We still have two months before Heisman Trophy voting takes place, which means it's as good a time as any to talk about who deserves the award — four weeks into the season.
Except we're not going to talk about the guys that the ESPN talking heads won't stop mentioning. You know, the CJ Strouds and Bryce Youngs of the college football world. Instead, we're going to take a look at the unheralded, seldom-talked-about players. The ones who are leading their teams to undefeated seasons but getting zero respect. The ones putting up even better numbers than the guys Las Vegas thinks will win the award.
Heisman finalists will be announced on Dec. 5, and the ceremony will take place on Dec. 10. These early contenders no one is talking about could very well be holding the trophy come December.
This one feels like cheating, because people actually are starting to talk about Jalon Daniels. And for good reason, too.
Daniels has led Kansas to a 4-0 record to start the season, including wins over West Virginia, Duke and Houston. He's got the best QBR in college football — better than aforementioned names like Stroud and Young. The dual-threat QB has 15 total touchdowns — four of which are rushing scores — and his 326 rushing yards are better than Ohio State running back TreVeyon Henderson.
Daniels has turned Kansas' offense into a scary one for opposing defenses. Unfortunately, a couple losses could mean the end of his Heisman campaign. But if Kansas winds up in the College Football Playoff, place your bets.
The good news for Mohamed Ibrahim is that a running back is more likely to win the Heisman than a wide receiver, if history is any indication. The bad news is it's still a quarterback award.
Most rush yards after contact among Power Five RBs:
? Mohamed Ibrahim - 388 pic.twitter.com/LsYfvSPxQA
— PFF College (@PFF_College) September 30, 2022
Still, Ibrahim is making his case. The Minnesota Golden Gophers halfback has been one of the best backs in the country through four games. His 567 rushing yards and eight rushing touchdowns both rank second in the NCAA. He hasn't rushed for less than 100 yards in any game this season, and he torched Colorado for 202 yards and three touchdowns. The dude is padding the stats like no one else.
Michael Penix Jr.
Ladies and gentlemen, college football's passing yards leader through four weeks: Michael Penix Jr.
Had QB Michael Penix on this week's @PFF_NFLSE stock watch ?
— Connor Rogers (@ConnorJRogers) September 28, 2022
The 6-foot-3 lefty has Washington 4-0 and a real threat out of the Pac-12. Penix is leading an offense scoring more than 40 points per game. He also dissected Michigan State's defense for 397 passing yards and four touchdowns. A sparkling 12-1 touchdown-to-interception ratio is one of the game's best. Considering Washington's relatively easy schedule, we could easily see Penix in New York in December.
We saw DeVonta Smith win the Heisman the year Alabama won the national championship (even though Kyle Trask deserved it, but that's a different story). Could an Ohio State wide receiver win it if the Buckeyes win the natty this year?
It's funny that Egbuka is off to the hottest start given his two teammates — Marvin Harrison Jr. and Jaxon Smith-Njigba were all the rage before the season. But through four games, Egbuka's 442 receiving yards ranks fifth in the country. He's also scored a touchdown at least once each game, including two against Wisconsin. Egbuka's numbers are actually pretty similar to Smith's first four games in 2020. If Egbuka can keep his consistency and produce a few Heisman moments (oh yeah, they're necessary), there's no reason he can't win the award.
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