Stephen Cohn: Oklahoma QB Kyler Murray
I have absolutely no idea what I see in Kyler Murray, except a guy who had the chance to play behind last year’s Heisman winner in Baker Mayfield and chose to give up playing professional baseball for a season (he was drafted in the first round by the Athletics) and decided to keep playing college football.
That’s the kind of drive I want to see from a Heisman winner, and while the junior might not YET have the stats to prove his worth, the small sample size was good. He finished the season-opening blowout against UTEP by going 10-of-11 on passes for 149 yards and a TD. He then completed three passes for 103 yards and a TD against Tulane, and started against West Virginia, showing something with his legs, too (80 yards, three carries). Against atrocious Big 12 defenses, Murray is lined up for a huge year.
Michael Berns: Arizona QB Khalil Tate
The Heisman Trophy usually goes to the best player on one of the top four teams. This year will be a bit different, as I think Arizona will win seven or eight games, but have nothing to do with the College Football Playoff picture. Khalil Tate’s numbers will be so jaw-dropping to the point he has to be in the Heisman conversation all season long.
Last season, Tate led the nation in rushing yards per attempt. Combine that explosion with an improved passing game under new head coach Kevin Sumlin, and I think we have the best dual-threat quarterback in the country.
Also of note: Arizona avoids playing the Pac-12’s best defense in Washington. Illinois fans reading this: Be sure to stay up for Pac-12 After Dark this season; those Pac-12 games that start at 9:30 or 10:00 at night. Khalil Tate is worth staying up for, even without his offensive coordinator Rod Smith.
Raul Rodriguez: Washignton QB Jake Browning
Jake Browning will win the award after guiding the Huskies to a Pac 12 title. Although the Huskies miss the CFP narrowly, Browning’s steady guidance of UW and his cumulative career in Seattle will win him the award. In an ironic turn of events, Browning beats out Ohio State QB Dwayne Haskins for the award while Ohio State beats out Washington for the final spot in the playoff.
Unfortunately for Browning and the Huskies, the Heisman curse continues as Mark Dantonio and Michigan St. harass Browning all afternoon. As the sun sets on the San Gabriel Mountains, the Spartans hoist the Rose Bowl Trophy with Mark Dantonio having that evil “I told you so” grin he always has.
Mark Schaer: Wisconsin RB Jonathan Taylor
This is not a sleeper pick by any means, and in fact it could turn out to be just a horrible pick. Football players can go through the “sophomore slump,” and Wisconsin’s schedule in the Big Ten West is going to turn off some of the voters on the Heisman ballot.
Nonetheless, with what could very likely be an improved offense and Alex Hornibrook with another year of snaps under his belt, Taylor (who was third in the nation with 1,977 yards rushing last season) will likely have even more of an opportunity to stuff the statsheet.
Wisconsin will likely be 12-0 going into the Big Ten Championship game, and a victory there could almost cement him as a frontrunner for the award. It will be a fun race with Stanford RB Bryce Love, Tate, Browning, and maybe even Penn State QB Trace McSorley fighting for football’s highest honor. Don’t forget about Taylor in this one.
Austin Jabs: Georgia QB Jake Fromm
Fromm was one play away from a National Championship in 2017. This Georgia team is a potent offense that likes to spread it out and pass the ball downfield, even with a good running game.
In his first full season, Fromm threw for 24 touchdowns, 2,615 yards, and a meger seven interceptions. The big question mark surrounding his Heisman hopes will be his broken non-throwing hand. Will the injury linger throughout the season limiting the hits he can take?
Matt O’Neall: Penn State QB Trace McSorley
This is a quarterback award now. And now that Baker is gone, who has the most moxy under center? That’s right. Trace McSorley. Is this Big Ten bias? Maybe. Is this recency bias with Baker winning last year? Perhaps. Am I choosing him because he has the name for it? Absolutely.
A white dual-threat quarterback named Trace McSorley is everything you could want in a Heisman candidate, especially that he can step out from Saquon Barkley’s shadow.
Kyle Huisinga: Penn State QB Trace McSorley
Have I mentioned how highly I think of this kid? McSorley is the kind of quarterback coaches salivate over scheming for. He runs. He can make all the throws. He has that unquantifiable aspect to his game you can’t measure and blah, blah, blah.
The fact is that this has been a quarterbacks award for a few years now, and I don’t think that stops this year. Penn State is loaded, and McSorley is the cherry on top of the sundae. He’ll go crazy in the conference and shove the Nittany Lions back into national prominence.
Ian Gold: Alabama QB Tua Tagovailoa
Tua Tagovailoa is going to win the starting job at Alabama and throw for a million yards and a million touchdowns. Those numbers might be exaggerating, but once the “quarterback competition” is settled in Tuscaloosa, Tua’s brand is going to be catapulted into the national media stratosphere, and his play will live up to the hype. Tua has a special feel to the game, and reminds me of Russell Wilson with his ability to create plays and react quickly to a defenses plan to stop any given play. Combine that with the fact that he’s playing for an offense with infinite talent at every position, and things are going to be real easy for a quarterback of his ilk. Jalen Hurts will probably get some mop up duty in blowouts that will take away from Tua’s final stats, but at the end of the day when Bama is running the table and the phenom from Hawaii is on the front page it won’t matter.
Matt Rejc: Penn State QB Trace McSorley
I may be the victim of some Big Ten bias here, but I really don’t see a player who’s in a better situation to carry his team and make a huge individual impact than Trace McSorley. The Penn State quarterback has a chance to vault the Nittany Lions into the CFP behind both his passing and running abilities. Jake Fromm and Jonathan Taylor are both very legitimate contenders for the award as well, especially if Georgia and Wisconsin live up to their expectations, but I see McSorley as being in the best position to succeed at the highest levels and gain the most recognition at the national level.
Brandon Birkhead: Stanford RB Bryce Love
Bryce Love finished second in voting last year. Ran for 2118 yards at 8.1 yards per carry while scoring 19 touchdowns, and yet he is still overlooked as you can see by only one of my fellow writers even mentioning his name above. Love is the best running back in college football, and he will be running behind four returning all-conference Stanford linemen.
Part of me is predicting this knowing that Love won’t stand a chance because he plays on the West Coast and Stanford will likely not contend for a playoff spot. He won’t get the hype or the “Heisman moment” demanded to get voters attention. But you know what, he’ll be the most deserving candidate at the end of the year with another 2,000 yard season under his belt. Love is the most explosive, home-run hitting back in the country.