Heisman Watch: Penn State Now Clearly Trace McSorley’s Team

Monday, June 4, 2018 11:56 AM UTC

Monday, Jun. 4, 2018 11:56 AM UTC

Might surprise you to learn that Penn State has had just one Heisman winner in its storied history. Could quarterback Trace McSorley be the second in 2018?

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When you hear nicknames of Penn State, it’s usually either “Linebacker U” or maybe “Running Back U.” The school has produced fabulous players at both positions. As for quarterbacks? Not so much. Probably the two best QBs in school history are Kerry Collins, who had a pretty good NFL career, and Todd Blackledge, who didn’t do much at the next level.

The best running back in school history, at least statistically, was Saquon Barkley, who was the No. 2 overall pick in the 2018 NFL Draft by the New York Giants. He was the Heisman leader early last season but ended up finishing fourth. Penn State’s only Heisman winner was a running back: John Cappelletti in 1973.

With Barkley off to the NFL, the Nittany Lions’ 2018 offense will clearly be driven by senior quarterback Trace McSorley. He’s +2600 on the Heisman futures at 5Dimes. Now, let’s get this out of the way: McSorley isn’t considered a top pro prospect (not among Mel Kiper’s Top 5 seniors). He’s listed at 6-foot, 195 pounds, but he’s maybe 5-11. Most colleges that recruited McSorley wanted him to play safety because of his size.

The NFL just doesn’t like short signal-callers. That said, Baker Mayfield was barely over 6-foot-tall and won the 2017 Heisman at Oklahoma and became the No. 1 overall pick by the Browns in this year’s draft. So McSorley can change some minds.

McSorley, 22-5 as a starter, has thrown at least one TD pass in 28 straight games, extending his Penn State record (previously 14 by Collins) and enters the 2018 season with the longest active streak in the FBS. McSorley holds numerous school records, including career TD passes (59), completion percentage (61.8), passing efficiency (152.9) and 77 touchdowns responsible for. He should break all the rest this season, including career yardage.

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Trace McSorley:
22-5 record✔️
77 total touchdowns✔️
59 passing touchdowns✔️
18 rushing touchdowns✔️
7,369 career passing yards✔️
Trace McSorley is set to finish his career as one of best quarterbacks to ever wear the Blue & White. pic.twitter.com/eHEvAk0Mnc

— Nittany Pride (@NittanyPride) May 31, 2018
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McSorley will be easily the most accomplished quarterback returning in the Big Ten. He completed 66.5 percent of his throws for 3,570 yards and 28 touchdowns to 10 picks last year while rushing for 491 yards and 11 scores. Only McSorley and Ohio State’s J.T. Barrett have ever thrown for at least 25 TDs and rushed for 10 in a single season in the Big Ten. McSorley ranked No. 12 nationally and No. 2 the Big Ten in points responsible for per game (18.0) and was named Fiesta Bowl MVP in the win over Washington by throwing for 342 yards and two scores while rushing for 60 yards against one of the country’s top defenses.

One would presume that McSorley would throw and run even more this year with Barkley taking his 217 rushing attempts to the NFL, although his 54 catches for 632 yards and three scores will certainly be missed his quarterback. Defensive coordinators had to focus on Barkley and now can worry more about McSorley, too.

Penn State returns seven offensive starters but lost highly-regarded coordinator Joe Moorhead as he took the head coaching job at Mississippi State. There shouldn’t be much falloff as QBs coach Ricky Rahne was promoted to OC. One thing working against McSorley in 2018 is having to face four stellar defenses: Sept. 29 vs. Ohio State, Oct. 13 vs. Michigan State, Nov. 3 at Michigan and Nov. 10 vs. Wisconsin. At least three of those are in Happy Valley.

We all know that you won’t win a Heisman these days without playing on a national title contender. PSU is a +450 third-favorite at BetOnline to win the Big Ten and +325 to make the four-team playoff at 5Dimes. The Loins have a win total of 9, with the under a -140 favorite. Nine wins won’t cut it for McSorley’s Heisman hopes.

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