To anyone with working eyeballs, the Heisman Trophy race is already over.
It isn't Oregon's Bo Nix or Washington's Michael Penix Jr. — the two favorites right now — who will be hoisting the prestigious award come season's end in New York City. It won't be anyone in the Pac-12 or on the West Coast, for that matter.
It's the best dual-threat quarterback in college football right now: LSU's Jayden Daniels.
Every Heisman winner has their Heisman moment, and Daniels' series of moments against Florida in Death Valley on Saturday make him the clear favorite to win the award, despite whatever the betting sites are saying.
A week after Daniels exited the Alabama game after a hard and controversial hit to the head, he accounted for 606 yards of offense — which broke the SEC record of 585 set by Mississippi State's KJ Costello against LSU in 2020. He also became the first player in FBS history with 350+ passing yards and 200+ rushing yards in a game.
It was a masterclass, and runs like this one are not feasible for any other passer in the country:
There is no better player in the country than Jayden Daniels.
85 yards TO THE HOUSE. The moment. pic.twitter.com/e0ug9gYr1E
— LSU Football (@LSUfootball) November 12, 2023
Oh, or this one:
Jayden Daniels is MUST SEE television?
— PFF College (@PFF_College) November 12, 2023
THAT, my friend, is what a Heisman moment should look like. It brought back memories of Cam Newton's 49-yard run against LSU in 2010, undoubtedly his Heisman moment.
There are a lot of figures being thrown out to justify Daniels' case for the Heisman, but there's one particular interesting one that sticks out. As The Athletic's Dane Brugler pointed out, Daniels leads the country with 76 plays of 20 or more yards. The next closest players are Michael Penix Jr. at 57 and USC's Caleb Williams at 55. Daniels is blowing those two out of the water in terms of explosive plays.
Most plays of 20+ yards in 2023:
76 - Jayden Daniels (this guy is ridiculous)
57 - Michael Penix
55 - Caleb Williams
— Dane Brugler (@dpbrugler) November 13, 2023
Then there's the fact that he's going to eclipse 1,000 rushing yards this season (he's at 918 right now). That would put him in rare company for quarterbacks to reach 3,000 passing yards and 1,000 rushing yards in a season. As On3's Shea Dixon pointed out, only six have ever done it: Vince Young (2005), Johnny Manziel (2012), Deshaun Watson (2015), Lamar Jackson (2016, 2017), Kyler Murray (2018) and Jalen Hurts (2019). Murray, Manziel and Jackson all won the Heisman.
LSU's Record Shouldn't Be a Factor
Speaking of which, LSU's team success should have no bearing on Daniels' chances at winning the award.
LSU is 7-3 and won't be playing for an SEC championship or in the College Football Playoffs, but that's never mattered if you're clearly the best player in the sport. Caleb Williams won it last year and USC went 11-3. Lamar Jackson won at Louisville despite going 9-4 and losing his final three games in 2016. Even Robert Griffin III went 4-3 through Baylor's first seven games and went on to win in 2011.
When asked after the win over Florida if Daniels just produced his Heisman moment, even he had to toot his own horn.
Jayden Daniels was asked if this was his Heisman moment.
?I would say so, as humbly as possible.? pic.twitter.com/nkULm5jsyj
— Wilson Alexander (@whalexander_) November 12, 2023
And that was after he struck the Heisman pose on the field:
Jayden Daniels hits the Heisman pose ? pic.twitter.com/XMBYR88p2U
— SEC Network (@SECNetwork) November 12, 2023
The Heisman hype is real surrounding Daniels. Voting is finalized on Dec. 4, so LSU's final two regular season games against Georgia State and Texas A&M could be what cements winning it. As for the Heisman Trophy ceremony, that takes place on Dec. 9. The Tigers could have two quarterbacks in five years win the award, a feat that only Oklahoma can say it's done in the last decade.
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