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Can Mac Jones Win the Heisman Trophy?

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Can Mac Jones Win the Heisman Trophy?
Mac Jones #10 of the Alabama Crimson Tide. Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images/AFP

Alabama Crimson Tide’s Mac Jones looks like a top candidate to win the Heisman trophy this season. Let’s take a closer look at him and his chances.

Odds and Basic Stats

Per BetOnline:

Alabama quarterback Mac Jones is putting up top-level numbers. He’s completing 77.1 percent of his pass attempts while averaging 12.1 YPA. In seven games, he’s thrown for 2,426 yards, 18 touchdowns, three interceptions, and a 205.1 passer rating.

Comparison With Joe Burrow 

Last year’s Heisman winner, former LSU quarterback Joe Burrow, eclipsed Jones in multiple statistical categories. Whereas Jones is accruing 346.6 YPG and 2.6 touchdowns per game, Burrow averaged 362.69 YPG and 3.69 touchdowns per game.

Part of the reason for this — albeit minor — statistical disparity is that Burrow threw the ball more in his offense. Whereas Jones is attempting 28.7 passes per game, Joe Burrow attempted 33.7 attempts per game. It’s more feasible for a quarterback to amass bigger numbers when he enjoys more opportunities to do so.

The thing about Jones is that Alabama has a strong power running game. Also, the Tide will lead more in their games. So they’ll want to run the ball. This motivation explains Alabama’s significantly lower pass play percentage compared to LSU’s last year. In their last game against Kentucky, the Crimson Tide only needed Jones to attempt 24 passes because they were able to run the ball 40 times and dominate.

While Burrow’s completion percentage was also slightly higher, the overall difference between both quarterbacks remains statistically minor. 

Justin Fields #1 of the Ohio State Buckeyes. Ralph Freso/Getty Images/AFP

Comparison With Other Quarterbacks 

In his team’s one big game this season, Justin Fields really hurt his numbers by throwing three interceptions and only completing 60 percent of his pass attempts. Because Ohio State has only played in four games this season, Fields has had little margin for error. He’s still only attempted 113 passes whereas Florida’s Kyle Trask has attempted 246 and Jones 201. The Big Ten has really hurt itself by not giving teams space to reschedule the postponed games.

Trask is throwing for 364.9 YPG and 4.43 touchdowns per game. His completion percentage is “only” 70.7. His performance has been record-breaking. Against Vanderbilt, he became the first quarterback to throw 30 touchdowns in seven games. Moreover, he has thrown for the second-most touchdowns through seven games in FBS history.

Kyle Trask

The fact that Trask is accomplishing record-breaking feats is very important. It’s true that the last three Heisman winners won their conference championship. This trend might indicate that you should bet on Jones because it seems very likely that Alabama will win the SEC. But keep in mind for your best bets that a team doesn’t have to win its conference for its quarterback to win the Heisman.

In 2016, Lamar Jackson of Louisville won the Heisman over Deshaun Watson, whose Clemson squad won the ACC Championship. What Jackson did that year was set records for his uniquely prolific mixture of running and passing. So, if Trask continues to set records, he will fit into this precedent set by Jackson. He can win the Heisman without Florida winning the SEC.

Kyle Trask #11 of the Florida Gators. Photo by James Gilbert/Getty Images/AFP

Jones vs. Trask

So can Mac Jones win the Heisman? At the moment, this is looking like a two-man race. However, I think Trask has the lead because of his historic touchdown rate. Touchdowns are an eye-catching statistic.

What will need to happen for Jones is the following:

He’ll need to up his touchdown numbers. This seems unlikely given Alabama’s proclivity to run the ball and given the expectation that the Tide will spend more time leading in their upcoming games — against Auburn then Arkansas. Trask has the advantage that his team ranks 45 spots higher than the Tide in pass play percentage. Jones will also need Trask to slow down. This, too, seems unlikely because Florida has favorable upcoming opponents.

The Gators will get to play a Volunteer team whose pass defense ranks 78th nationally despite facing sundry run-reliant teams with shaky quarterback play. To conclude the regular season, they get to face LSU, which ranks 128th in opposing pass yards per game.

In the SEC Championship, Trask would put up great numbers against an Alabama secondary that has gotten to face a bunch of teams with unestablished starting quarterbacks since it flopped against Ole Miss. The Tide secondary has been awful in more recent match-ups with top offenses.

Betting Outlook 

Fields is seemingly out of the picture. While Ohio State will likely win the Big Ten, Fields’ numbers won’t be pretty in his conference championship game if he has to face a Northwestern defense that again proved to be one of the nation’s best after limiting Wisconsin to seven points. Zach Wilson, too, gets overlooked at BYU.

The top sportsbooks are offering a good deal on Jones. +325 is a nice payout for somebody who has a legitimate chance of winning over the chalky Trask. If the odds had been even, I couldn’t have recommended Jones. But, as the clear-cut second-best candidate, he’s worth throwing lunch money on at plus odds.

Mac Jones Heisman Winner+325
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