Wisconsin football running back Jonathan Taylor is making noise again. Should he be back in the Heisman discussion?
Let’s play a game.
I will give you statistics from three of the best seasons we have seen in recent years from running backs and you tell me which player (if any) won the Heisman Trophy.
Player A – 395 attempts/2,219 yards/28 total touchdowns
Player B – 343 attempts/2,587 yards/ 32 total touchdowns
Player C – 324 attempts/ 2,199 yards/ 22 total touchdowns
If you guessed Player B you made a smart guess. Based on the numbers it seemed pretty obvious, right? Unfortunately, you are wrong.
If you happened to guess Player A, congrats! I question your decision-making process, but congrats nevertheless. You might be the kind of person that sees an answer on a test that just looks too good to be true so you pick another answer and hope, by pure chance, you’re right. In this case, it totally paid off for you.
Derrick Henry was the last running back to win the Heisman trophy when he won the award in 2015. Player B just so happens to be none other than Wisconsin’s own Melvin Gordon. It still baffles me that after that ridiculous season he had in 2014 he didn’t win the Heisman.
That leads us to Player C, Jonathan Taylor. The numbers listed for him are projections based on him still producing like the All-American player that he is with just a hint of decreased production over Wisconsin’s final nine games of the year (yes, that includes a trip to Indianapolis for the Big Ten Championship game and a bowl game).
So far this season Taylor is leading the country with 169.8 yards per game. It seems crazy to think that he can keep up this kind of pace throughout conference play but Melvin Gordon actually averaged 185(!) yards per game in 2014. However, if Taylor were able to keep his current averages per game he would actually end the season closer to 2,400 yards and 26 touchdowns.
On August 31, Jonathan Taylor was the odds-on favorite to win the prestigious award but his current odds have him listed behind five quarterbacks. Since 2000, 15 of the last 17 Heisman Trophy winners have been quarterbacks.
Alabama quarterback Tua Tagovailoa has been on another level this season and I personally think that it is his trophy to lose at this point. As good as Baker Mayfield was last season en route to winning the Heisman, his replacement, Kyler Murray, has been just as impressive this season producing nearly identical numbers through six games and is right in the mix of things.
I’m not sure that Taylor will put up the kind of statistics for the rest of the season that would be necessary for him to blow voters away and walk away with the Heisman come December. The Wisconsin coaching staff has shown confidence in the backfield depth and it allows Taylor to take a break every now and again, which will hopefully keep him fresh down the stretch of the season.
If some of the top quarterbacks falter in their remaining games and have some disappointing performances Taylor could very well find himself in New York as a finalist and a potentially walk away as the best player in college football.
As a worst-case scenario, there is a great chance he ends up with the Doak Walker Award though. You can’t be too upset with that kind of hardware, right?