There’s a good reason why the Heisman Trophy’s called a “quarterback’s award.” Since the Heisman Trust first bestowed the award to college football’s best player way back in 1935, 33 of the 78 total winners have stood under center as a quarterback, including five straight and eight of the last nine.
Yet 2015 will be different, with only one quarterback even making the short-list of finalists and two running backs well ahead of him, according to Las Vegas odds makers.
On Saturday night, the Heisman Trust will award one of the three finalists below, so here’s a breakdown of each finalists’ incredible season, and their odds of winning the Heisman via Bovada.lv.
Derrick Henry, RB, Jr., Alabama Crimson Tide (-600)
The 6-foot-3, 242-pound hulk of a junior is the overwhelming favorite and should be the first running back to claim the award since the Tide’s last winner, Mark Ingram Jr., in 2009. Voters undoubtedly studied the full breadth of Henry’s dominate season, leading the SEC with 1,986 yards and 23 touchdowns while breaking the conference’s long-standing single-season rushing record previously held by the great Herschel Walker.
As with most Heisman winner, Henry shined at the biggest moments for Alabama and guided the squad to the No. 2 ranking in the College Football Playoff and a spot in the national semifinals. He gained more than 100 yards nine times out of 13 games, and the 200-yard barrier four times, including the Tide’s huge victories at Texas A&M, vs. LSU, and at fierce rival Auburn.
Christian McCaffery, RB, So., Stanford Cardinal (+400)
Another monster of a running back, McCaffery would be the favorite and the third underclassmen in the last four years to win the award if not for Henry’s domination of the conference many feel is the most difficult in the nation. Though he didn’t find the end zone as often, McCaffery led the Pac-12 with 1,847 yards and scored eight touchdowns as the Cardinals primary weapon in their 11-2 campaign for the conference title.
McCaffery did have more 100-yard games than Henry, notching 10, and strung together more with nine straight during the final stretch of the season. McCaffery would have been Stanford’s second Heisman winner and first since quarterback Jim Plunkett since 1970, but the sophomore figures to be one of next year’s biggest threats.
Deshaun Watson, QB, So., Clemson Tigers (+1600)
Like Henry, Watson specifically put the Tigers in national title contention. And like McCaffery he’d continue the recent surge of underclassman contenders for the Heisman. As the leader of the nation’s No. 1 squad, both in the polls and by the CFP committee’s standards, Watson would probably win the award in any other year and he’d be the first Tiger to do so.
But he’s the biggest underdog in the field, despite powering Clemson’s first undefeated season in more than 30 years and its first true shot at a national title in the same span. Watson led the ACC in total offense (4,399 yards), touchdowns (30 passing, 11 rushing), and passer efficiency (159.6), all while toppling such traditional college powers like Notre Dame and Florida State.
Prediction: Considering the resumes of the other two candidates, Henry will win but won’t run away with the award. Much like when Ingram won with just under 47 percent of the vote, Henry holds the Heisman pose but not with a huge majority.