The Heisman Trophy will be awarded on January 5, held between the semifinal games and National Championship scheduled for January 13. This season’s ceremony is going to be different than we’ve seen in the past at the PlayStation Theatre in New York. Instead of New York, the Heisman Trophy will be awarded virtually.
After the year we’ve had in 2020, I’m not going to say that a virtual Heisman Trophy ceremony is unusual. In fact, it’s going to feel pretty normal given what we’ve all experienced since March. The makeup of the Heisman favorites is unusual in a sense, though. We have three players from the same team getting invites to the virtual ceremony.
Alabama has three players up for consideration on January 5. Quarterback Mac Jones, wide receiver DeVonta Smith, and running back Najee Harris all hope to hear their names called. Jones, Smith, and Harris played an important role in making the Crimson Tide the favorite to win the National Championship. One player at the Heisman Trophy ceremony is impressive enough, but three is on a different level.
The other two on the list do not come as a surprise. Trevor Lawrence of Clemson will be represented, while Kyle Trask, who was recently involved in a shootout against Mac Jones, is a finalist as well. Lawrence very well would have been a deserving winner of the Heisman last season. However, a guy named Joe Burrow exploded for the LSU Tigers and stole the spotlight away from Lawrence. Lawrence has a chance to get some redemption and win the Heisman a year after he was left disappointed in New York.
However, a Covid-19 diagnosis and time missed on the field leaves him behind Jones and Smith. In a normal season, the Heisman picture might have looked different. The Big Ten started late, so Justin Fields never really got a fair shake this year, nor did Lawrence. Through a full season, who knows what Lawrence would have accomplished. In any case, all five of the contenders are worthy of being in this spot. Head below for our free Heisman Trophy betting prediction for January 5, 2020.
2020 Heisman Trophy Odds
Najee Harris: Most TDs in a game in SEC Championship game history (5)
Mac Jones: Most pass yards in a game in SEC Championship game history (418)
DeVonta Smith: Most receptions in a game in Alabama history (15)
— SEC Network (@SECNetwork) December 20, 2020
DeVonta Smith was the do-it-all wide receiver for the Alabama Crimson Tide in 2020. Not only was he an impossible chore for defenses to contain, but Smith was a major threat in the punt return game as well. Smith averaged 25 yards per return, including a return for a touchdown to add to his resume. If dominating as a returner and receiver wasn’t enough, Smith was on the punt coverage team as a gunner occasionally.
Smith recorded 98 receptions for 1,511 yards and 17 touchdowns through the air. He concluded the regular season with 137.4 yards per game. In total, Smith had 17 touchdowns receiving, one rushing, and another touchdown via a punt return. Just looking at his numbers isn’t enough, though. He has the rare ability to play all three levels of the field as a wide receiver.
Smith can take flight deep, a short slant route underneath, or catch the ball off a screen and pile up the YAC. His ability to beat coverage with his speed or winning 50-50 balls by getting physical is unmatched in college football. Speed isn’t the only way that Smith can beat a defense. His leaping ability and route running is the best we’ve seen in a long time. Julio Jones was good at Alabama, but Smith likely goes down as the most complete, and talented wide receiver to come through Tuscaloosa.
The guy getting the ball to DeVonta Smith was the backup to Tua Tagovailoa last year, Mac Jones. Jones sat behind Tua in 2019 and was called on sparingly. However, when he did see time in the offense, Jones made the most of it. He passed for 14 touchdowns and 3 interceptions on 68.8% completions. It was clear with the weapons around Mac that the Alabama offense wasn’t going to miss a beat. Jones propelled the Alabama offense to 49.7 points scored per game.
He was efficient through the air, with 3,739 passing yards, 32 touchdowns, and only 4 interceptions. Jones finished the regular season second in passing and tied for third in touchdowns in the FBS. If Nick Saban didn’t call off the dogs in some games, Jones could have put up much bigger numbers than he did. He was pulled out of games early because of blowouts. Jones did everything well for the Crimson Tide, and would be deserving of the Heisman Trophy. Even if he comes up short, expect a team to select Jones in the first-round of the upcoming 2021 NFL Draft.
Trevor Lawrence was the pre-season favorite to win the Heisman Trophy in 2019. That was before Joe Burrow started dissecting defenses in the SEC and putting up monster numbers. The odds slowly turned in Burrow’s direction, and leading up to the announcement, Burrow was a heavy favorite and the only logical choice to win the Heisman. Lawrence threw for 3,665 yards, 36 touchdowns, and 8 interceptions as a sophomore. He also ran for 563 yards and 9 touchdowns on the ground. Certainly a solid season, but there was no answer for Burrow at LSU.
Lawrence went into this season deadlocked with Justin Fields as the favorite to win the Heisman for the 2020 campaign. Things change in a hurry, though, and Fields didn’t get an invite. I can’t help but think that’s because the Big Ten didn’t start playing football weeks after the SEC and ACC. Lawrence passed for 2,753 yards, 22 touchdowns, and 4 interceptions through nine games.
Besides Notre Dame in the ACC Championship, Lawrence didn’t really see much of a challenge this season, though. The only other ranked team that Lawrence played was against Miami on October 10. Their defense is nothing to talk about either. Padding stats against the likes of Georgia Tech, Wake Forest, and The Citadel doesn’t do much for me. Against Notre Dame, Lawrence passed for 322 yards, with 2 touchdowns and an interception. He also ran for 90 yards and a touchdown on 6.4 yards per carry.
Lawrence is the undisputed No. 1 pick in the draft. I have no doubts that Lawrence is going to get the call first, but I think he has an uphill battle against Mac Jones and DeVonta Smith. Lawrence was good, and will be good at the next level in the NFL, but his play didn’t jump off the page like Alabama was able to do in the SEC. If he didn’t miss games because of Covid-19, maybe we’re having a different discussion. However, I still believe the Heisman would be going elsewhere.
I wouldn’t be upset with any five of these guys winning the Heisman Trophy. They all played exceptionally well this season, and deserve to take part in the virtual Heisman ceremony. Mac Jones was the favorite as of last week, but he and his teammate, DeVonta Smith, changed spots as the favorites. Coincidentally enough, or not, this happened around the same time votes were cast for the Heisman. You can draw your own conclusions with that.
Jones was good, but Smith made him look amazing at times. Keep in mind that Smith was responsible for 1,511 yards of the 3,739 yards that Jones threw. That’s pretty staggering. Smith wasn’t just a wide receiver, too. He set up Alabama in great field position time after time because of his ability to return punts. And then look at the YAC racked up by Smith. He led the country in YAC and in receiving. In his last four games alone, Smith had 35 receptions for 749 yards and 11 touchdowns. He was in my view the clear MVP of the season and should be awarded the Heisman Trophy on January 5. Smith would be the first receiver since Desmond Howard in 1991 at Michigan to win the Heisman.