Before we get into how the voters for the Heisman Trophy finalists got wrong, we can say that the four finalists for the award, the winner of which will be revealed on Saturday, December 10, we want to make clear that we are not casting aspersions on any of the four players who did make the cut. USC quarterback Caleb Williams, TCU quarterback Max Duggan, Ohio State quarterback C.J. Stroud, and Georgia quarterback Stetson Bennett III all have certain attributes that make them worthy.
That's not what we're saying here. What we are saying is that there were other players who were as deserving - or more deserving - who didn't make the cut, and that's what we're left to deal with. And it speaks to larger issues with the process.
Marquee players who are at times helped to a disproportionate degree by those around them are given credit for things that aren't really theirs to own. The vote should be held after the end of the playoffs, so that we really know who the biggest dogs are. And it absolutely does not matter how great a defensive player you are. You are not going to win the Heisman on defense alone. Unless you're a three-way superstar like Michigan defensive back Charles Woodson, who got the award in 1997 because he also balled out on offense and special teams, you might as well just wait for the money you're going to get in the draft.
So. let's get into what the Heisman voters got wrong this time around.
Defense got the short shrift -- again.
(AP Photo/Brett Davis, File)
I was resigned to this. If Nebraska's Ndamukong Suh didn't win the award in 2009 (he placed fourth), and Alabama's Will Anderson Jr. didn't win it last year (he placed fifth), and none of the SEVEN players on Georgia's defense who found themselves drafted by NFL teams in 2021 didn't win it last year (Jordan Davis placed ninth), Georgia's Jalen Carter, who may have been the best player on that historic defense in 2021, and somehow raised his game in 2022, had no shot.
That's ridiculous and unfair, but that's the way it is. No defensive player has a chance to win the Heisman Trophy, and we apparently have to accept that. But if you were to ask me who the NCAA's best, most transformative, most unstoppable, and most dominant player was in 2022, I'll tell you that it was Carter, and the tape tells the story.
Here, Carter gets past three Tennessee blockers to pressure quarterback Hendon Hooker (more on him in a minute), and throughout the season, Carter has been throwing opponents around as if they were his small children.
Want further proof? Ask LSU quarterback Jayden Carter, who found himself picked up with one hand by Carter in the SEC Championship game, while Carter held up the "No. 1" sign with the other hand.
Jalen Carter knows he's No. 1. Too bad the Heisman voters weren't prepared to take that into consideration.
Whither Hendon Hooker?
(Randy Sartin-USA TODAY Sports)
Hooker was lost for the rest of the rest of the season to a torn ACL in late November. Even with that, Hooker still has more touchdown passes (27) than Stetson Bennett's 20, and Hooker had two interceptions to Bennett's six. What we're really saying is that Bennett is the odd man out here. Hooker's passer rating of 123.9 is the second-highest in the nation, behind only Coastal Carolina's Grayson McCall (126.0), so you tell me how this makes sense.
Anthony Richardson? Apparently, explosive plays don't matter.
(Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports)
Richardson, the Florida quarterback who declared for the 2023 draft on Monday, unquestionably has some questions to answer about his NFL-readiness. But when you consider how amazing he has been on the field for the Gators this year… okay, let's just come right out and say it. It's kind of preposterous that Bennett is a finalist ahead of Hooker or Richardson. Richardson is a hybrid thrower/runner who, per Pro Football Focus, has been responsible for an astonishing 56 explosive plays this season. Yes, you can point to Florida's 6-6 record, or Richardson's nine interceptions on the season, but the eye test (as well as Hooker's six interceptions) makes this an interesting traffic jam.
West Coast Bias? Where's Michael Penix Jr.?
(James Snook-USA TODAY Sports)
If quarterbacks are supposed to move the needle, why was Penix left off? And if you don't believe us, ask the guy who won the Heisman in 2011.
Who, by the way, also rightly stumped for Hendon Hooker.
No love for running backs.
(Aaron E. Martinez-USA TODAY NETWORK)
Matthew McConaughey clearly loves him some Bijan Robinson, but the Heisman voters don't. This season, Robinson has gained 1,575 yards on 257 carries for an average of 6.1 yards per carry, and an impressive 1,066 yards after contact. He also has 21 carries of 15 yards or more, so he checks all the boxes. No running back has won the Heisman since Derrick Henry did it for Alabama in 2015, so we get the exclusion from that perspective. but we're just saying.
Story originally appeared on Touchdown Wire