College football’s most prestigious and most confusing award. It’s allegedly awarded to the best player in college football. Except the player has to be on one of the best teams in the country, unless he doesn’t. But the player pretty much has to be an offensive player, usually a quarterback, unless he isn’t.
It usually is a requirement to win that the player plays football games that don’t start after 9 p.m. Eastern Time. Because what kind of person who writes about college football for a living has the time or energy to stay up late to watch those silly PAC 12 teams? Not many.
There are so many strange and seemingly superfluous qualifiers to win such a prestigious award how can we predict who will win it? Let’s look at the last 10 years worth of Heisman winners and better understand Patrick Mahomes’ chances of winning the Heisman.
The last 10 years
Looking by conference the last 10 years the Big XII ranks second to the SEC. Robert Griffin III in 2011 and Sam Bradford in 2008 give the Big XII two in the last 10 years ahead of every conference behind the SEC’s ludicrous five Heisman winners in the 10 years.
On that same list you see that eight of the ten winners are quarterbacks, another point in Mahomes’ favor. The only two in the last 10 that weren’t quarterbacks were Alabama running backs. With the Crimson Tide featuring a multi-headed rushing attack, it doesn’t appear likely for a Bama back to hoist the trophy this year.
Another major qualifier for the Heisman winner is that he needs to play for a nationally relevant team. The worst team to produce a Heisman winner was that 2011 Baylor team. Baylor finished third in the conference at the end of the year but ended the year ranked 13th in the AP poll after a win in their bowl game.
In 2008 Texas Tech had its top two Heisman vote getters in program history, Graham Harrell finished fourth behind Tim Tebow and Michael Crabtree finshed fifth behind Harrell. All they did was take Texas Tech to the probably the greatest season in program history with one loss to National Championship runner up Oklahoma, putting unfathomable offensive numbers all along the way.
If mythic Texas Tech figures like Harrell and Crabtree couldn’t even get invites to the New York ceremony, what hope does Mahomes have? Let’s look at the what might have to happen to bring that bronze trophy to Lubbock. Winning the Heisman requires three key elements:
- Ridiculous stats
- Team relevance
- A Heisman moment
Through three games, Patrick Mahomes checks this box in a major way. Mahomes has completed 94 of 132 passes (71.2% complete) for 1493 yards (11.3 per attempt) and 14 touchdowns to 2 interceptions. On the ground, Mahomes has 33 attempts for 138 yards (4.2 average) and 4 touchdowns.
Now there are 12 games in the regular season, so let’s pace these numbers out for an entire season. Patrick Mahomes would complete 376 of 528 passes for 5972 yards and 56 touchdowns to 8 interceptions. On the ground that would result in 132 rushes for 552 yards and 16 touchdowns.
For a minute let’s not worry about whether that’s possible, but simply look at how many FBS records that would break. 5972 passing yards? That would top B.J. Symon’s 2003 record of 5833 (on nearly 200 less attempts). 56 touchdowns would be two short of Colt Brennan’s 2006 record with Hawaii of 58, but with three in a bowl game it would come crashing down.
Let’s take a peak at the rest of the schedule to see how sustainable this success is. Tech plays the entire Big XII conference in its last nine games. A conference known for terrible defense, now on an off year, doesn’t look capable of slowing down this offensive juggernaut. Even the team known for its feisty defense, TCU, looks extremely vulnerable to opposing offenses. Let’s move on to the next element.
Texas Tech this year does not look like a National Title contender. No teams in the conference look like National Title contenders, and only three are ranked in the top 25 at the moment. Winning the conference feels like the only way to gain national relevance with this team.
Winning the Big XII this year is completely doable. Tech faces its three toughest foes in UT, OU, and Baylor either at home or at a neutral site. No one team looks too dominant to lose a game to Texas Tech, or any other team in the conference. A conference title definitely brings relevance to this team, but a record of 8-1 in conference should be good enough to rank this team in the top 20.
Now with that sorted out, let’s move on to the most difficult to define of these three elements.
The Heisman moment is as talked about an misunderstood as the role of super delegates or the electoral college in the presidential election. Every Heisman winner needs a transcendent moment of football greatness in a game, usually in late October or November, to solidify his claim to the bronze stiffarmer.
For many recent winners it’s just beating Bama, or if you’re Derrick Henry you just need to flip a grown man on his dairy aire. Beating Oklahoma in the Jones this year looked like a great opportunity for a Heisman moment. That was until the Sooners started the year 1-2 falling out of the top 25.
Leading a comeback against a ranked Texas team on November 5th in the Jones looks like a prime “Heisman moment” opportunity. While that’s true, I choose to direct your imagination three weeks down the road to the Baylor game.
If Patrick Mahomes is going to have a Heisman moment, it will be in the game against Baylor in AT&T Stadium in Arlington. If Tech and Baylor can somehow go undefeated leading into that game it will become a de facto conference championship game, shifting the nation’s focus onto that game.
Willing his team to their first conference championship since 1994, and first ever Big XII title on a nationally televised game would be a heck of a Heisman moment.
The sad thing is even if all those things happen, it’s still uncertain if Mahomes would win the Heisman. There’s a QB in Louisville who’s not too bad. There’s a crazy good running back/wide receiver/return man in the PAC 12 that defies logic with the amount of total yardage he puts up each week.
Now I don’t tell you these things to disappoint you or to demean the outrageously good season Patrick Mahomes is having so far. I’m merely here to illustrate how fickle this prominent award is.
If Mahomes leads this team to a 9-0 (or 8-1) finish to the season and a Big XII title who cares if he wins some award? Whether he throws for 50 or 60 or 70 touchdowns, or 5000 or 6000 yards, his season still holds merit no matter who has their name engraved on a hunk of metal named after a man that none of you have met.
Patrick Mahomes is an incredible college football player who plays for your favorite team. Don’t let some hunk of metal change how you great he is. After all, it’s just a shiny piece of metal.