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The Vanderbilt Hustler

The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University.
Since 1888
The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University

The Vanderbilt Hustler

The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University.
The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University

The Vanderbilt Hustler

The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University.

Heisman Heat Levels: Forecasting college football’s most prestigious award

The college football season is nearing its midpoint, which means it’s time to start looking at the crystal ball to predict the 2019 Heisman Trophy winnder.
Photo by Claire Barnett

As we enter Week Six of the college football season, the race for the 2019 Heisman Trophy is starting to heat up. The Heisman Trophy is college football’s most prominent award and is given out to the best player in the nation each season. Las Vegas sports books are constantly wavering on the favorites to win the award, leaving countless projections for the 2019 Heisman race, so we tackled the debate in true Nashville fashion, ranking the five Heisman front runners in accordance with Hattie B’s levels of spice. 

Photo courtesy Sports Illustrated

Mild?: Justin Fields, Quarterback, Ohio State

Sophomore quarterback Justin Fields has been playing lights out for the #4 Ohio State Buckeyes in 2019. The former Georgia quarterback transferred into the program just before legendary head coach Urban Meyer handed over the reins to offensive coordinator Ryan Day at the conclusion of last season. Fields has flourished in the revamped Ohio State offense, posting 16 passing touchdowns and adding another seven scores on the ground. The Buckeyes are one of the most athletically dominant teams in 2019, with former five-star recruits all over the field. Justin Fields’s Heisman hopes will be closely linked to the their overall success, as Ohio State attempts to repeat as Big Ten Champions and reach the College Football Playoff. 

Photo courtesy

Medium??: Sam Ehlinger, Quarterback, Texas

Remember the name Sam Ehlinger (a.k.a. Sammy Football, a.k.a. Bam-Bam Sam). Ehlinger is the most underrated player in the Heisman race, despite posting video-game numbers over the past two years at Texas. Ehlinger finished the 2018 season with 25 passing touchdowns and 16 rushing touchdowns, a feat which has only been accomplished by five other college quarterbacks: Tim Tebow, Cam Newton, Johnny Manziel, Marcus Mariota and Lamar Jackson, all of whom won the Heisman Trophy and were selected in the first round of the NFL Draft. Ehlinger is off to a tremendous start in 2019, as he has thrown for 15 touchdowns and bulldozed his way into the end zone for one on the ground against #5 LSU. Head coach Tom Herman has done a great job recruiting elite skill position guys, which allows Ehlinger to dish out the football to the talented offensive playmakers around him. The Longhorns have three receivers with four touchdown receptions, including true freshman Jake Smith. With Ehlinger under center, the Longhorns are poised to make a run for the Big 12 Championship and possibly reach the College Football Playoff. Sam Ehlinger is the ultimate Heisman dark horse candidate with everything to gain in 2019. 

Photo courtesy Chicago Tribune

Hot!???: Jonathan Taylor, Running back, Wisconsin

It’s been a couple years since college football has seen a physically dominant running back like Jonathan Taylor. The junior tailback has averaged 2,085 rushing yards and 15 touchdowns over the past two seasons at Wisconsin. While the Heisman Trophy is supposed to be for the best overall player, voters tend to favor quarterbacks when it matters most. Taylor is determined to change that mentality, as he looks to set the single-season rushing record for the Badgers. Through the first four games of 2019, Taylor has rushed for 559 yards and eight touchdowns. Wisconsin dominated a ranked Michigan team, in part due to Taylor’s 203 rushing yards and two rushing touchdowns. As the #8 Wisconsin Badgers enter Big Ten play, Taylor will look to solidify himself as one of the most prolific rushers in college football history. 

Photo courtesy Fox Sports

Damn Hot!!????: Jalen Hurts, Quarterback, Oklahoma

Lincoln Riley has done it again. Oklahoma’s head coach has turned former Alabama transfer quarterback Jalen Hurts into a juggernaut for the #6 Oklahoma Sooners. The hot-shot quarterback has completed nearly 78% of his passes for 1,295 yards and 12 touchdowns through the air. In addition to the prolific Sooner passing attack, Hurts has added five rushing touchdowns and 443 rushing yards. While the Big 12 Conference has never been known for its defense, Hurts and the Sooners will continue to pummel inferior defenses until their October 12 meeting with #11 Texas. That matchup will serve as a good measurement of how far Jalen Hurts has truly developed, since he will face Texas defensive coordinator Todd Orlando and a talented defense. The latter half of Oklahoma’s schedule should provide Hurts with ample opportunities to solidify his spot at the 2019 Heisman ceremony. An Oklahoma-Alabama rematch in the CFP could very well be in the cards, which would provide Hurts the opportunity to challenge his former coach, Nick Saban. 

Photo courtesy Honolulu Star

Shut the Cluck Up!!!?????: Tua Tagovailoa, Quarterback, Alabama

In case you missed it, Tua-Mania started during the 2017 National Championship game and has only intensified over the past two years. In 2018, Tua accounted for 48 touchdowns and was the Heisman Trophy runner-up. This year, the junior quarterback has already amassed 1,718 passing yards, 23 passing touchdowns, and two touchdowns on the ground. If you listen closely, you can almost hear the “Tank for Tua” chants coming from Miami during the fourth quarter of Alabama games. While #1 Alabama has yet to face any serious competition, Tua’s numbers are staggering considering that he has only thrown 10 total passes in the fourth quarter of games this year (two of which were for touchdowns). Tua controls his own destiny at this point in the season, as the Crimson Tide must face the #5 LSU Tigers and #7 Auburn Tigers in the Iron Bowl. Of all the contenders on this list, he is is the most deserving of the Heisman Trophy due to his back-to-back record breaking seasons and elite athleticism. 

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About the Contributor
JP Hefner, Former Staff Writer
JP Hefner (‘21) was a sports writer for The Vanderbilt Hustler. He has been covering Vanderbilt sports since his sophomore year. JP majored in economics and history in the College of Arts and Science. He hails from Austin, Texas, and is a die-hard Longhorns fan. In addition to writing, he does stand-up comedy and plays fiddle for a local Nashville group.
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4 years ago

Jalen and Tua clearly above the rest. The gap between SEC and Big 12 defenses is greatly over-exaggerated due to the superior offenses in the Big 12. When looking at advanced stats such as the S&P, the conferences are nearly identical in terms of numbers on defense. Jalen has the better storyline going for him, and he also has a better offensive coach. However, Tua does have one less conference game, and this can help him get another extra game against a weaker opponent. Both of their numbers are ridiculous. Neither team has played anybody that great, but they both have dominated as they should. So overall, I think Jalen gets the trophy.