Rivalries can bring out the best and the worst in players. They don’t want to spend a year rehashing how they couldn’t get the job done against their most-hated rivals. But these Heisman hopefuls didn’t let slip away the opportunity to shine on the national stage.
From Bedlam to Bunyan, The Game to The Palmetto Bowl, with all eyes on them, stars dominated their rivals, further solidifying their places at the top of the Heisman food chain. With just two weeks left until the trophy is handed out, this was one of the last opportunities for each player to prove who the cream of the crop is.
Here are the athletes who improved their chances at hoisting one of the most coveted prizes in all of football.
Justin Fields, Ohio State
The Buckeyes ran the Big 10 (and the rest of the country) during the regular season, and a lot of their dominance can be rooted back to their star quarterback. Justin Fields has been the perfect field general for Ohio State, and he has his team on the doorsteps of the College Football Playoff.
In his first start playing in “The Game,” against Michigan, Fields had one of his best showings of the season, throwing for over 300 yards and notching four touchdowns and etching his name in the legendary rivalry. His flurry of scores also put him in a two-way tie for most touchdowns responsible for in the country.
Ohio State has been the best team in the country for a majority of the year. Fields has guided the team to a Big Ten East title, and he has it in position to end the season as national champions. If anyone deserves an invite to New York in two weeks, it’s him.
Joe Burrow, LSU
Joe “Burreaux” may have changed the name on his jersey for senior night, but his excellence remained the same. The stud quarterback has pro potential, and he is making the most of his final year with the Tigers.
Texas A&M was Burrow’s latest victim. The Ohio native threw for 352 yards and three touchdowns. He has smashed the LSU single-season records for passing scores and yards, and he also broke the SEC record for passing yards that had stood for 21 years. He ends the regular season as the most accurate quarterback in the country and is tied for second in most touchdowns responsible for.
LSU had only one full year of Burrow, but it has been a year of regular-season perfection, as the team is headed to its first SEC West championship since 2011. With records falling left and right around him, Burrow deserves a seat at the Heisman Trophy finalist table.
Trevor Lawrence, Clemson
For as much as people are doubting the Tigers’ national championship legitimacy, they are still undefeated and Trevor Lawrence is peaking at the right time for a final playoff push. Clemson’s stud quarterback has looked the most comfortable late in the season, and being the best player on a playoff-bound team always deserves a chance for the Heisman.
Lawrence continues to assault the record books even as a sophomore, tying the ACC record for most consecutive completions en route to a 295-yard, three-touchdown day against South Carolina. He also led the team in rushing while helping the Tigers dominate the Gamecocks with a 35-point win. He’s currently tied for fifth in the country in touchdowns responsible for and ninth in passer efficiency rating.
Lawrence already has a national championship to his name, but getting an individual trophy may also be in the cards after ending the regular season hot.
Jalen Hurts, Oklahoma
After winning an Iron Bowl as a starter, Jalen Hurts knows what it takes to be successful in a rivalry game. In his only start in Bedlam against Oklahoma State, Hurts imprinted himself in the rich history of another rivalry with a good game.
He missed only three receivers on 16 attempts and finished Bedlam with 163 passing yards and a touchdown. He also added 61 yards on the ground with a rushing score. He has a commanding lead in touchdowns responsible for with 50 scores, is on the top of the country in passing yards per attempt and is fourth in the nation in completion percentage.
For a quarterback whose arm has always been questioned, Hurts showed this year he’s more than capable of leading a team with his arm as well as his legs. With the kind of numbers he’s been putting up all season, it would be a travesty for him not to be a Heisman finalist.
Jonathan Taylor, Wisconsin
One of the coolest trophies in the country is Paul Bunyan’s Axe, which is handed to the winner of Wisconsin vs. Minnesota every year. Wisconsin’s star running back, Jonathan Taylor, has hoisted that massive prize twice in three years as he continues to make his case for voters to include at least one running back in the Heisman conversation this year.
Taylor gained 105 total yards on the day and notched two touchdowns (one rushing, one receiving). He has a firm grip at the top of the country for most touchdowns from scrimmage and is second in the nation in yards from scrimmage.
Running backs don’t get a ton of love from voters, but Taylor has lived up to his hype and has been unquestionably one of the best running backs in all of college football. The addition of his pass catching shows his improvement, and he should be a dark horse to be a Heisman finalist.