1. Ezekiel Elliott (RB, Ohio State)
With his performance towards the end of the season last year, how could you not have this guy towards the top of your list? Ezekiel Elliot finished 2014 with a total of 1878 yards on 273 carries. 696 of those yards came in the last three games of the season. Let me repeat that, 696 yards in three games, that’s an astounding 232 yards per game the last three of the season. To go along with his 6.9 YPC average, he exploded for 18 touchdowns. Not to mention, he led his team to victory in the first College Football Championship. Ohio State has a pretty weak schedule this year. If Elliot can explode for 230 yards against defenses like Alabama and Oregon, then he will run all over the teams he faces this year. Whomever it may be, Cardale Jones or JT Barrett, will have a monster in the backfield.
Why Elliot will not win the Heisman-
Everyone knows about Ohio State’s ongoing QB battle. Braxton Miller just recently announced he will moving to wide receiver. So, that leaves either JT Barrett or Cardale Jones to step in as the starter. Since Ohio State has so many weapons on offense, look for them to spread the ball around this year. Not only that, but like I mentioned earlier, OSU has a rather weak schedule this year. Having only two notable opponents in Michigan State and Michigan. With that being said, Ohio State could jump out to some very early leads, forcing Meyer to pull the starters with potentially a whole quarter left. Also, not taking away from Elliot’s performance last year against Wisconsin or Alabama, but he came into those games as maybe the 3rd most important player on the offense. This year, teams know that Elliot can explode for 200 yards on any given night. So, Elliot can guarantee he will be the 1st or 2nd most important this year.
2. Nick Chubb (RB, Georgia)
Nick Chubb’s freshman year will go down as one of the greatest freshman year performances in Georgia history. In each of his final eight games, he rushed for 100+ yards, hitting the 150 yard mark in four of those games and 200 mark in two of them. In the beginning of the year, Chubb did not see the ball much due to Todd Gurley’s success. He only had a total of 12 carries the first three games. But when Gurley went out for various reasons, Nick Chubb exploded with his unbelievable stretch of 100+ yard games. Something else to take a look at is Georgia’s current quarterback situation. As of now, they have not named a starter. Do not be surprised if Chubb’s total carries for this season exceeds 300 compared to last year’s 219. He finished the year with 1547 yards along with 14 touchdowns. This may not compare to the season totals of other Heisman hopefuls, but keep in mind that Chubb only started 8 of the Bulldogs 13 games. Without Gurley in the backfield, look for Nick Chubb to start every game this year and have a very noteworthy season.
Why Chubb will not win the Heisman-
Georgia has always been known for their explosive rushing attack, dating back to before the Richt era. Herschel Walker set the foundation for many other talented Running backs to come to Athens. This year, the trend continues. Chubb will be in the starting position, but will be backed up by a very talented Sony Michel, who found the end zone 5 times while also picking up 410 yards in 2014. A lot of people have forgotten that Keith Marshall will be returning to the backfield for Georgia this year. Look for him to also take a few carries in the red zone away from Chubb after long drives. If Richt continues to share the ball with his multiple running backs like in years past, then Nick Chubb will have a tough time winning the Heisman in 2015. Not to mention the fact that every team knows what Chubb is capable of now.
3. Trevone Boykin (QB, TCU)
Trevone Boykin had an incredible 2014 season that put TCU back in the running for a national championship. A lot of people were shocked that TCU was leapfrogged by Ohio State that last week of the regular season so this kid and this TCU squad definitely have something to prove this year. He finished last year completing 301 of his 492 passes with 3,901 yards. 3,901 yards speaks for itself when looking at this guy; that is very tough to do. He threw 10 interceptions, but he had 33 passing touchdowns to go along with 8 rushing, and even one receiving. If you were to look at Boykin’s 2014 passing yards game-by-game, it looks like an NFL season with multiple 300 and 400 yard games. TCU absolutely destroyed a very good Ole Miss team 42-3 last year in the Peach Bowl. Trevone was the leader of an offense that did not score less than 30 points all year. They only scored in the thirties twice, and put up an enormous 82 points on Texas Tech. They even scored 58 points in a losing effort to Baylor, their only loss all year. This TCU team is very dangerous coming into the 2015 season, watch out for Trevone Boykin.
Why Boykin will not win the Heisman-
The reason Trevone Boykin may not win the Heisman Trophy this year is because it will be very hard to top or even match his totals from last year. Every team is now very aware of what Boykin is capable of on the field. He is a very talented dual threat quarterback that is sure to be the focal point of all opposing defenses this year. This spring, Boykin suffered an injury to his non-throwing wrist that sidelined him for some time. We will see how he recovers from that minor setback. Also, let’s be real here, TCU is not a school that produces Heisman hopefuls on a consistent basis. If TCU were to lose two or even one game this year, do not be surprised if Boykin is no longer in the discussion. Do not worry TCU fans, because I do not see that happening.
4. Cody Kessler (QB, USC)
Cody Kessler may come off as a surprise to see in someone’s pre-season top five Heisman hopefuls but here are plenty of reasons why you should not be surprised. First off, his entire offensive line is returning. This will be huge for Kessler for protection and chemistry purposes. Last year, he amassed 3,826 yards with 39 touchdowns to only 5 interceptions. Kessler is a very good decision-maker and does not commit many turnovers. His completion percentage last year was 69.7%, better than nearly all QB’s in the race this year. Kessler set records for completions (315), completion percentage, interception rate (1.11), and tied the record for passing touchdowns and 300 yard games (7) at USC. Kessler may have been in the running last year if it weren’t for their last second losses to Arizona State and Utah. The guy has already broke the records of two previous Heisman winners at USC, Carson Palmer and Matt Leinart. He is very good passing under duress as well, last year he completed 51.3% of his passes on the run compared to Mariota’s 44.4%. Kessler was very under-the-radar last year due to USC’s lack of success as a team, but if Kessler can lead this team to 11 or 12 wins with the same numbers as last year, then he may find himself hoisting that trophy at the end of this year.
Why Kessler will not win the Heisman-
Nelson Agholor, Kessler’s go-to man last year now plays in Philadelphia for the Eagles. He had a third of Kessler’s completions last year as well as 1,313 of the yards and 12 of the touchdowns. Without him coming back, Kessler will be forced to look elsewhere for a #1 target. USC has a very tough schedule this year, the 4th toughest schedule in the nation according to ESPN’s Football Power Index. They have three teams (UCLA, Arizona, ASU) in the top 25 from the south on their schedule, and Kessler will also have to face Oregon and Stanford for the first time from the north. Not to mention the trip to Notre Dame come mid-October. So, if USC cannot get out of that gauntlet of a schedule with one or two losses, then it will be very hard for Kessler to win the Heisman with all the other competition.
5. JT Barrett (QB, Ohio State)
Assuming JT Barrett wins the starting position that he rightfully deserves, then he could definitely be someone to be in the mix in the Heisman race. As a freshman, Barrett racked up 2,834 yards passing and 938 yards rushing with a Big Ten record 45 total touchdowns. He even finished fifth in last year’s Heisman race. Keep in mind he did not start the last two games either. He went down with an injury in the Michigan game, so Cardale Jones took over Vs Alabama and Oregon. He broke a total of 17 records in his freshman year while only playing 12 games. JT is a very elusive quarterback with great vision. He amassed 189 rushing yards last against Minnesota in an excellent performance. He was also responsible for a total of 6 touchdowns vs Kent State. JT Barrett has the qualifications of a Heisman trophy winning quarterback, with an excellent, experienced team backing him up.
Why Barrett will not win the Heisman-
There are two obvious reasons that Barrett may not win this year’s Heisman trophy. The first obvious reason would be that Cardale Jones takes the starting position. But like I mentioned earlier, I do not believe that will happen. Unfortunately for Barrett’s Heisman chances, Urban Meyer has said he does not hate the idea of having a rotation at the position. With two very talented QB’s, can you blame him? It is nearly impossible for a QB to win this award while sharing first string reps with someone else. Another obvious reason Barrett may not win the Heisman is because of his injury. The injury he suffered last year even had Michigan players checking on him. Michigan and Ohio State football players do not check on each other, so you can imagine how bad this injury must have been to watch. So, we will see how Barrett recovers, his cuts and bursts of speed may be a little slower than they were last year. Lastly, I see Michigan State and Michigan beating Ohio State this year. I know it is a very bold call, but I see another Heisman candidate in Connor Cook, the quarterback for Michigan State. I believe he will be able to get it done this year because MSU is Ohio State’s first real test. They will not be used to the level of play MSU is going to bring. I see them coming out strong the next week vs Michigan, but I believe Jim Harbaugh and the Wolverines will also get the job done against the Buckeyes. With these two losses, Ohio State will find themselves out of the Playoff, and Barrett will find himself out of the Heisman race.
Notables to look for-
*Deshaun Watson (QB, Clemson)
Leonard Fournette (RB, LSU)
Connor Cook (QB, Michigan State)
Derrick Henry (RB, Alabama)