2023 Heisman Watch: early rankings of the top 10 candidates for next season


It's officially time for Heisman Watch 2023, evaluating who will win the Heisman Trophy in the 2023 college football season.

USC Trojans quarterback Caleb Williams won the 2022 Heisman Trophy and he will be the favorite to win it next season. However, there are plenty of outstanding candidates who will challenge him for the award and there are always breakout players each season.

It will be fascinating to see which candidates rise and fall, and more particularly, where the unexpected Heisman contenders come from. No one, for example, predicted before the 2022 college football season that Max Duggan was a leading Heisman Trophy contender. Yet, he finished second in the voting behind Caleb Williams.

No one predicted before the 2022 season that Michael Penix or Bo Nix would have such great seasons, or that Hendon Hooker would beat Bryce Young on the field in the Tennessee-Alabama game.

Let's take an early look at the 2023 Heisman Trophy field and some of the notable names to watch for:

1. USC's Caleb Williams


Sep 3, 2022; Los Angeles, California, USA; Southern California Trojans coach Lincoln Riley (left) and quarterback Caleb Williams (center) and outside wide receivers coach Dennis Simmons pose after a game against the Rice Owls at United Airlines Field at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

USC's Caleb Williams will attempt to become the first player to win the award in consecutive seasons since Ohio State running back Archie Griffin did it in 1974 and 1975.

Williams threw for 4,537 yards and 42 touchdowns while only being intercepted five times. He added another 10 touchdowns on the ground. His yardage total, his passing touchdowns, and his total touchdowns all set single-season USC records.

If he wants to win another Heisman, he might have to break his own records and get the Trojans into the College Football Playoff.

2. North Carolina's Drake Maye


Nov 12, 2022; Winston-Salem, North Carolina, USA; North Carolina Tar Heels quarterback Drake Maye (10) looks for an open receiver past the Wake Forest defense during the second half at Truist Field. Mandatory Credit: Jim Dedmon-USA TODAY Sports

Caleb Williams is the favorite to repeat as Heisman Trophy winner, but North Carolina redshirt sophomore quarterback Drake Maye has the second-best odds to win the prestigious trophy.

The ACC Player of the Year in 2022, Drake Maye passed for 4,321 yards and 38 touchdowns while leading the Tar Heels to their first ACC Coastal title since 2015.

3. Ohio State's Marvin Harrison Jr.


Nov 26, 2022; Columbus, Ohio, USA; Ohio State Buckeyes wide receiver Marvin Harrison Jr. (18) makes the catch as Michigan Wolverines defensive back Mike Sainristil (0) defends during the second quarter at Ohio Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Joseph Maiorana-USA TODAY Sports

Marvin Harrison Jr from the Ohio State Buckeyes had 60 receptions for 969 yards (7th nationally) and 96.9 yards per game (10th nationally) with 11 touchdowns in 2021. In 2022 he had 77 catches for 1,263 yards and 14 touchdowns.

His breakout game was against the Georgia Bulldogs in the playoff semifinal at the Peach Bowl, where he caught 5 passes for 106 yards and two touchdowns in three quarters before a head injury kept him out of the rest of the game.

He's the best receiver in the country, and the 2023 Heisman odds will reflect that.

4. Notre Dame's Sam Hartman


Dec 23, 2022; Tampa, Florida, USA; Wake Forest Demon Deacons quarterback Sam Hartman (10) waits for a play call against the Missouri Tigers during the second quarter in the 2022 Gasparilla Bowl at Raymond James Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Nathan Ray Seebeck-USA TODAY Sports

Hartman joins a Notre Dame program that is projected to start next season highly ranked. The Irish finished 9-4 and won six of their final seven games. That included a bowl victory over ranked South Carolina, an upset of ranked Clemson, and a blowout victory at ranked Syracuse.

This past year, Hartman threw for 3,701 yards and 38 touchdowns, playing in 12 games after missing Wake Forest's season opener with a blood clot. Hartman went 27-18 as a Demon Deacon starter, including a 19-8 record the past two years at Wake.

5. Michigan's J.J McCarthy


Michigan quarterback J.J. McCarthy (9) walks off the field after the Wolverines lost 51-45 to TCU at the Fiesta Bowl at State Farm Stadium in Glendale, Ariz. on Saturday, Dec. 31, 2022.
Syndication Detroit Free Press

In 2022, McCarthy completed 64.6 percent of his passes for 2,719 yards, 22 touchdowns, and five interceptions. McCarthy ended the year with a 79.1 QBR and a 155.0 passer rating - not too bad for a first-year starting sophomore QB. Additionally, McCarthy led the Wolverines to a 13-1 season, which included blowout wins over Michigan State, Penn State, Ohio State, and Purdue in the Big Ten Championship Game.

Look for the former five-star quarterback to come back with Jim Harbaugh and the Wolverines with a vengeance in 2023.

6. Texas's Quinn Ewers


Sat., Nov. 20, 2021; Columbus, Ohio, USA; Ohio State quarterback Quinn Ewers (3) practices on the sideline during the second quarter of a game between Ohio State and Michigan State at Ohio Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Joshua A. Bickel/Columbus Dispatch via USA TODAY Network.

"The Million Dollar Mullet" man, Quinn Ewers, completed 172 of 296 passes (58.1%) for 2,177 passing yards, 15 touchdowns with six interceptions in the 2022 season.

The incoming redshirt sophomore will try and fight off five-star quarterback Arch Manning and four-star athlete Maalik Murphy as they try to earn a starting spot. I predict Ewers to start and finish the season with a bang.


7. Bo Nix (Senior) Oregon


Oct 1, 2022; Eugene, Oregon, USA; Oregon Ducks quarterback Bo Nix (10) rushes for an 80 yard touchdown during the second half against the Stanford Cardinal at Autzen Stadium. The Ducks won the game 45-27. Mandatory Credit: Troy Wayrynen-USA TODAY Sports

Bo Nix revived his career at Oregon after an up and down three-year career at Auburn.

Nix threw for 3,388 yards and 27 touchdowns and added 504 yards rushing with 14 touchdowns in his first season with the program. Under Nix, the team won eight straight games in the middle of the season, which vaulted them in the mix in the College Football Playoff discussion and Nix into the Heisman Trophy race.

Let's see what the sixth-year senior can do in his final season at Oregon.

8. Washington's Michael Penix


Nov 12, 2022; Eugene, Oregon, USA; Washington Huskies quarterback Michael Penix Jr. (9) throws a pass during the first half against the Oregon Ducks at Autzen Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Troy Wayrynen-USA TODAY Sports

Washington quarterback Michael Penix Jr. led the country in both passing yards (4,354) and passing yards per game (362.8), lifting an offense that nearly doubled its scoring average from the previous fall (40.8 in 2022, 21.5 in 2021).

Penix became the seventh Husky to finish in the top 10 in Heisman voting, joining defensive tackle Steve Emtman, fourth in 1991; quarterback Jake Browning, sixth in 2016; running back Greg Lewis, seventh in 1990; quarterback Marques Tuiasosopo, eighth in 2000; running back Hugh McElhenny, eighth in 1951; and quarterback Don Heinrich, ninth in 1952.


9. Florida State's Jordan Travis

The Florida State quarterback finished the season 226-of-353 passing for 3,214 yards with 24 touchdowns and only five interceptions while adding 417 yards and seven touchdowns on the ground for the Seminoles.

In his junior season last year, Travis became only the fourth Florida State quarterback to produce at least 3,000 total yards and 30 touchdowns in a season, joining FSU's three Heisman Trophy winners - Charlie Ward in 1993, Chris Weinke in 2000, and Jameis Winston in 2013, all former Heisman Trophy Winners.

The Cheez-It Bowl MVP broke Florida State's bowl record with 468 yards of total offense to lead the Seminoles to a victory over Oklahoma.

Florida State opens its 2023 season Sept. 3 in Orlando against LSU. Last season, Travis was 20-of-33 passing for 260 yards and two touchdowns in the Seminoles' victory over the Tigers in the Caesars Superdome in New Orleans.

10. Michigan's Blake Corum


Michigan running back Blake Corum (2) rushes for a touchdown as Iowa linebacker Jack Campbell (31) defends during a NCAA Big Ten Conference college football game, Saturday, Oct. 1, 2022, at Kinnick Stadium in Iowa City, Iowa.
Joseph Cress/Iowa City Press-Citizen / USA TODAY NETWORK

Michigan running back Blake Corum announced that he will be returning to Ann Arbor, MI, for another year. The All-American played a huge role in the Wolverines ripping through the Big Ten for a second year in a row and was gearing up to be a Heisman Trophy finalist before suffering a season-ending knee injury late in the year.

He finished the season with 1,463 rushing yards and 18 touchdowns, earning First Team All-American honors.

Corum has a shot to become the first running back to win the Heisman Trophy since Derrick Henry (2015).

Story originally appeared on Trojans Wire


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