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#pounditThursday, January 28, 2021

Top 10 2018 Heisman Trophy favorites

Tua Tagovailoa Alabama

Though we’re still months away from the start of the 2018 college football season, spring games and practices are a nice reminder that it’s not too early to begin considering who could contend for the Heisman Trophy. There will be no repeat winner with Baker Mayfield headed to the NFL, and the field looks to be wide open with no clear favorite — and a lot of young upstarts who could potentially vie for the famous trophy.

Here are ten leading candidates. It could be a very good year for running backs.

1) Bryce Love, Stanford

The 2017 runner-up could well end up taking the prize in 2018. He finished second in the nation with 2,118 rushing yards, plus 19 touchdowns. He surprised some by deciding against entering the NFL Draft, but the decision made him a favorite for next year’s Heisman. Stanford returns most of its offense. The big concern for Love is whether he’ll remain healthy considering he battled an ankle injury all season last year. If so, that could result in a huge season for the Cardinal star.

2) Jonathan Taylor, Wisconsin

Taylor finished third in the nation in rushing yards as a freshman, coming up just short of the 2,000 yard mark. As a sophomore, it’s only logical to expect even more. If he stays healthy, Taylor should lead Wisconsin’s offense and surpass 2,000 yards. The Badgers will lean heavily on him, and he should surpass his 13 touchdown tally as well. Derrick Henry was the last running back to win the Heisman in 2015, with 2,219 yards. Taylor could certainly approach that mark.

3) J.K. Dobbins, Ohio State

Yes, it could prove to be a very good year for the running backs. Dobbins was another freshman who greatly impressed in 2017, rushing for 1,403 yards and seven touchdowns. There is reason to believe he could take a big step forward in 2018. Most of the offense returns, Ohio State should be a playoff contenders, and Dobbins himself will be a year older and a year wiser.

4) Jake Fromm, Georgia

Fromm opportunity to put up huge numbers may be hindered by Georgia’s excellent running game, meaning the offense won’t be totally reliant on the quarterback. That said, Fromm showed in Georgia’s title game loss that he can handle the responsibility, as he thoroughly outplayed the Alabama Crimson Tide for much of the game. He didn’t look much like a freshman as he threw for 2,615 yards and 24 touchdowns. His sophomore campaign could be a very big one.

5) Tua Tagovailoa, Alabama

Why not? Tagovailoa has already shown he can perform on the biggest of stages, taking over at halftime to engineer Alabama’s comeback in the CFP title game. There are still a lot of unknowns here, and it may be too soon for him to reach these levels, but it would be a mistake to discount him. One thing that could work against him is the chance that the workload at quarterback could be divided — in fact, Tagovailoa still has to win the quarterback job first as he battles Jalen Hurts.

6) Trace McSorley, Penn State

Saquon Barkley is leaving Penn State, which will put much more on the shoulders of McSorley. Though overshadowed by his running back, McSorley had an excellent season in his own right in 2018, throwing for 3,570 yards and 28 touchdowns. Unlike some of his potential Heisman competitors, he has experience on his side — he’ll be a senior looking to take the leap into the College Football Playoff with Penn State, which he’s never quite managed.

7) Jarrett Stidham, Auburn

The Baylor transfer showed off good form in his first season under center at Auburn, leading the team to an Iron Bowl win and an appearance in the SEC championship game. Key players are leaving the Tigers this offseason, which could mean more opportunities for Stidham to post even bigger numbers than he posted in 2017 (3,158 yards, 18 touchdowns). Playing in the SEC may help his cause, too.

8) Will Grier, West Virginia

In the West Virginia offense, Grier will certainly have chances to post gaudy numbers, if nothing else. The former Florida quarterback arrived in Morgantown and put up big stats in 2017, throwing for 3,490 yards and 34 touchdowns, the latter tally good for eighth in the nation until his season ended due to a gruesome injury. Grier has weapons around him and should post big numbers again, which should impress Heisman voters.

9) Khalil Tate, Arizona

One of the country’s premier dual-threat quarterbacks, Tate has something to prove. Can he thrive under new coach Kevin Sumlin? Can he be a good enough passer to be considered at the top end of Heisman-worthy quarterbacks? That will make or break him, because he picked up 1,411 yards rushing with 12 touchdowns last season. His 14 touchdowns to nine interceptions, however, was an underwhelming ratio as a passer. If his passing takes a step forward, look out.

10) D’Andre Swift, Georgia

If you thought Georgia’s running game would tank following the departures of Nick Chubb and Sony Michel, think again. Swift still managed to tally up 618 yards despite being behind the two of them in 2017, and he flashed his potential several times. Most notable was the SEC Championship, when he put up 88 yards and a 64-yard touchdown on just seven carries against Auburn. He should get the No. 1 job, and don’t be surprised if he takes it and runs to national prominence.

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