Can Trevor Lawrence can still win Heisman Trophy? Clemson QB’s case to stay in race

Clemson’s Trevor Lawrence is no longer the Heisman Trophy favorite heading into November, according to odds from FanDuel’s betting site.  

Lawrence, who tested positive for COVID-19 last week and will miss his second start when No. 1 Clemson takes on No. 4 Notre Dame on Saturday, is now listed at +200.  That creates an interesting juxtaposition. If Lawrence returns and leads the Tigers to another national championship, it could be argued that he is the greatest college football player of all time. He also might have that distinction despite never being a Heisman Trophy finalist.  

Can Lawrence still win the Heisman Trophy after missing two games? We assess those chances by looking at the field.  

Who is the Heisman Trophy favorite?  

Ohio State quarterback Justin Fields (+150) and Alabama quarterback Mac Jones (+150) are the co-favorites for the award. They are the biggest threats knowing the Tigers, Buckeyes and Crimson Tide all are heavy favorites to each the College Football Playoff.  

Fields — who finished third in the voting last year — has a passer rating of 214.0 with 594 passing yards, six touchdowns and no interceptions through two games. He still has six conference games and a potential conference championship game to impress voters.  

Jones, a first-year starter with Alabama with a 210.3 passer rating, continues to impress with 2,196 yards, 16 TDs and two interceptions.  

Lawrence had 1,833 yards, 17 TDs and two interceptions before missing last weeks’ game against Boston College.  

Keep an eye on the number of games. Assuming all three teams play in the conference championship game, Jones would have two more games than Fields and Lawrence, who would have the same number of games at nine if the Clemson quarterback returns. Lawrence and Fields would be easier to compare side by side at that point.  

Can a Heisman contender miss games?  

Ohio State defensive end Chase Young was considered a Heisman favorite before a two-game suspension last season. He finished fourth in the final voting. Since 1979, three Heisman Trophy winners — USC’s Charles White (1979), Miami’s Vinny Testaverde (1986) and Florida State’s Charlie Ward (1993) — each missed one game.  

Lawrence’s circumstances are extraordinary given the way the COVID-19 pandemic has affected the 2020 college football season, but there are still other factors to keep an eye on.  

Is Lawrence’s teammate a sleeper?  

A look at the other contenders reveals a list of potential finalists in BYU’s Zach Wilson (+3000), Alabama’s Devonta Smith (+5000), Alabama’s Najee Harris (+5000) and Florida’s Kyle Trask (+5000). Those candidates also face a long road to winning the award.  

Clemson running back Travis Etienne (+10000) is the best sleeper left on the board. Etienne leads the FBS with 1,040 yards from scrimmage. He had 84 rushing yards, 140 receiving yards and a 40-yard kickoff return in the comeback victory against Boston College. Etienne finished seventh in the Heisman voting in 2018 and eighth in 2019.  

Could Lawrence get the “Manning” treatment?  

This is possible. Sporting News put Peyton Manning as its No. 2 quarterback of all time as part of our “CFB 150” celebration. Manning was a star quarterback at Tennessee, and he finished sixth in the Heisman voting in 1995, eighth in 1996 and second in 1997.  

Lawrence, who finished seventh in the voting last year and didn’t start early in the season in 2018, could get a similar treatment provided he returns late in the season.  

Still, can he win it without that signature moment this season? After all, it was backup quarterback D.J. Uiagalelei who led the comeback against Boston College last week.  

What should we expect in November?  

The Heisman Trophy often comes down to the best player on the best team, and there isn’t a Big 12 stat stuffer like Oklahoma’s Baker Mayfield or Kyler Murray to get in the way of that this season.  

It could easily come down to the best player among Alabama, Ohio State and Clemson. Those three schools have dominated the CFP era, and they have combined to have multiple players finish in the top five in four of the past six seasons.  

It’s a good bet that the race will be between Fields and Jones, who has a bye this week. Lawrence still has time to get back in it, however, and there could be a rematch with the Notre Dame in the ACC championship game.  

He might not be the favorite now, but if the 2020 season has taught us anything it’s to not rule anything out.  

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