Each week, Advocate sportswriter Scott Rabalais, a Heisman Trophy voter since 1997, breaks down the top candidates for college football’s most prestigious award. This year’s Heisman will be presented at 7 p.m. Dec. 12 on ESPN.
1. EZEKIEL ELLIOTT, RB, JR., OHIO STATE
Elliott was outshined by teammate Braxton Miller’s dazzling Monday night fever moves against Virginia Tech, but the Heisman Race is a marathon, not a sprint. No one brings more momentum into this season than Elliott, who got better and better in the Buckeyes’ three postseason victories over Wisconsin in the Big Ten Championship Game, Alabama in the Sugar Bowl (CFP semifinal) and Oregon in the CFP Championship Game. Elliott had a pedestrian worksheet against the Hokies: 122 yards rushing and one touchdown on just 11 carries, two catches for 16 yards. But 80 yards came on an explosive first-quarter run, reminding everyone who he is. Writing Elliott off, even in favor of Miller, is a mistake.
2. TREVONE BOYKIN, QB, SR., TCU
If the 2015 Heisman Trophy race had a front runner entering the season, it was Boykin. He had all the factors you need for a successful campaign: he made a name for himself last season, is the quarterback of the preseason No. 2-ranked Horned Frogs, and is even a senior, sure to play well with nostalgic voters. The problem with being the favorite, though, is it’s easy to slide based on unrealistic, superhuman expectations. That’s Boykin’s fate after throwing for 246 yards with a touchdown and an interception and rushing for 92 yards and score in a squirmy-close 23-17 win at Minnesota. Nice numbers, but anyone who saw Boykin and TCU live saw no wow factor. He needs some.
3. DERRICK HENRY, RB, JR., ALABAMA
Henry is a textbook example of just how volatile the Heisman race can be early on. Coming into 2015, Henry was seen as a capable but hardly Heisman-quality back, the returning remnant of a potent 1-2 tailback punch after T.J. Yeldon was drafted by Jacksonville (our sympathies, T.J.). Henry ran for a serviceable 990 yards last season, and never had a game like he did Saturday against No. 20 Wisconsin. In the only battle of ranked teams, Henry burned the Badgers for 147 yards and three TDs rushing, and also caught two passes for 12 yards. He had a big stage and killed on it. Now he must do it again.
ON THE RADAR (alphabetically)
Nick Chubb, RB, So., Georgia
Leonard Fournette, RB, Soph., LSU
Braxton Miller, WR, Sr., Ohio State
Dak Prescott, QB, Sr., Mississippi State