The Heisman Trophy race doesn't really begin until October. And since it shares some similarities with our presidential election process, all of this should come easily for fans and voters in the 2016 football season.
You see, one thing that isn't often covered in most Heisman Trophy voting breakdowns is the geographic nature of the ballot distribution. There are exceptions -- like former Heisman winners and, when applicable, a fan vote -- but a certain number of the Heisman Trophy ballots are distributed to each of six predetermined regions. The way the math works out, each region holds around 16 or 17 percent of the vote.
So not exactly like the electoral college, but the idea for a Heisman campaign is still the same: You've got to win a lot of states.
So how does one win over the Heisman voters from the Northeast, Midwest, Mid-Atlantic, South, Southwest and Far West? Most Heisman winners dominate a couple of those regions and have a strong enough case to be No. 2 or No. 3 on the rest of the ballots. So how to build your case? It's quite simple, really.
Every good Heisman winner has a few things going for him.
1. He's the star player on a playoff contender OR posts prolific statistics. Shout out to Chris Huston, the Heisman Pundit, for kicking me some game as this basic principle is also one of his Heismandments. At its core, the Heisman Trophy is an award for the most "outstanding" football player. The Heisman voters are looking for some "wow factor," and it's much easier to bring that buzz when you are playing for one of the best teams in the country.
Now prolific statistics usually aren't enough. Heisman buzz trends down for players on teams that lose often, regardless of statistics. So you at least need to have around a .500 record, but even then you face a different set of narratives based on game performance.
|Game performance (RB)||Playoff Contender||.500+ record team|
|13 carries, 69 yards||Don't panic, wait 'til next game||Heisman lost|
|25 carries, 165 yards, 2 TDs||Lock it up, Heisman won||Keep up the good work|
2. Give the voters some candy. "Candy" is my word for superlatives, something that a voter can quickly refer to when asked for his/her 60-second reasoning for why they like a certain candidate. College football is a complex sport with up to 80 plays per game for a certain individual; sometimes an easy superlative (first player to _____) can keep the conversation moving. That superlative will keep a Heisman candidate in the conversation. When Christian McCaffrey was on track to break Barry Sanders' all-purpose yards mark, he solidified a spot in the Heisman race and ended up as the runner-up.
3. Get yourself a "Heisman moment."
I start every season telling myself that I'm not going to talk about "Heisman moments" and then everyone else is talking about Heisman moments and here I am writing about Heisman moments. Really, fans and voters just want the biggest performances on the biggest stage. Come up big in a pivotal win for your team and it's a "Heisman moment." It doesn't make a lot of sense, but peaking at the right time does boost Heisman chances.
The preseason Heisman Trophy field
Tier 1: Deshaun Watson, Clemson; Leonard Fournette, LSU; Christian McCaffrey, Stanford
That's where the conversation starts. We've got Deshaun Watson as the No. 1 impact player in the country here at CBS Sports, and you have to think he'll remain in the Heisman conversation as long as Clemson is in the playoff hunt. McCaffrey joins Watson as a returning finalist, so he's another one starting the season with every voter's attention. Leonard Fournette is just a beast and can't be discounted for any award in 2016 as long as he's healthy.
The next tier is where it gets tricky -- and usually a little regional. Depending on where the voter's attention may be, any one of these players could quickly become a more serious contender to win the award with just a few big-time performances.
Tier 2: Dalvin Cook, Florida State; Chad Kelly, Ole Miss; Nick Chubb, Georgia; Josh Rosen, UCLA; Baker Mayfield/Samaje Perine, Oklahoma
I included Samaje Perine with Mayfield because I think there's just as much of a chance that Perine runs wild and gets the Heisman headlines as Mayfield, and Oklahoma fans don't care which player it is as long as the Sooners are winning.
Tier 3: Royce Freeman, Oregon; Bo Scarbrough/Calvin Ridley, Alabama; DeShone Kizer/Malik Zaire, Notre Dame
Oregon fans are loud when it comes to Freeman, and they should be. The Ducks' back, coming off an 1,800-yard, 17-touchdown season, deserves a space in the same conversation as McCaffrey, Fournette, Cook and Chubb and could exceed them in the eyes of Heisman voters by the end of the year. Alabama and Notre Dame both have teams with enough talent to contend for a playoff spot, so it's just up to how things play out as to which contributor ends up getting that Heisman shine.
Other names to watch in Heisman Trophy contention: Josh Dobbs, Tennessee; Lamar Jackson, Louisville; Brad Kaaya, Miami; Trevor Knight, Texas A&M; Patrick Mahomes, Texas Tech