Rabalais: The Joe Burrow chase? Four reasons why the Heisman may already be in the LSU QB’s hands

2 weeks ago The Advocate 0

It is as predictable as Thanksgiving day turkeys — the one on your dinner table and the Detroit Lions on your TV set:

LSU quarterback Joe Burrow is the giant Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade balloon of Heisman Trophy favorites this year. For the sake of argument, let’s say he’s Charlie Brown.

But there are folks in the sports media out there who are trying to be the Lucy, pulling the ball (or trophy) away from Burrow at the last moment.

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Don’t get me wrong. It is the role of the media to question things. But Burrow is so far and away the favorite as to virtually make no odds. According to BetOnline.ag, Burrow is a 1/30 favorite, meaning you’d have to bet $300 to win $10. This after starting at 200-to-1 in the preseason.

The race isn’t over until the voting closes on Dec. 9, of course, and anything can happen. And that is the thread some some writers are sewing with players like Ohio State defensive end Chase Young.

“There’s unexpected drama in the Heisman race entering the final weekend of the regular season,” writes Brad Crawford of 247Sports.com. “No player who has exclusively played on the defensive side of the ball has ever won the Heisman, but voters could be more likely to favor Young this fall as arguably the best player on a national title contender.”

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AP college football writer Ralph Russo penned an analysis piece earlier this week about Young, saying: “The question is not whether Young should be a finalist. Clearly, the answer is yes. Young has been so good, leading the nation with a school-record 16 sacks (actually 16½), that he will enter the last two games of the season with a chance to catch presumptive front-runner Joe Burrow from LSU and become the first defense-only Heisman winner.”

Clearly, Young is a great player and appears to be most deserving of a front-row seat Dec. 14 for the Heisman ceremony in New York. But despite the novelty of his candidacy, there are still some headwinds pushing against him and keeping Burrow almost out of sight in front of the rest:

1. BURROW BREAKS RECORDS: A lot of them. Not only is he the first Southeastern Conference quarterback with over 4,000 yards passing (4,014) and 40 passing touchdowns (41) in a single season, but he is only 262 yards away from breaking Tim Couch’s single-season yardage record from 1998 at Kentucky and four TDs away from breaking Drew Lock’s record for touchdowns in a season from 2017. Burrow may have both records in hand by the time he leaves the field Saturday night. And with a 78.9% completion rate, he is on pace to soar past Colt McCoy’s FBS record of 76.7% he set in 2008 at Texas. There have been six SEC quarterbacks to win the Heisman: Steve Spurrier (1966), Pat Sullivan (1971), Danny Wuerffel (1996), Tim Tebow (2007), Cam Newton (2010) and Johnny Manziel (2012). Burrow’s season will eclipse them all. Young, it must be said, already has the Big Ten single-season sack record.

2. QUARTERBACKS WIN THE HEISMAN: It may not be fair, but it is a fact. In the 2000s, only three running backs — former Saints star Mark Ingram and Derrick Henry of Alabama and ex-Saint Reggie Bush of USC — have won the Heisman (Bush’s 2005 award was later vacated because of NCAA infractions). As Crawford alluded only one predominantly defensive player, Michigan cornerback Charles Woodson in 1997, won the Heisman. But the play that won it for him was a punt return against Ohio State. Still, Peyton Manning was a gigantic favorite that year as well.

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3. TALENT WINS OUT? Young’s supporters argue that he is the best player on the nation’s best team, and quite possibly the No. 1 pick in the 2020 NFL draft. But, currently, Burrow is the quarterback on the No. 1 team and is getting just as much consideration for being the No. 1 overall draft pick. Pretty much depends on which team is doing the picking. Not that any of that matters. But the Heisman is not for the “Most talented player on the best team.” The ballot says the Heisman Trophy is “Awarded to the outstanding college football player in the United States.” That makes the ballot open to broad interpretation, but Burrow certainly fits the criteria such as they are. And as a defensive end, Young perhaps makes an impact on one-third of the snaps in a game. For LSU, the ball goes through Burrow’s hands every time, unless he’s on the bench after directing the Tigers to a big lead.

4. MULTIPLE CANDIDATES MAKE IT HARD: While Young has gained ground, odds-wise he isn’t even the highest Heisman favorite on his team. That is quarterback Justin Fields. Then there is Buckeyes’ running back J.K. Dobbins, sure to find his way onto some of the 929 Heisman ballots (voters choose first, second and third). There is no way Young and Fields won’t cut into each other’s vote totals. And don’t discount Ohio native Burrow’s ability to burrow his way onto a lot of ballots in the Midwest region as well.

Ultimately, it may be much ado about nothing. What Burrow has to do to hold onto his huge Heisman lead is this: play well against Texas A&M and Georgia. If he stays healthy, continues to average 300-plus yards per game and throws more touchdowns than interceptions, the award will be his. In the view of ESPN college football analyst Kirk Herbstreit, it may be his already.

“I hate to say that it’s over,” the former Ohio State quarterback said on his podcast, “but Joe Burrow at this point has done everything in his power to be a dominant player and to be a guy that is very deserving of winning the Heisman. Let’s hope he doesn’t ever get injured. But unless he just lays an egg and has one of those games — he hasn’t all year — where he’s throwing interceptions. … I just don’t know if there’s anything that can open up the door.”

There are two games to go. The door is still open a crack. But Burrow has both hands on it and is giving it a big shove.