College Football: The case for and against the Heisman frontrunners

The 2016 FBS season is nearing its final weeks, which means the homestretch is in view for these Heisman candidates.  Here are some of their strengths (and weaknesses)

College Football: The case for and against the Heisman frontrunners
Photo Credit: Ryan M Kelly, AP Photo

Well, it's almost that time again. August speculation has turned into September and October execution, and by November the favorites for Heisman are more or less figured out. While these players have seperated themselves from the rest of the field, there can unfortunately only be one. So as teams all across the nation jockey for a playoff position down the final stretch, here is VAVEL USA's heisman frontrunners, and the cases for (and against) them.  

Honorable Mentions

Baker Mayfield passed Browning as the nation's most efficient passer last weekend, however, there are reservations about the Oklahoma signal caller due to the Big 12's Defensive ineptitude. Further down the line of scrimmage, Sooner WR Dede Westbrook is having a season of his own.  

Jalen Hurts, meanwhile, has seamlessly run the Alabama offense, which is no small task for a true freshman, but his role is yet to expand from safe throws and designed runs.  

After a stellar 2015, Christian McCaffery remains in the hunt yet a more crowded heisman field in 2016 most likely means the son of Ed McCaffery should just be happy to be here.

And for the sake of mixing it up, Western Michigan's Zach Terrell deserves a shout out at the very least after leading the Broncos to their first ever 10-0 start as well as a  place in both the CFP and AP's top 25 .  

The true contenders

Lamar Jackson, QB, Louisville (So)

For: Well, at this point, the Heisman Trophy is basically Jackson’s to lose. He’s on track for a 3,000/1,000 pass/rush yard season, he’s got the big win vs. Florida State, and the comeback win at Virginia. He performed admirably in a loss to Clemson, and put Wake Forest away in a game that looked like it would be close in the first half. More importantly, he’s taken care of the ball having only 6 INTs on the year. 

Against: Some would argue he should have put Virginia away much earlier than he did, or that his bad first half vs. Clemson offsets his good 2nd half.  Others would say he’s not a polished enough passer to play at the next level. Good news: Next levels don’t matter in the Heisman race. 

Jabrill Peppers, LB/DB, Michigan (R-So)

Getty Images
Getty Images

For: Jabrill Peppers may be the best defensive player in football since fellow Wolverine Charles Woodson. Much like the iconic Woodson, Peppers doesn’t limit himself to defense and has taken snaps at HB, WR, and even wildcat QB. He’s recorded 54 tackes thus far, as well as 3 sacks on defense, while contributing 638 yards and 4 touchdowns on offense and special teams. Simply put, if anyone is fit to succeed Woodson as a defensive Heisman winner, it’s Peppers.

Against: Against conference opponents Wisconsin, Rutgers, and Illinois, Peppers recorded 3, 2, and 2 tackles. The three game quiet stretch may signal a lack of consistency for skeptics of the dynamic Peppers. It’s also worth noting he has no interceptions and just one forced fumble on the year. 

Deshaun Watson, QB, Clemson (Jr)

For: He’s on Tajh Boyd and Charlie Whitehurst’s heels in basically every passing category in Clemson history, for starters. He held off Louisville’s comeback in an epic Saturday night showdown, and has earned the Tigers big wins vs. the likes of Auburn, Florida State, and the aforementioned Cardinals. 

Against: His mobility has cooled off substantially since his 1,000+ yard, 12 rush TD season in 2015. That’s troubling when you consider just how dominant Lamar Jackson’s been on the ground. His passing isn’t as sharp either and he’s already tied his 2015 interception total with some season still left to play. Clemson fans may need to face it: If Watson wanted to win the Heisman, it would have happened in 2015. 

Jake Browning, QB, Washington (So)

Jennifer Buchanan, USA TODAY Sports

For: The Sophomore looks like the best pure pocket passer in FBS this season, with only perhaps DeShone Kizer providing any competition. Browning’s TD-INT ratio stands at a solid 7 to 1, one of the best in FBS. 

Against: Unfortunately, pure pocket passers are typically overlooked in favor of dual threat QBs (who arguably have a greater overall impact on a college game) when it comes to the Heisman race. A "traditional" QB hasn’t won the award since Sam Bradford. In addition, despite Browning’s touchdowns he sometimes struggles to move the ball down the field. 

Donnel Pumphrey, HB, San Diego State (Sr)

For: It isn’t every day that San Diego State and Heisman are used in the same sentence. Leave it to Pumphrey to change that. He’s on pace for a 2,000 yard season and has 14 touchdowns on the year, and may be the most dynamic offensive threat to come out of San Diego State since Ronnie Hillman

Against: Unfortunately for Pumphrey, the big numbers he has put up came against Mountain West competition. In the history of the conference, only one player has ever been a Heisman finalist (Alex Smith, Utah, 2004). Look, no one's saying it is impossible, but the odds are certainly stacked against him. 

JT Barrett, QB, Ohio State (R-Jr)

For: In his first year as the undisputed starting QB for the Buckeyes, Barrett has done what Urban Meyer has hoped: 2,800 yards of total offense, 31 total touchdowns. He’s yet to have a multiple-INT game this year, and has thrown 4+ TDs 4 different times this year. Even in the loss to Penn State he managed to take care of the ball and his resilience has Ohio State back in contention after a tough loss. 

Against: Ever heard of the adage “anything you can do, I can do better”? Well that sums up Barrett’s season in regards to Lamar Jackson. Everything Barrett has done, Jackson has seemingly perfected. Any other year Barrett may have been a shoe-in for the Heisman but he is unfortunately caught in a year with plenty of competition at the QB position. 

Jonathan Allen, LB/DL, Alabama (Sr)

For: On an Alabama defense that is year in/year out the envy of college football, Jonathan Allen is the crown jewel. He’s got 40 tackles on the year, two fumbles recovered and a 75-yard interception vs. Ole Miss. It’s the pass rush, however, that sets the senior apart. He has batted down multiple passes this year and has recorded seven sacks on top of that. 

Against: While Allen is by far the best defender on Alabama, the team is still insanely deep. When the Crimson Tide shut down an offense, it typically feels more like an ensemble effort than a singular one, and Allen is not nearly as irreplaceable as, say, Jabrill Peppers. 

D’Onta Foreman, HB, Texas (Jr)

Justin K. Aller, Getty Images

For: The Texas tailback is in the midst of a breakout year, and as of now, looks like the newest addition to a team known for its storied rushers (Earl Campbell, Ricky Williams, Cedric Benson). With 1,600 yards and 13 TDs, Foreman has put up monster numbers while playing in a Power-5 conference.  

Against: Foreman lacks versatility, and while his numbers are impressive, the Power-5 conference he plays in is notoriously bad defensively and this year has been no exception. Much like Mayfield, many doubters believe Foreman's stats are inflated due to the Big 12's quality of defense (or lack therof).  

Think your favorite player was left off this list?  Let us know below!

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