Preseason longshots the past two years have ended up winning the Heisman Trophy.
Last year, Louisville’s Lamar Jackson had 50-1 odds when practices started. Jackson quickly became the odds-on favorite though after his performance in the first three games where he accounted for 18 touchdowns, including 10 rushing, and became the youngest player to win the award.
Jackson’s 4,928 yards of total offense is second in Heisman history to the 5,022 yards racked up by BYU’s Ty Detmer in 1990.
Two years ago Alabama’s Derrick Henry was at 25-1 in the preseason before setting a Southeastern Conference single-season rushing record with 1,986 yards and becoming just the second running back since 1999 to win.
Will this be the third straight season that a dark horse overtakes the field? If you are looking at possible longshots, here are six to keep in mind:
DERRIUS GUICE, RB, LSUWith Leonard Fournette in the NFL, Guice has the backfield to himself. The 5-foot-11, 218-pound junior still ended up leading the SEC in rushing yards (1,387) and touchdowns (15) despite splitting time with Fournette. Guice had eight carries of 30 yards or more last season, including a 96-yard touchdown against Arkansas that is the longest carry in school history along with an LSU single-game record 285 yards in a Thanksgiving night win over Texas A&M.
DERWIN JAMES, S, FLORIDA STATEJames missed most of last season due to a knee injury but has been touted as the best defensive player in college football. James (6-3, 211) will draw comparisons to former Michigan standout Jabrill Peppers, who was a Heisman finalist last year. James has been used as a rush end, linebacker and safety on defense, punt returner and will see action on offense at wide receiver. He is trying to become the second defensive player to beat the odds.
RONALD JONES II, RB, USCThere is already plenty of Heisman buzz around the Trojans due to quarterback Sam Darnold, but Jones does have a chance to possibly generate some headlines of his own and possibly upstage Darnold. The 6-0, 200 pound junior running back averaged 6.0 yards per carry and had three touchdown runs of 60 yards or more last year. He won’t get 300-plus carries – which seems to be a prerequisite for consideration from voters – but he can show his ability as a playmaker as both a runner and receiver that could propel him into contention.
TRACE McSORLEY, QB, PENN STATEThis is like USC in reverse since the running back (Saquon Barkley) is receiving more attention. McSorley, a 6-0, 202-pound junior, could be the best quarterback in the Big Ten. In his first year as the starter last season he threw 25 touchdowns and only five interceptions. He also comes into the season with momentum after big performances in the Big Ten championship game and Rose Bowl.
MASON RUDOLPH, QB, OKLAHOMA STATEThe senior is not receiving as much attention as Oklahoma’s Baker Mayfield, but Rudolph (6-5, 230) is one of only two Power Five quarterbacks coming back after passing for 4,000 yards. He has one of the more talented receiving duos in the Jalen McCleskey and James Washington. With the Cowboys coming off consecutive 10-win seasons, they could contend for the Big 12 title, which would raise Rudolph’s profile even more.
JARRETT STIDHAM, QB, AUBURNCould Stidham take the same path as Cam Newton? Transfer in, flourish under Gus Malzahn’s offense and win the Heisman. The sophomore was one of the top dual-threat quarterbacks when he was recruited by Baylor in 2015 and had immediate success with 1,165 yards passing and 12 touchdowns. Stidham (6-3, 214) transferred to junior college last year after coach Art Briles was fired and could be Auburn’s fourth Heisman finalist in the past eight years.