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2019 Preseason Heisman Favorites

Rob Joyce
August 02, 2019 - 3:32 pm

The countdown to kickoff officially has one month to go. Okay, for a few teams Week Zero is a little closer than that, but for the bulk of college football there are about 30 days until the opening kick of the season. With the top two teams from last year as good – if not better – than the 2018 editions, all roads are heading toward yet another Clemson-Alabama clash in the title game, and with good reason. With the likely next two top overall NFL Draft picks under center, it’s the Tigers and Tide who lead the way in our preseason Heisman favorites:

5) Adrian Martinez, Nebraska:

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It’s been a while since the Huskers were nationally relevant, but their quarterback is the best bet to lead the way. He turned heads as a freshman when he took over the full-time starting job for good in late September, finishing with 2,617 yards and 17 touchdowns passing, with another 629 yards and eight scores rushing, leading Nebraska to four wins in the final six weeks. For the first time in a long time there is excitement in Lincoln, and entering Year 2 of the Scott Frost era with an established starter in a winnable Big Ten West, you’ll hear from Martinez for at least the next two seasons.

4) Jonathan Taylor, Wisconsin:

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Quarterbacks have won three straight, eight of nine and 11 of the last 13 Heisman Trophies, and no non-quarterback or running back has won the award since Charles Woodson in 1997. That means it’s basically not happening for a non-QB or RB, and it’s quite the uphill climb for the back. Enter Taylor, a junior workhorse in Madison. After rushing for 1,977 yards and 13 touchdowns as a true freshman in 2017, he actually improved in 2018, though to far less fanfare: 2,194 yards and 16 scores. Now if he can replicate that success, and the Badgers as a team can get back to winning the Big Ten West and getting to a New Years’ Six game, Taylor should be there in New York City.

3) Justin Herbert, Oregon:

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He turned heads by putting off the NFL Draft for a year, and the Ducks will benefit big time. While not as electrifying as the most recent Oregon Heisman winner – Marcus Mariota – Herbert is a pure passer with more athleticism than many think. After a couple of injury-riddled campaigns, Herbert’s numbers weren’t world-beating in a fully played 2018 (3,151 yards, 29 TDs, 8 INTs, 59 percent completion) but scouts love his talent.

With a slight uptick in numbers, Herbert checks all the boxes for a Heisman candidate. In a down Pac-12 the Ducks could threaten to win double-digit games. Oregon has marquee games away from home (Auburn, Stanford and Washington). Not to mention, a world of arm talent.

2) Tua Tagovailoa, Alabama:

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It was his award for pretty much all of last year… until it wasn’t. Sure, his 43-to-6 touchdown-to-interception ratio was absurd, as was his 3,966 yards and 69 percent completion percentage. But because he essentially didn’t play a fourth quarter snap before November, he didn’t have a “Heisman moment”. This year there will likely be a good chunk of games where again he sits during a blowout, which for some reason matters to Heisman voters. Because ‘Bama wins comfortably so often, Tua may not have that defining moment that, for some reason, is required.

1) Trevor Lawrence, Clemson:

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Lawrence is in the same boat as Tua – how many games is Clemson legitimately going to sweat out before January? Texas A&M and Syracuse are the second and third opponents on the schedule, but after that it lightens up quite a bit. On Lawrence’s side are his numbers from last year: 3,280 yards, 30 touchdowns to four interceptions, a 65 percent completion rate, and that’s really only playing 10 full games, plus short stints in five others. With a full season as the surefire starter, the Heisman (not to mention another national championship) is Lawrence’s to lose.