in terms of positions and geographic locations. But none of those options will appear on more ballots than Henry, who has been the closest thing to a shoe-in since going for 210 yards and three scores in the head-to-head battle with then-favorite Leonard Fournette. Henry has been a horse all year long, breaking the SEC single-season rushing record on a team that wasn’t all that talented elsewhere on offense. And he delivered in every big moment in 2015, including another workmanlike 189 yards and a score to lead Bama to Saturday’s conference title over Florida.

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