Four of the past eight Heisman Trophy winners have come from SEC schools. Georgia's Nick Chubb is a +1200 third-favorite to make it five of nine.
33 Years And Counting ...
It might surprise you to know that Georgia hasn't had a Heisman winner since Herschel Walker, one of the best running backs in college football history, took home the award way back in 1982. Think of some of the talent that has been through the Georgia program since then and it baffles how there was no Heisman winner. Just recently we had guys like running back Todd Gurley (more on him in a minute), quarterback Matthew Stafford, a No. 1 overall pick in the NFL by the Lions, and receiver A.J. Green, who is one of the best in the NFL at that position with the Bengals.
Go back a bit further and there were stars such as receiver Hines Ward, defensive back/receiver Champ Bailey and running backs Rodney Hampton, Garrison Hearst (third in 1992 Heisman voting) and future Super Bowl MVP Terrell Davis. That's just to name a few.
Gurley was among the favorites last season to win the Heisman. He started the year with a bang, rushing 15 times for 198 yards and three touchdowns in an opening blowout of Clemson. Gurley added 131 yards and a touchdown against South Carolina, 208 yards and two touchdowns in a win over Tennessee, and 163 yards and two more scores in a victory over Vanderbilt. He was right there among the favorites, but then Gurley was given a four-game suspension for accepting more than $3,000 in cash from multiple individuals for autographed memorabilia. That ended Gurley's Heisman hopes. He would return with a strong game on Nov. 15 against Auburn in an impressive 34-7 victory with 138 yards and touchdown, but Gurley suffered a season-ending knee injury in that game. He still declared for the draft and was a bit surprisingly taken at No. 10 overall by St. Louis, but Gurley won't be ready to start the regular season.
Nick Of Time
Gurley's bad break was Chubb's big opportunity, and the true freshman took major advantage of it. Gurley was suspended for games at Missouri, at Arkansas, vs. Florida and at Kentucky. What did Chubb do in that four-game stretch? 38 carries for 143 yards and a touchdown against the Tigers, 30 carries for 202 yards and two touchdowns against the Razorbacks, 21 carries for 156 yards and a touchdown against the Gators (also a TD catch), and 13 carries for 170 yards and a touchdown against the Wildcats. Coach Mark Richt saw what kind of talent he had in Chubb, so he was going to split carries with Gurley when Gurley returned, and Chubb had a big game against Auburn in Gurley's return with 19 carries for 144 yards and two scores. Then with Gurley out, the job was clearly Chubb's. He rushed for 113 yards and two scores on just nine carries against Charleston Southern (including an 83-yard TD run, the longest by a Georgia player since 1985), 129 yards and a score on 25 carries in a loss to Georgia Tech, and a whopping 266 yards (an SEC bowl record) and two scores on 33 carries in the Belk Bowl win against a good Louisville defense.
Chubb finished with 1,547 yards and 14 touchdowns on 219 carries and was named SEC Freshman of the Year, first-team All-SEC and a Freshman All-American. His 1,547 rushing yards were tied for the fourth-most in a single season in school history. Chubb's 7.1 yards per carry were first in the SEC among the league's Top 10 rushers.
So Chubb is going to be the bell cow for a Top-10 marquee program in the nation's marquee conference, with current College Football odds placing him at +1200 for the Heisman. So why am I skeptical he can win the Trophy? First, Georgia's quarterback situation is very unsettled. Faton Bauta, Virginia transfer Greyson Lambert and Brice Ramsey are competing to replace Hutson Mason. I don't think any of those three will be as good as Mason was. That means defenses will be stacking the box.
And speaking of defenses, Chubb will be facing several tough SEC ones, led by Alabama and Florida. He does get to avoid LSU and Ole Miss from the West Division. Finally, Chubb has a very good tailback behind him in fellow sophomore Sony Michel, who looks like a future NFL player himself. Michel is going to siphon off some carries.
NCAAF Free Pick: Chubb looks like a star, but with the reasons listed above and the fact it's so hard for a running back to win the Heisman these days, I don't believe he's good value to take the 2015 award.