Alabama football's Mac Jones leads in Heisman Trophy race but it’s not Election Day yet | Hurt

Cecil Hurt
The Tuscaloosa News

Let’s talking about voting.

No, a different voting.

In the usual college football season, early November is the time when Heisman Trophy candidates have started to sort themselves out, the field narrowing as two months of results are in. Think of September and October as the primaries. That doesn’t mean that the mid-season front-runner always wins. In fact, maintaining the top position gets more difficult because many of the media voters (to say nothing of the television networks) like to pick apart the leader. After all, the worst narrative is no narrative, at least for ratings.

Oct 31, 2020; Tuscaloosa, Alabama, USA; Alabama quarterback Mac Jones (10) runs for a first down and is pursued by Mississippi State linebacker Nathaniel Watson (14) at Bryant-Denny Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Gary Cosby Jr/The Tuscaloosa News via USA TODAY Sports

Full disclosure here: I am a Heisman voter. My approach has always been to consider the entire season or as much of it as we get to see before the voting deadline, which means College Football Playoff games are not included. I am not a big fan of “if the season ended today” hypotheticals, because the season hasn’t ended, and let’s all hope it doesn’t end early despite the worrisome COVID-19 trends in some parts of the country. This isn’t an endorsement of anyone, just some observations.

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Alabama’s Mac Jones is the current front-runner and has the statistics to back it up. He’s sort of become the establishment candidate. After all, what says “establishment” more than an endorsement from Tim Tebow? Plus, he is a starting quarterback on a team that’s expected to make the Playoff. The evolution of college football favors those two criteria above all others. I’m not arguing that Kyler Murray or Joe Burrow were “undeserving.” They clearly merited the Heisman. It’s just hard to see how some other player without similarly successful teams can win, and I don’t know when a running back will win again. The last two running backs who won were from Alabama — Derrick Henry and Mark Ingram. There may not be another running back winner for a long time and as for a player at any other position, it’s almost unimaginable how dominant they would have to be. 

That doesn’t mean Jones is a lock by any means. Missing two games, especially when one is a nationally televised extravaganza, clearly does not help Clemson’s Trevor Lawrence, but it may not hurt him, either. Lawrence has something of a “career achievement” momentum and, if he comes back from the coronavirus and shines, that’s a storyline some voters will like. (This isn’t really a factor, but it would be amazing if Clemson could have Deshaun Watson and Trevor Lawrence and no Heisman success.) The other major contender, Ohio State’s Justin Fields, will have strong support. He is dynamic and is the only really viable candidate from the Midwest. If he stays healthy, he will have a shot although his biggest drawback may be the lack of a marquee game like Alabama-Georgia or Clemson-Notre Dame because his conference currently looks like Brutus Buckeye and the 13 Dwarves.

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As good as some other quarterbacks have been, and both D’Eriq King of Miami and Zach Wilson of Brigham Young were impressive on Friday night, they will probably be relegated to the “hoping for an invitation to New York” category. Jones should easily make it that far so the question is whether he does enough in November to win.

Reach Cecil Hurt at or via Twitter @cecilhurt

Sports columnist Cecil Hurt.