2015 NCAA Football Preview: Heisman Watch

o-HEISMAN-TROPHY-facebookThe Heisman Trophy has increasingly become tougher and tougher to figure out at this point in the year as there has rarely been a preseason favourite to win NCAA’s top individual honour.

Last year seemed to be the only exception but it was still expected that it was going to be a two-headed race and one of those two players fell off of the map almost entirely.

The Heisman race last year before the season was all about the quarterback battle between Jameis Winston and Marcus Mariota.

Winston had already won a Heisman in 2013 and now was considered the man in the NCAA until off-field issues began putting his Heisman hopes in doubt.

Throughout the season the Florida State Seminoles did not have the same strong performances as they played close games against teams they were supposed to handle.

All of the on field struggles, despite an undefeated season, and the off-field issues put Winston far back in the voting when the season was done.

Mariota on the other hand fell up and down the top five but never out of the picture and in the end he went home with the trophy.

Mariota has been the only preseason favourite in the last five years to remain at or near the top of the race throughout the year.

It all seemed to start in 2010 when reigning Heisman winner, Mark Ingram, was leading a powerful run-happy offence in Alabama.

Ingram was the early favourite to take home a second trophy but then the quarterbacks began to take over.

Unknown young studs in Stanford and Auburn began to get noticed and the race between Cam Newton and Andrew Luck was created.

Newton took Auburn to the National Championship that year and largely because of that great season he earned the Heisman over Luck.

The next year Luck entered the season as the favourite after a great 2010 and no other competition with Newton leaving for the NFL.football-sidebar

It seemed to be a sure thing that Luck was going to walk into New York and earn the Heisman as there seemed to be little expectation from anyone else.

Then a young QB from Baylor broke onto the scene and once again Luck was left in second place as Robert Griffin III took home the trophy.

The pattern continued in 2012 as well when Matt Barkely came in leading the USC Trojans as one of the favourite teams in the nation.

He was a sure NFL candidate and seemingly the perfect person to take the Heisman as a quarterback to a national favourite.

Injuries ended his season early though and a young QB from College Station was ready to light up the league and get everyone excited.

Johnny Manziel was a different player who got everyone talking both on and off of the field and he took home the Heisman after a great freshman year.

In 2013 it was all about the established quarterbacks as Heisman champion Manziel alongside Alabama quarterback AJ McCarron were the easy favourites to start the year.

Then in Week 1 another unknown redshirt freshman lit it up and immediately began earning some conversation around the league.

That freshman was Winston who continued to lead the Seminoles to an undefeated season and the National Championship.

His performance led to a blow-out win in the Heisman voting where Winston received over 2,000 votes and McCarron finished with just over 700 while Manziel finished in fifth.

So another year begins and another set of great players are given a spotlight to show what they can do when everyone is watching them.

It seems almost inevitable that another unknown will emerge as a Heisman favourite at some point this year but that is far too difficult to predict.

AS the new NCAA football season begins anyone could have a shot at the Heisman including these five players who seem to have the best shot before any games are played.

ohio-state-qb

This is the most interesting of all of the Heisman hopefuls this year and it is largely due to the fact that nobody knows who it is going to be come Week 1. The Buckeyes made their way to the National Championship using three quarterbacks after injuries forced them to play with their third stringer in the National Championship game. That third stringer was Cardale Jones who didn’t get a lot of action in 2014 but played in the two most important games of the season. He won both and was impressive as he ended up being the National Championship winning quarterback. Before then it was JT Barrett who played the entire season under centre and got the Buckeyes to the Big Ten Championship winning that game and moving Ohio State into the national playoff. Barrett was impressive throughout the season marking a great sense of calm throughout a year where they quickly were thrust back into the national spotlight. Barrett only got the shot after Junior QB Braxton Miller was hurt in spring training. Miller was entering the season as a Heisman hopeful but the injury ended his year and lost him his spot under centre. Miller is now a receiver for the Buckeyes while Jones and Barrett continue to fight it out to earn the starting role before the start of the season. Whoever takes the starting spot will end up being on this list because the Buckeyes are the early favourite to win the National Championship for a second year. They are the team that everyone is watching and every quarterback of the preseason favourite is on the list. They are only this low because nobody knows who it is yet and they have another teammate who is a clear top favourite for this year’s prize.

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dak-prescott

It has been an eventful off-season for Prescott but not one that he will want to remember for the rest of his life. The 2014 season was great for Prescott as he led Mississippi State to the top of the SEC conference. A constant battle with the rival Ole Miss highlighted a breakout season for the quarterback and almost pushing them past Alabama in the standings made a big mark. He became the new superstar in the SEC as reports have come out of Prescott now being unable to walk anywhere without a crowd. The bigger story are those people who wish to take him down though and during spring break Prescott got a lesson in how dangerous his newfound fame can be. While on spring break, Prescott and his friends were jumped and beaten by a group of other spring breakers. The harsh lesson was learned though, Prescott is no longer a normal student and now unfortunately must watch what he does and where he goes. Now he has to get back to football and deal with that new fame in a brand new way. Last year nobody expected much from Prescott but this year he is expected to be great and to lead the Bulldogs to the top of the SEC again. It is a lot of pressure for a young man to be under but it is what Prescott will need to deal with. If he can improve on last year there is little doubt that the Bulldogs can be just as great but he will be the linchpin for the team. He is still a relative unknown as many are waiting to see if he can repeat and so he sits a little low until he can truly prove himself when the games begin.

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nick-chubb

It is never easy to follow a legendary player but Nick Chubb did just that when he stepped in for Todd Gurley. The former Heisman hopeful had been suspended for the first four games of the season after the NCAA determined that he had accepted money for autographs. Then when Gurley returned from that suspension he tore his ACL and there was Chubb once again to keep the running game going. He may have only started eight games last year but Chubb is in the perfect spot to take over the rush attack of Georgia. With Gurley now gone to the NFL this is Chubb’s team and the Bulldogs love to run the ball. Generally when a new running back comes in they can struggle to find their place as they must live up to the hype of the guy before them without actually having the reps. Chubb is not in that position this year as he has already shown what he can do with the limited time he had in 2014. Now he comes into the starter’s role with plenty of experience as he looks to continue the tradition of great Georgia running backs that includes his former stable mate in Gurley. Chubb also has the freak physical gifts that come along only once in a while. A former sprinter, Chubb has that explosiveness needed to run away from the defences. He is a physical freak as well with a reported 40” vertical that he showed off in an impressive picture in high school. He showed toughness last year and rarely goes down on the first contact. There is a lot of hype for this Sophomore and if he lives up to the hype he may find himself moving up in the race fairly quickly.

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ezekial-elliott

It seems to be a year where the running backs re returning to the forefront of college football with Chubb and Ezekiel Elliott leading the way. For the better part of the last few years the quarterbacks have been the focal point of the Heisman race. There have often been running backs in the running but rarely more than one at a time and usually near the bottom of the top five. The quarterbacks have been the players to watch for a good number of years as the college game continues to adjust to the NFL. With the big leagues always looking for the next star QB college teams have turned to their young pivots to provide the fireworks. This has left the running backs to take a back seat in the offence as NFL teams aren’t as in need of these workhorses as they used to be in the past. This year that seems to be changing though as the NCAA sees two very big names in the running back position head their way towards the Heisman Trophy. One of these is Elliott who came into everyone’s homes last year with an amazing string of games at the end of the year. Just when the Buckeyes were getting ready to make a real run at the Playoff Elliott started to pick his game up. In the three most important games of the year he put together three straight 200-yard rushing games. It was a performance they needed with a third string quarterback in need of support. He doesn’t need to run for 200-yards every game but he will need to put up some big numbers if he hopes to hold off his quarterback, whoever that might be, in the Heisman race.

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trevone-boykin

More often than not the people leading the preseason Heisman candidacy are those who were in the running the year before. This year is no different as Trevone Boykin finished in fourth place last year behind three juniors. Now he is the highest finishing Heisman hopeful left in the league and for that he receives his spot at the top, at least for the time being. Boykin impressed plenty of people last year as he had the arm and the legs to keep teams on their heels. The only issue is that no matter how much he won or how many great number she put up he was always on TCU. It is not a big program or a program that plays the best teams in the league and for anything in the NCAA that makes a difference. Schedule is at sometimes everything in the NCAA and the Horned Frogs rarely have a great one. So when debating the best player in the league the conversation turns to Boykin and what his numbers really mean. The If he puts up great numbers against worse teams is that just as good as someone with decent numbers against the best of the best. That will be the debate following Boykin throughout the year and any stumble by the team will reflect directly against Boykin and his candidacy. It is a tough road to follow for Boykin but he has shown that he has the ability to handle that pressure. It will be ratcheted up this year but Boykin will take it on and will be the man to watch throughout the year. If he can continue to put up big numbers through the air and on the ground while keeping the Frogs in the win column he may just take this home.

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