We got bored here at Inside NU and decided to release some Heisman Trophy predictions for 2017.
Caleb Friedman — Deondre Francois
Tied for the fifth best odds (15-1) to win the Heisman, per Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook, the Florida State signal-caller is primed for a huge sophomore season. The Seminoles won 10 games last season, and Francois wasn't even as good as he could've been. His accuracy and completion percentage (58.8 last season) will need to improve, but he's a prolific thrower, and with a ton of talent around him, I see him making that jump. FSU — ranked third in the country in the preseason coaches poll — should be right in the playoff picture at the end of the season, which helps a player's Heisman candidacy tremendously. Francois threw for 3,350 yards, 20 touchdowns and just seven interceptions a season ago, and that was as a true freshman! I was tempted to give the nod to Jalen Hurts, but Alabama's dominant rushing attack will take away from his numbers.
Martin Oppegaard — Jalen Hurts
The Heisman campaign for Jalen Hurts will begin on Sept. 2 when Alabama rolls over Florida State and Deondre Francois. Heading into his sophomore campaign, Hurts checks all the boxes for a Heisman winner. First, he’s a quarterback and will become the 10th to win the Heisman in the last 12 years. Alabama, as always, will be in the national title hunt and Hurts will play on the biggest stages all season. New offensive coordinator Brian Daboll came from New England and has raved about Hurts this offseason; he knows a thing or two about quarterbacks. Daboll has been working with Hurts on improving his mechanics, feet and eyes, and he should become even more efficient this season. As a freshman, Hurts completed 62.8 percent of his passes for 2,780 yards and 23 touchdowns. The point that Caleb made is valid, but let’s not forget that Hurts is big part of Alabama’s rushing attack. He was second on the Crimson Tide with 954 rushing yards and led the team with 13 touchdowns. Hurts is going to be the superstar on the best team in the country and that’s reason enough to win the Heisman. Factor in that he’ll get his signature win the first game of the season and then cruise through a relatively easy SEC schedule, and you have your 2017 Heisman winner.
Tristan Jung - Sam Darnold
I’m all-in on the USC hype train, a bandwagon which has never failed anyone before and is 100 percent reliable. The Trojans’ quarterback, Sam Darnold, is the betting favorite to win the Heisman, but that’s not saying much given the unpredictability of the award. However, the stats are clearly there. If USC manages to go undefeated or have just one loss, I think Darnold could easily ride to the Heisman Trophy if he keeps up his 161.1 passer rating from last season. Lamar Jackson, for reference, sat at 148.8 last year. Darnold was the best quarterback in college football in the second half. His numbers were astronomical, and he was immaculate. Just go watch the highlights of the 2017 Rose Bowl again. He’s good, folks, he’s very, very good.
Darnold is an accurate passer. He avoids mistakes, can throw a pretty deep ball, and has the talent machine of USC behind him. He has an offense that suits his style and an easier schedule to put up huge numbers than Francois, Hurts, Jackson, and even Saquon Barkley. There’s a reason Darnold is the betting favorite—not only does he have the natural talent, but he’s also in an excellent position to succeed.
Will Ragatz -
Clayton Thorson Baker Mayfield
I know, going with four quarterbacks is boring. I truly was tempted to pick someone like Saquon Barkley or Derrius Guice, but couldn’t pull the trigger. After all, only three running backs have won the award this century. Barkley’s backfield mate, Trace McSorley, is also going to put up huge numbers, and I don’t know if LSU will be good enough to make the case for Guice even if he has another big year. Instead, I’m going with the guy who has come darn close to winning a Heisman twice already. In two seasons as Oklahoma’s starting quarterback, Mayfield has finished fourth and third in the voting, behind some extremely talented players. While it may seem like a tough ask for Mayfield to get over the hump in his senior season despite losing Biletnikoff winner Dede Westbrook and running backs Joe Mixon and Samaje Perine, I think that’s exactly what he’s going to do. Oklahoma returns an excellent offensive line and Mayfield will still have plenty of weapons in Lincoln Riley’s up-tempo offense (look for Mark Andrews to have a big year). Mayfield will outduel JT Barrett early on and cruise to a Big 12 title, putting up a second straight 40 TD season and taking home the hardware. Or...maybe Clayton Thorson will win the Heisman. You never know.