By Brandon Elsasser
Georgia Football is right around the corner. The preseason predictions are beginning to roll in as Bovada just released their odds for who will win the Heisman Trophy and who will be crowned the champion of the second College Football Playoff in January of 2016.
It’s been 35 years since UGA won a national championship and it’s been 33 years since Herschel Walker brought the Heisman Trophy home to Georgia. Georgia fans are hopeful that the 2015 season will put an end to those droughts. DawgNation does have reason for optimism, especially when it comes to the Heisman, as sophomore Nick Chubb returns to Athens after a stellar freshman year. In this post we will take a look at Heisman contenders for the upcoming season, and how Nick Chubb stacks up.
Nick Chubb, RB UGA:
Nick Chubb had a remarkable freshman year. He rushed for 1,547 yards and 14 touchdowns against SEC defenses and even added a couple of receiving touchdowns along the way. This was with a 5th year-senior 2,000 yard passer and a Top-10 NFL draft pick starting much of the season. The sky is the limit for Chubb in his second season in which he will get more of the carries, though won’t be overloaded as talented backs Sony Michel, Brendan Douglas, and a healthy Keith Marshall shall all be there to lighten the load. Four starters return on the offensive line and while team leader and All-SEC performer David Andrews could prove challenging to replace, there is enough talent returning on an offensive line that led a 12th ranked Georgia rushing attack a year ago to spur on the Dawgs’ ground game. While questions remain at quarterback, Brice Ramsey has shown promising flashes in mop up duty and coaches have been impressed with Faton Bauta this spring. Whoever emerges as starter against UL Monroe on September 5th should have enough options to prevent defenses from totally packing the box to stop Chubb. With a manageable SEC East, UGA is the favorite to make it to Atlanta. If the Dawgs do indeed go 11-1 as we predicted yesterday, Nick Chubb will be a household name throughout the U.S. Chubb had over 100 yards in every game he played in a year ago, and, as the go-to-guy this season, his carries, production and chances of joining Bulldog legends Frank Sinkwich and Herschel Walker in the Heisman Club look promising.
Ezekiel Elliott, RB Ohio State:
Elliott put up some lofty numbers during his sophomore season at Ohio State, and many are tagging him as the preseason Heisman favorite. While it wouldn’t be wise to predict a major drop-off in production from Elliott going into his Junior year, it wouldn’t be surprising to see a dip in Elliott’s number of carries. As a result of Ohio State’s injuries at quarterback, Elliott was handed the ball 273 times of 690 Buckeye carries in Ohio State’s run dominated offense from 2014. Ohio State only threw the ball 409 times. In 2015, Ohio State returns three proven quarterbacks, any of whom could emerge as a Heisman candidate in their own right. Ohio State also returns 67% of their receiving yards and 75% of their catches from a year ago, so it seems likely the Buckeyes will throw more than 37% of the time. This, coupled with Ohio State losing four of their starting offensive linemen from a year ago, could signal a step back this year for Elliott. Despite those possible reductions in his numbers for 2015, Elliott is the front-runner in some eyes for good reason. He ran for 1,878 yards and 18 touchdowns a year ago, and simply matching that this fall could put him in the mix. Heisman voters have looked favorably on players from teams near the top of the rankings as 7 of the last 10 winners have been on teams finishing their seasons undefeated. Ohio State and Elliott could find themselves in this position as their schedule looks favorable once again. While Elliott certainly was productive for the Buckeyes last season, the newcomers at offensive line and returning passing threats indicate potentially fewer opportunities for him this season. That said, a better passing game for Ohio State could also increase Elliott’s yards as defenses are forced to focus more on the quarterback than they did a year ago. Elliott starts the season with high Heisman expectations, he may have a challenging year ahead, but we believe he will be on a team at or near the top of the standings all season long.
Trevone Boykin, QB TCU:
Trevone Boykin exploded on the scene for Texas Christian University a year ago as a Junior in his first season as a full-time starter. Boykin threw for 3,901 yards, 33 Touchdowns with just 10 interceptions while also rushing for 709 yards and eight scores. Many felt the Horned Frogs deserved a spot in the Inaugural College Football Playoff with a 3 point loss at top-5 Baylor as the only blemish on their résumé. Following a 42-3 dismantling of Ole Miss in the Georgia Dome in the Chick-Fil-A Peach Bowl, many penciled in Boykin as a leading Heisman Candidate with ten offensive starters returning in 2015. While the losses aren’t numerous on offense for the Horned Frogs, they could be impactful as Boykin loses his blindside protector in All-Big 12 performer Tayo Fabuluje, who will now be playing on Sundays with the Chicago Bears. Boykin also loses dependable receiver David Porter, responsible for nearly 400 receiving yards and three touchdowns a year ago. Perhaps more worrisome for Boykin’s chances are the defensive losses in Fort Worth. The Horned Frogs lose five starters from their stout 8th ranked defense from a year ago. Gary Patterson has a strong defensive reputation, but it won’t take much of a drop-off for the high-octane offenses sported by the Big 12 to take advantage and potentially knock off TCU. The newcomers on defense won’t have months to get adjusted either, with tough tests at Minnesota and traditional gun-slinging Texas Tech during September. Further games at K-State, Oklahoma, and Oklahoma State as well as a potential top-10 matchup against Baylor on the final weekend of the season could all prove to be pitfalls for TCU. While the Heisman is an individual award, more often than not, quarterbacks winning the award in recent years come from undefeated teams. Boykin and the Horned Frogs have potential losses littered throughout their schedule. Boykin is capable of putting up monster numbers this season, but should TCU pick up some losses along the way, it may not be enough for him to bring Fort Worth their first Heisman since Davey O’Brien in 1938.
Leonard Fournette, RB LSU:
Fournette came out of high school as one of the most talked about players in years, and during his 2014 freshman season put up very respectable numbers. Fournett had 1,034 rushing yards and ten touchdowns. Many expect him to burst onto the Heisman campaign this fall in Baton Rouge. This won’t necessarily be an easy task, however. The Tigers lose several offensive lineman, including All-SEC tackle La’el Collins. LSU also loses dependable running backs Terrance Magee and Kenny Hilliard, putting a great deal of the offensive load on Fournette’s shoulders. Additional burden on the running game since LSU’s passing attack was abysmal a year ago under QBs Brandon Harris and Anthony Jennings, both receiving starts last season. The two quarterbacks are back this fall, perhaps unfortunately for Tigers fans, as the two combined to lead the nation’s 116th ranked passing attack in 2014. For Fournette to have any prayer of winning the Heisman, or for LSU to compete in a formidable SEC West, he’s going to need help from somewhere. A Heisman campaign probably just isn’t in the cards for him this season as all of his counterparts are going to take some time to gel, something SEC defenses feast on. If Fournette wins the Heisman in December, he will have earned it, as he is likely going to have to drag LSU back to relevancy to do it, you don’t see many Heisman winners on 6-6 teams.