Comparing Stranger Things Characters to College Football Teams

Comparing Stranger Things Characters to College Football Teams

*Warning: Major spoilers for Stranger Things 2 ahead. You have been warned.*

Like many of you, I binge watched Stranger Things 2 over the weekend. The first season was an absolute blast, and I had high expectations heading into season two.

Fortunately, Stranger Things 2 lived up to the hype and delivered a storyline that was engrossing, captivating, and unique. The Duffer Brothers managed to continue the plot from the first season while adding in new story elements and wrapping up some questions that viewers still had.

In Stranger Things 2, we see how the Hawkins group is handling life after Will’s disappearance and subsequent rescue from the Upside Down. Will is having nightmares and seeing terrifying monsters, Hopper is investigating a strange plague spreading throughout the town, and Eleven is revealed to have survived her battle with the Demogorgon.

The characters in Stranger Things 2 steal the show, much like the individual teams in college football. Each is unique, yet some share similar traits. Some are alive in the playoff picture, some are dead.

Let’s compare the characters of Stranger Things to college football teams and see what we can figure out.

FINAL Brenner Miami

Dr. Martin Brenner: Miami (FL)

At one point, we believed Brenner to be dead, mauled to death by the Demogorgon in season one. But Stranger Things 2 teased the possibility that Brenner could still be alive. It’s uncertain how he might have survived the Demogorgon attack, but his presence still haunts Eleven in Stranger Things 2.

Similarly, we believed Miami to be dead at one point. “Da U” was just a distant memory of championships won before current players were even born. But with Mark Richt at the helm, the Hurricanes are 7-0 and contending for the ACC for the first time in forever.

Plus, no one likes either of them.

FINAL Jonathan Oklahoma State

Jonathan Byers: Oklahoma State

I feel as if Jonathan is a forgotten character in Stranger Things 2. He was a major character in the first season, but his role seems to get diminished in the second season. Jonathan’s side story with Nancy to reveal Barb’s death to the public is interesting, but he doesn’t get involved in the main plot until late in the game.

Oklahoma State is a major player that seems to have fallen out of the national attention after losing to TCU, despite being 7-1 on the year. Mason Rudolph and the ‘Pokes have a chance to create some noise this weekend when they host Oklahoma.

FINAL Joyce Penn State

Joyce Byers: Penn State

Joyce is among my favorite characters in the show. Dedicated to her family, she is willing to risk life and limb to protect her two sons. Joyce works tirelessly to save Will from the Mind Flayer in Stranger Things 2, often resorting to extreme tactics like sedating Will and trying to burn the Mind Flayer from his body.

Penn State’s offense is not odd, but the way Joe Morehead uses Trace McSorely and Saquon Barkley is unique. Much like Joyce, Penn State often resorts to extreme measures to get the ball into Barkley’s hands, such as putting him back on kickoff returns. It has paid dividends, as Barkley is the front-runner for the Heisman so far.

FINAL Will Iowa State

Will Byers: Iowa State

After being trapped in the Upside Down for the entirety of season one, Will stole the show in Stranger Things 2. He is still suffering from the effects of his capture at the hands (claws?) of the Demogorgon and Will’s internal battles with the Mind Flayer are the highlights of the season.

Coming into the season, we expected little from Iowa State. But Matt Campbell and the Cyclones have stolen the show, busting out to a 6-2 record with wins over Oklahoma and TCU. With games remaining against West Virginia and Oklahoma State, it will be fun to see if Iowa State can continue its momentum and cause havoc in the Big 10 race.

FINAL Billy Michigan

Billy Hargrove: Michigan

Billy seems to be the human antagonist of the show. He shows up and takes Steve’s role as the alpha dog of the school. But other than being a dick to other characters, I’m not quite sure of his role in the show. Frankly, Billy’s biggest moment in the series was getting tranquilized by Max in the final episode.

On the same hand, it feels like people are starting to get tired of the attention that Michigan receives. The Wolverines are 6-2 on the season, but suffered losses to Michigan State and Penn State to put them at 4th in the Big Ten East. At this point, even Michigan’s own fans seem to be turning against Jim Harbaugh. Since arriving in Ann Arbor, Harbaugh’s biggest moment is… attending, but not winning, the Orange Bowl last year?

FINAL Steve Notre Dame

Steve Harrington: Notre Dame

In Stranger Things, we hated Steve. He was a dick, but managed to redeem himself by the end of the season when he fights the Demogorgon. In Stranger Things 2, Steve might be my favorite character. He acts as the de-facto leader for Dustin, Lucas, and Max and shows off his heroic moments, both fighting the demodogs in the junk yard and leading the kids to safety from the tunnels.

Similarly, Notre Dame is a team that has regained a lot of national attention after its 4-8 campaign in 2016. The Fighting Irish are currently 7-1, but have crushed back-to-back ranked teams in USC and NC State in recent weeks. At this point, Brian Kelly might be in the Coach of the Year discussion if Notre Dame makes the playoffs.

FINAL Dustin Georgia

Dustin Henderson: Georgia

I’m not sure how to feel about Dustin in Stranger Things 2. On one hand, he took in a baby Demodog as a pet and hid it from his friends. On the other hand, Dustin took charge in the hunt for Dart when it became apparent that the pollywog-like creature was… well, evil.

Much like Dustin, Georgia might have its own baby Demodog in Nick Chubb. The senior running back has recovered spectacularly from his knee injury suffered as a sophomore and is the heart and soul of a Georgia squad that is 8-0 and the No. 2 team in the nation.

FINAL Barb FSU

Barb Holland: Florida State

Barb is dead.

Florida State is dead.

FINAL Hopper Wisconsin

Jim Hopper: Wisconsin

Hopper is one of the most likable characters in the Stranger Things series. From his tireless efforts to rescuing Will in season one to his parenting of Eleven in Stranger Things 2, Hopper is easy to cheer for. But his methods are somewhat odd, given that he broke into Hawkins Lab in Stranger Things and dove into the Mind Flayer’s tunnels in this season without contemplating the repercussions. Hopper seems to be a guy that acts first and asks questions later.

Much like Hopper, Wisconsin is a team that busts into a situation head first without a second thought. The Badgers have bulldozed to a 8-0 start behind freshman phenom Jonathan Taylor at running back. With only four games standing between perfect season, don’t be surprised to see the Badgers continue running headfirst into the teams left on its schedule.

Max NC State

Max Mayfield: North Carolina State

Coming into this season, I wasn’t sure what to expect from Max. I was pleasantly surprised to watch her develop into a main character in Dustin and Lucas’ group. Her involvement in the love triangle was an interesting dynamic to the storyline, but Max stole the show in the final episode after tranquilizing her abusive step-brother Billy and stealing his car to drive the group to the Mind Flayer’s tunnels.

Prior to the season, I was unsure how NC State would fit into the ACC equation. Despite having talent like Bradley Chubb and Ryan Finley, we’ve seen the Wolfpack fall to the back of the pack before. But NC State has surprisingly emerged as a contender for the ACC this year. Despite being 6-2, the Wolfpack still control their own destiny and a matchup this weekend against Clemson will decide the ACC Atlantic.

FINAL Bob Virginia Tech

Bob Newby: Virginia Tech

Oh, Bob. Poor sweet Bob.

Bob is easy to root for. A Radio Shack salesman with a heart of gold, Bob is incredibly dorky and only seems to care about helping others. From his advice to Will about nightmares (which turned out to be terrible advice, by the way), solving the puzzle of Will’s drawings, and selflessly electing to turn back on the power in Hawkins Lab despite the danger of the demodogs, Bob will live on in fan’s hearts as one of the best characters in the show.

It was easy to root for Virginia Tech as well. Justin Fuente has established himself as one of the better offensive minds in football and his work with freshman Josh Jackson at quarterback has further cemented his legacy. But after a 4-0 start, the Hokies ran into the buzzsaw known as Clemson.

Unlike Bob, Virginia Tech has a chance to revive itself this season. Poor Bob.

FINAL Owens Michigan State

Dr. Sam Owens: Michigan State

A doctor running Hawkins Lab who is very interested in the extraterrestrial anomalies surrounding local kids? Where have we seen this story before?

It was easy to paint Dr. Owens as the villain early in Stranger Things 2. After all, he made it clear to Nancy and Jonathan that he would prevent the truth about Barb’s death from spreading by all means necessary. But the doctor redeems himself in the closing episodes of the show, helping Bob navigate through the demodog-infested labs and helping Hopper officially adopt Eleven.

Michigan State isn’t the best football team in the nation, but the Spartans have slowly worked to an impressive 6-2 record this season. Despite lacking the star power they’ve had in year’s past, Mark Dantonio has his team 2nd in the Big Ten East. Much like the good doctor, it’ll be easy to root for Michigan State in games against Penn State and Ohio State in back-to-back weeks.

FINAL Lucas Washington

Lucas Sinclair: Washington

Like other characters, Lucas seems to have a diminished role in Stranger Things 2. His romantic relationship with Max is developed, but he seems to be forgotten from the main plot until late in the series. It’s unfortunate that we don’t get to see him utilize his slingshot again to slay any Demogorgons.

Much like Lucas, it feels like Washington has slipped out of the national consciousness. The Huskies are 7-1 with its only loss coming to a feisty Arizona State team, but no one seems to be discussing Washington in the playoff conversation anymore. Games against Oregon, Stanford, and Washington State will give Chris Peterson and company a chance to make a splash in the playoff rankings.

FINAL Mike USC

Mike Wheeler: USC

In Stranger Things, Mike was essential to the storyline. His evolving relationship with Eleven set the tone for most of the season. But after coming into Stranger Things 2 with a lot of hype, it seems that Mike has taken a backseat to other characters. Sure, his talks with Will about them both going crazy are interesting, but his involvement in the conclusion of the plot is limited.

On the same note, USC once again entered the season with tons of hype. With Heisman favorite Sam Darnold at quarterback, many pegged the Trojans to make their first trip to the playoffs. But USC currently sits at 6-2 with loses to Washington State and Notre Dame. Just like Mike, it seems that USC’s involvement in the end of the 2017 season will be overshadowed by other teams.

FINAL Nancy Oklahoma

Nancy Wheeler: Oklahoma

Nancy’s character goes through a swirl of emotions in Stranger Things 2, from her continued guilt about Barb’s death to her relationships with Jonathan and Steve. Nancy’s maturity over the course of two seasons has been interesting to see and it will be a storyline to look for in future episodes.

Oklahoma has also gone through many emotions in 2017. The Sooners started off with a big win at Ohio State, capped off by Baker Mayfield planting the flag at midfield. But since then, Oklahoma has escaped with nail-biting wins over Baylor, Texas, and Kansas State while losing to Iowa State along the way. With games against Oklahoma State and TCU remaining, Mayfield and new head coach Lincoln Riley still have a chance to make some noise.

FINAL Eleven Clemson

Eleven (aka Jane Ives): Clemson

In two seasons, Eleven has transformed from a scared runaway to a psychokinetic capable of combating the Mind Flayer. It’s no question she is one of the most powerful characters on the show and her role will be crucial in future battles against the Mind Flayer and the Upside Down.

For the longest time, no one was able to match up with Alabama. But then along came Clemson, who battled the Crimson Tide in back-to-back national championships. Despite losing Deshaun Watson, the Tigers are 7-1 and still have a great shot at the playoffs, where another rematch with Alabama looms large.

FINAL Demogorgon Ohio State

The Demogorgon: Ohio State

The primary antagonist of Stranger Things, the Demogorgon is a relentless killing machine who stops at nothing to devour its prey. The Demogorgon is like a shark, sensing blood in the water and striking when you least expect it. Just ask Will.

After an early loss to Oklahoma, Ohio State has turned into an monster. The Buckeyes have crushed everyone since then and just came back from an 18-point deficit to beat Penn State. Ohio State’s success should not come as a surprise, as the Buckeyes have more star talent on its roster than anyone not named Alabama.

Just watch out if Ohio State (The Demogorgon) matches up against Clemson (Eleven) in the playoffs. We’ve seen how this might turn out.

FINAL Mind Flayer Alabama

The Mind Flayer: Alabama

In Stranger Things 2, the demonic presence known simply as the “Mind Flayer” is revealed to be the overarching villain of the series. Its intentions are not completely understood, but the Mind Flayer seems determined to take over the town of Hawkins and perhaps more. Although defeated by Eleven in season two, we’re left with a parting shot of the Mind Flayer looming over Hawkins Middle School, hinting that the creature is not finished just yet.

Much like the Mind Flayer, Alabama is the final villain of every college football season. Nick Saban has acquired more talent than anyone in the nation and the Crimson Tide have made the playoffs in every year since 2014. Whether its Clemson, Ohio State, or someone else, the battle for the soul of college football will come down to a match against Alabama.

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Justin Fields commits to Georgia. Now what?

Justin Fields commits to Georgia. Now what?

Five-star quarterback Justin Fields committed to Georgia on Friday, making official a move that many had expected for some time now.

A Kennesaw, Georgia native, Fields has been a frequent visitor to Athens over the past few months. The undefeated Bulldogs have been the talk of college football after shutting out Tennessee 41-0 and going into Notre Dame and pulling out a win. Despite having a true freshman in Jake Fromm at quarterback, Fields committed to Georgia over Florida State, LSU, Auburn, and Alabama.

For FSU, this is a kick in the face.

Fields was the top quarterback prospect on its board, and perhaps the top overall player. The ‘Noles are currently without a quarterback commitment, nor have the Seminoles extended any new offers in recent months.

While Fields listed Auburn, LSU, and Alabama amongst his favorites, many analysts believed that the battle was truly between Georgia and Florida State. This offseason, the five-star recruit visited both places multiple times on unofficial visits.

Georgia is currently 4-0 and one of the hottest teams in the nation. Meanwhile, 1-2 Florida State narrowly edged out Wake Forest for its first win of the season. The ‘Noles are not an exciting product at this moment, especially on the offensive side of the ball.

I’ve written extensively about Florida State’s struggles to recruit quarterbacks. While Jimbo Fisher has managed to land five-stars like Jameis Winston and EJ Manuel, they are offset by lower-ranked recruits like John Franklin, Clint Trickett, and Jake Coker.

To be fair, Florida State may have been fighting an uphill battle in this recruitment battle. As we’ve discussed previously, recruiting quarterbacks to Tallahassee is a very difficult task. The state of Florida does not consistently produce good quarterback prospects, and this year is no different. Meanwhile, states like Georgia and Texas pop out elite quarterbacks left and right and the in-state programs often reap the benefits.

Despite recent struggles, the Bulldogs are recruiting quarterbacks at an unparalleled level. Five-star Jacob Eason signed with Georgia in 2016, four-star Jake Fromm signed in 2017, and the ‘Dogs just landed Fields as well. Landing back-to-back-to-back elite quarterbacks like this is something we haven’t seen since perhaps Pete Carroll’s tenure at USC.

With Fields’ commitment to Georgia, the Bulldogs have an embarrassment of riches at the position between Eason, Fromm, and Fields. That should be a fun quarterback battle next season.

Meanwhile, it is unclear where the Seminoles turn at quarterback. James Blackman is the current starter and has shown flashes, but has also looked like a true freshman at times. Meanwhile, Deondre Francois is set to return this summer from the knee injury he suffered in the first game of the season. With the number of blue-chip prospects quickly dwindling, it would not be a surprise to see Fisher pocket the scholarship for next season.

 

2017-18 College Football Predictions

2017-18 College Football Predictions

Do you feel that?

College football is back.

Well, kind of. We have to wait until next weekend until the real games begin, but Stanford-Rice in Australia is a nice appetizer until then.

With week one bearing down upon us, let’s take a look at how the 2017-18 college football season may turn out, complete with Heisman predictions and playoff picks.

This should be fun.


Atlantic Coast Conference

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Last year, the ACC was the best conference in the nation. Clemson won the national title, QB Lamar Jackson of Louisville won the Heisman trophy, and Florida State won the Orange Bowl.

Now, it’s time to defend that title.

Clemson lost QB Deshaun Watson and a host of contributors, Florida State lost RB Dalvin Cook, and Jackson and Louisville limped to a 9-4 finish after starting the year out strong.

Can Florida State take the reigns as the best team in the conference? Or will Clemson, Louisville, or even Miami take them down?

Screen Shot 2017-08-24 at 8.06.09 PM

I have Florida State winning the Atlantic division at 10-2, while Justin Fuente and Virginia Tech go 9-3 make a return trip to the title game. The ‘Noles win the matchup in Charlotte, ending the season at 11-2.


Big 12 Conference

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Oklahoma won the conference last year and trounced Auburn in the Sugar Bowl, but the Sooners suffered an unexpected loss when head coach Bob Stoops announced his retirement.

The good news is that new coach Lincoln Riley has been with the team for two years now. The youngest head coach in FBS, Riley has a tough test in his first season with teams like Oklahoma State, TCU and Kansas State all looking to upset the Sooners for the title.

Oh, and don’t forget about Texas and new coach Tom Herman either.

Screen Shot 2017-08-24 at 8.13.17 PM

It’ll be hard to knock of Oklahoma, as QB Baker Mayfield returns as one of the best players in the country. I have the Sooners at 11-2, defeating rival Oklahoma State at 10-3 in a rematch in the Big 12 title game.


Big Ten Conference

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Last year was a weird season for the Big Ten.

Penn State beat Ohio State and won the conference, but it was the Buckeyes that made it to the playoffs. The Big Ten went 0-3 in major bowl games, as the Nittany Lions, Buckeyes and Michigan Wolverines all lost their respective matchups.

This season, Ohio State is the clear belle of the ball due to the incredible recruiting by Urban Meyer. However, Penn State returns QB Trace McSorely and RB Saquon Barkley. Michigan is in a rebuilding year, but anything could happen with a Jim Harbaugh-led program.

Keep an eye on Wisconsin as well. They have a very easy schedule and could sneak into the playoff conversation.

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Right now, I have Ohio State winning the conference at 12-1 over 10-3 Wisconsin. I think the Buckeyes getting Penn State at home will be critical to their chances of returning to the playoffs.


Pac-12 Conference

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The Trojans missed out on the playoffs last year, but the reemergence of USC as a national power was the hottest storyline of the offseason. QB Sam Darnold, now a sophomore, led the Trojans to a comeback victory in the Rose Bowl, cementing himself as the Heisman trophy favorite heading into the season.

But it’ll be a tough test to defend that hype. Washington, who made the playoffs and won the conference, returns QB Jake Browning and head coach Chris Peterson knows how to reload a roster. Oregon hired Willie Taggart after going 4-8, hoping to return the Ducks to national prominence. Stanford and UCLA also return talented playmakers as well.

We’ve seen this USC hype before. The biggest question is whether or not they finally live up to it.

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Consider me on the USC hype train. I think they’ve recruited well enough to account for their offseason loses and Darnold is one of the better quarterbacks in college football. I have them winning the conference at 12-1 over 11-2 Washington.


Southeastern Conference

For a while now, it’s been Alabama and everyone else in the SEC.

Last year was no different. The Crimson Tide went undefeated in the regular season before losing the title game to Clemson, the first time a Nick Saban-led team has lost in the big game.

For the first time since 2013, Alabama returns their signal caller. QB Jalen Hurts is back for his sophomore season, along with a host of other talented players on both sides of the ball. Alabama is the national title favorite for a reason.

However, other teams in the conference are making moves. Auburn brought in QB Jarrett Stidham, a former five-star recruit who was at Baylor. LSU hired Ed Orgeron full time and snagged offensive coordinator Matt Canada as well. He’ll find creative ways to use talented RB Derrius Guice. In the east, Georgia returns QB Jacob Eason, but teams like Florida and South Carolina will be eager to take them down.

This season might be the year where the SEC reclaims the title as the best conference in the nation.

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Until anybody proves otherwise, it’s Alabama again in this conference. I nearly had them undefeated, but bumped them down to 12-1. I have 10-3 Georgia winning a wide open East division, but losing to the Crimson Tide in the championship.


Other Conferences

American: South Florida is getting a lot of love this offseason after hiring Charlie Strong to replace Willie Taggart, but I think it’ll be Memphis and QB Riley Ferguson that emerge from this conference as the winner at 11-2.

Conference USA: Lane Kiffin was a splash hire for Florida Atlantic and it’ll pay dividends this year as he leads them to the conference title. Kiffin has brought in a lot of talented transfers this offseason and, while it may take a while to gel, they’ll help him get to a 10-3 record.

Independents: Notre Dame was horrific last season, finishing at 4-8, but they will rebound this year under QB Brandon Wimbush and finish at 9-3. I think QB Tanner Mangum at BYU is one of the most underrated players in the country and he’ll help the Cougars reach a similar 9-3 record.

Mid-American: Western Michigan went undefeated in the regular season last year, but they lost WR Corey Davis to the NFL and head coach P.J. Fleck to Minnesota. As such, I think Toledo and QB Logan Woodside emerge with a 10-3 record to win the conference.

Mountain West: Boise State and Colorado State will battle it out this year for their division, but it’ll be the Broncos who emerge as the winners thanks to QB Brett Rypien. I have them at 11-2, with a potential spot in a New Years Six Bowl.

Sun Belt: Appalachian State won a share of the title last year, but this year they’ll win it outright. QB Taylor Lamb returns and will help the Mountaineers win a very strange Sun Belt conference.


Heisman Voting

Last year, Lamar Jackson took over college football and emerged as one of the most explosive players in the country. Louisville lost three straight to to end the year, but Jackson still took home the hardware after totaling more than 50 touchdowns on the ground and in the air.

This season, USC QB Sam Darnold enters as the favorite after his epic Rose Bowl comeback. However, players like QB Baker Mayfield, QB Jalen Hurts, and RB Saquon Barkley will all look to claim the trophy as well.

Keep an eye on QB Jarrett Stidham of Auburn, a former five-star recruit who enters a system under Gus Malzahn that has produced some big numbers at the quarterback position.

2017-18 HEISMAN

I think Sam Darnold lives up to the hype and takes home the Heisman trophy this season. I have USC at 12-1 right now, meaning Darnold will get a lot of time in the spotlight this season. Plus, quarterbacks in Los Angeles have a way to attract national attention. He narrowly edges out Barkley, Stidham, Jackson and FSU DB Derwin James for the award.


New Year’s Six Bowls

2017-18 NY6

 


College Football Playoff

2017-18 CFB PLAYOFF

Surprise, surprise, I have Alabama winning it all this year. There’s just not a team that has recruited better than the Crimson Tide since, well, ever. Saban will have his team ready. Don’t expect losing the national title game to become a familiar habit at Alabama.

Who will win the Heisman?

Who will win the Heisman?

The Heisman.

On the surface, it is the award given annually to the most outstanding player in college football. In recent years, we’ve seen names like Jameis Winston, Marcus Mariota, and Lamar Jackson hoist the trophy after outstanding seasons. All have been dynamic, exciting and have led their teams to phenomenal performances.

One of the biggest questions every offseason is “Who will win the Heisman?”

Whether or not you believe the Heisman always goes to the best player in college football, there is no denying the hype and fanfare surrounding the award. Analysts and writers annually publish their preseason Heisman picks, many of which are just shots in the dark. But the fans lap it up, excited when their favorite team’s quarterback is picked to win the award before taking a single snap.

Betting on the Heisman is also a popular pastime in college sports.

This year, there are over 60 names that have been tabbed with preseason Heisman odds. From LSU RB Derrius Guice (+1500) to Michigan QB Wilton Speight (+17500), it seems that everyone and their mother was given odds this offseason. Granted, many of these players have extremely low odds and just serve as a platform for casual fans to put money on their favorite team’s players.

Currently, the preseason favorite is USC QB Sam Darnold (+525). You’ve probably heard of him, the redshirt freshman who led the Trojans to a Rose Bowl win after starting the season 1-3. There is no doubt he is one of the best players in college football.

So who will win the Heisman this year?

To be fair, we have no idea this far in advance who will win. No one could have predicted Jackson emerging as one of the most dynamic players in college football last season.

However, there are some steps we can take to narrow down the list of candidates.

After looking the past decade or so of Heisman winners, as well as individual stats from the past ten years, I think we can safely eliminate some names from the 60+ list that is available online.

1. No defensive players.

This one is obvious. The last defensive player to win the Heisman was Michigan CB Charles Woodson in 1997, who also moonlighted as a return man and offensive player. Some of the most talented defensive players of the past decade, such as Nebraska DT Ndamukong Suh and Notre Dame LB Manti Te’o, haven’t even come close to winning the award.

Sorry, but this (probably) won’t be the year a defensive player wins the Heisman.

Eliminates: Florida State S Derwin James (+10000), Clemson DT Dexter Lawrence (+20000), Alabama S Minkah Fitzpatrick (+25000), Houston DT Ed Oliver (+25000), LSU DE Arden Key (+25000), Michigan DL Rashan Gary (+25000), Texas LB Malik Jefferson (+25000)

2. No wide receivers

You have to go back even further than Woodson to find the last wide receiver to win the Heisman: Michigan WR Desmond Howard in 1991. The closest we’ve seen in recent years is Alabama WR Amari Cooper in 2014, but even he finished third in voting.

Eliminates: Oklahoma State WR James Washington (+15000), Texas A&M WR Christian Kirk (+15000), Clemson WR Deon Cain (+17500), Florida State WR Nyqwan Murray (+17500), Alabama WR Calvin Ridley (+20000), SMU WR Courtland Sutton (+25000)

3. No running backs.

Strange, right?

Even after seeing Alabama RB Derrick Henry win the award in 2015, it wouldn’t be smart to put money on another back winning the Heisman. Simply put, quarterbacks have dominated the awards circuit. Since 2000, quarterbacks have won 14 of the 17 possible Heisman trophies.

Eliminates: LSU RB Derrius Guice (+1500), Penn State RB Saquon Barkley (+1500), Alabama RB Bo Scarbrough (+2200), Georgia RB Nick Chubb (+4300), Auburn RB Kamryn Pettway (+4700), Ohio State RB Mike Weber (+7500), Washington RB Myles Gaskin (+10000), Oregon RB Royce Freeman (+11500), Stanford RB Bryce Love (+17500), Auburn RB Kerryon Johnson (+20000), Miami (FL) RB Mark Walton (+20000), TCU RB Sewo Olonilua (+20000), Florida State RB Cam Akers (+25000), Michigan State RB LJ Scott (+25000), USC RB Ronald Jones (+25000), Wisconsin RB Chris James (+25000)

4. No pocket passer QBs

Ah, we finally get to the quarterbacks.

In this day and age of college football, fans and analysts are fascinated by quarterbacks that can run. It’s no wonder that six of the last nine quarterbacks to win the Heisman were dual-threat players as well. From Jackson in 2016 to Tim Tebow in 2006, the running quarterback has taken over college football.

Don’t believe me? Let’s look at some data.

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The past nine QBs to win the Heisman and their pre-bowl game stats.
As seen by the table above, the past nine quarterbacks to win the Heisman have averaged over 700 rushing yards and 12 rushing touchdowns.

If you’re going to bet on the Heisman, put your money on a quarterback that can run.

Eliminates: Washington QB Jake Browning (+2200), UCLA QB Josh Rosen (+3500), Oklahoma State QB Mason Rudolph (+3600), Washington State QB Luke Falk (+4900), Georgia QB Jacob Eason (+10000), Houston QB Kyle Allen (+14000), Clemson QB Hunter Johnson (+15000), Boise State QB Brett Rypien (+16000), BYU QB Tanner Mangum (+17500), Michigan QB Wilton Speight (+17500), Western Kentucky QB Mike White (+20000), Texas Tech QB Nick Shimoek (+25000)

5. No Group of Five QBs

While there are some talented Group of Five quarterbacks this year, power conferences have dominated this award in recent years. Since 2000, no Group of Five player has won the Heisman. The closest anyone has gotten recently is Northern Illinois QB Jordan Lynch, who finished third in voting in 2013.

Eliminates: South Florida QB Quinton Flowers (+4500), Wyoming QB Josh Allen (+10000)

6. No repeat winners

Sorry, Lamar Jackson. No Heisman winner has won back-to-back trophies since Archie Griffin in 1974 and 1975.

Eliminates: Louisville QB Lamar Jackson (+950)

7. No “old news”

While there is no concrete data to support this, recent trends in college football seem to suggest that media and voters love new and flashy players.

Tebow won the Heisman in 2007 in his first year as a starting quarterback. Cam Newton transferred from a junior college and won in 2010. Johnny Manziel and Jameis Winston were the first two freshmen in history to win in 2012 and 2013, respectively. Finally, Jackson won it last year in his first major starting experience as well.

Of the last ten Heisman trophy winners, none have been seniors. The last senior to win the award was Troy Smith in 2006.

In this day and age of college football, we are always looking for the next big thing. That’s why we were so attached to Jackson and Darnold last year, because they were new.

While I’m not saying it’s impossible for an upperclassman to win the award, recent years suggest that it’ll be harder for them to do so.

Eliminates: Oklahoma QB Baker Mayfield (+850), Ohio State QB JT Barrett (+1250), Florida QB Malik Zaire (+15000), TCU QB Kenny Hill (+20000)

Now that we’re finished with elimination, that leaves us with a dozen names.

  • USC QB Sam Darnold (+525)
  • Auburn QB Jarrett Stidham (+2000)
  • Alabama QB Jalen Hurts (+2200)
  • Florida State QB Deondre Francois (+2200)
  • Penn State QB Trace McSorely (+3500)
  • Texas QB Shane Buechele (+5500)
  • West Virginia QB Will Grier (+6600)
  • Mississippi State QB Nick Fitzgerald (+10000)
  • Notre Dame QB Brandon Wimbush (+12500)
  • Oregon QB Justin Herbert (+12500)
  • Ole Miss QB Shea Patterson (+20000)
  • Syracuse QB Eric Dungey (+20000)

These twelve names fit the main criteria that we’re looking for when determining who really has a shot to win the Heisman. All are quarterbacks, all play for Power Five teams and all have some measure of dual-threat capability to their game.

Now, this is by no means a guarantee that one of these players will win the award. Several previous winners, including Winston and Jackson, didn’t even have betting odds until the season started. There’s a good chance that at least one or two players contend for the Heisman that are not on this list.

Hopefully, this list and the criteria given gave you a better look at who will truly contend for the award. I am not a betting man, but I’d put my money on one of these players if I were in a gambling mood.

Georgia is recruiting QBs better than anyone right now

Georgia is recruiting QBs better than anyone right now

Securing the commitment of a five-star quarterback recruit, someone who is wanted by every team in the nation, is not an easy feat.

Signing a second five-star in the class immediately afterwards is near impossible.

But signing a third? Well, that’s impossible, right?

The Georgia Bulldogs beg to differ.

Currently, Georgia does not have a quarterback committed for the 2018 recruiting class. However, they have put themselves in great position with uncommitted five-star recruits Justin Fields (Kennesaw, GA) and Matt Corral (Long Beach, CA). Both Fields and Corral have recently decommitted from Penn State and USC respectively and have the Bulldogs on their radars.

How, you might ask, can a school be entertaining two five-star quarterback recruits at one time? Well, the situation is fairly unique.

Fields is the No. 3 overall player in the 2018 recruiting class and is considering Georgia along with Florida, Florida State and Auburn. He is a Georgia native and the prospects of staying home to play college ball are certainly tantalizing. Analysts are split on where he will commit to, with various predictions being thrown out there for all four schools.

Meanwhile, Corral is all the way out west in California, but recently took a visit to Georgia. After he decommitted from the Trojans, many analysts have predicted that the pro-style passer will end up in Athens when all is said and done, despite him also listing Florida and Alabama as other possible contenders.

With two five-star quarterback considering Georgia, you’d have to imagine that there is a lack of quarterback depth in Athens, right?

Wrong.

In 2016, Georgia signed five-star quarterback Jacob Eason (Lake Stevens, WA), the No. 5 overall prospect in his recruiting class. Eason started the majority of last season for the Bulldogs as a true freshman and performed fairly well despite being in his first year of eligibility. At 6-5, 230-pounds, Eason has NFL-ready size and could have a breakout campaign this year.

In 2017, this most recent recruiting cycle, Georgia also signed Jake Fromm (Warner Robins, GA) who just barely missed out on five-star status as the No. 47 overall prospect in the class. By all accounts, Fromm has hit the ground running at Georgia and could seriously challenge Eason for the job.

In short, there are two young quarterbacks in Athens who could be considered the future of the program, yet the Bulldogs are still able to attract the attention of two uncommitted five-stars in this current class.

This isn’t a recent phenomenon either. In 2013, Georgia signed Brice Ramsey (Kingsland, GA) who was the No. 100 overall prospect and a four-star recruit. In 2014, they signed Jacob Park (Goose Creek, SC), the No. 114 overall player and another four-star recruit. This trend can further be traced back to signing four-star Christian LeMay (Matthews, NC) in 2011 and five-star Aaron Murray (Tampa, FL) in 2009.

So why are the Bulldogs landing all these upper echelon quarterback recruits, despite going through a major coaching change in recent years?

One of the biggest factors is geographic location. The state of Georgia produces a lot of elite quarterback recruits. Seeing as the Bulldogs are the only major program in the state, they normally have the pick of the litter when it comes to quarterbacks.

qbs
Every blue-chip QB recruit since 2008 and where he has gone to college.

The above image shows every blue-chip quarterback recruit since 2008 and where he has signed to play college ball. California and Texas stand out as states that have produced a lot of talent, but Georgia has also produced some elite recruits as well.

Of course, Georgia loses some battles. In 2014, five-star recruit Deshaun Watson spurned the hometown ‘Dogs and jumped across the border to Clemson. Just recently, five-star recruit Trevor Lawrence made a similar move to commit to the Tigers.

Still, the fact that they’ve kept high-profile recruits like Fromm and Ramsey in the state, while also going out west to attract a five-star like Eason is a feat that has to be commended.

Going back to the current class, Georgia seems to be in good position to sign one of either Fields or Corral. The situation looks pretty simple as well. Fields is their primary target, but if he commits elsewhere they turn up the heat on Corral. The fact that they can keep a five-star player like Corral on the back burner is simply phenomenal.

I think the biggest question now is: Will Georgia be able to continue this trend on the quarterback recruiting trail?

If Georgia signs one of Fields or Corral, their three year span of Eason-Fromm-Fields/Corral might be one of the greatest three-year stretches of quarterback recruiting in the modern age of college football.

The state of Georgia has proven that it can constantly pump out elite-level quarterbacks, but the problem might arise when other programs creep into Georgia’s backyard to recruit these players. Historically-elite Alabama is right around the corner, as well as programs like Florida State, Auburn and Clemson that constantly recruit at a Top-5 level.

Right now, head coach Kirby Smart is in a great position to succeed. He returns Eason at quarterback and a bunch of talent on the roster in a weak SEC Easy division. If the Bulldogs are going to keep up this momentum on the recruiting trail, they need results on the field. Getting back to the SEC Championship and beyond will be key.

But for now, Bulldog fans can take solace in the fact that their program has some elite quarterbacks on the roster and is in a great position to add another one this year.

Meet Malik Zaire, Florida’s Newest QB

Meet Malik Zaire, Florida’s Newest QB

Another year, another high-profile grad transfer quarterback in the offseason.

This time, it’s Malik Zaire who recently announced his transfer to Florida. The former blue-chip spent the past four years at Notre Dame, but his career there was anything but normal. He took over for Everett Golson as a redshirt freshman in 2014 and led the Fighting Irish to a Music City Bowl win over LSU and was named MVP. The following year, as a redshirt sophomore, he was named the starter to begin the season, but broke his ankle in their second game which allowed future second-round pick DeShone Kizer to take over and assume control of the job in 2016 as well.

Despite the limited experience as a starting quarterback, Zaire still possesses the talent to play at a fairly high level. A four-star recruit coming out of high school, Zaire has passed for 816 yards and six touchdowns through his three years of playing time at Notre Dame, and added 323 yards and a pair of scores on the ground as well.

For any other team across college football, they might be skeptical about taking a shot on a graduate transfer who has only three games of starting experience under his belt. But for the Florida Gators, who has suffered through abysmal quarterback play ever since Tim Tebow left, the addition of Zaire might be just what they need.

So what will Florida be getting in Malik Zaire?

At his base level, Zaire is a quarterback who is capable of executing simple throws that you see in any college offense. Roll outs, screens to the outside, and quick slants are all throws that he made during his time at Notre Dame.

Simple, right?

These are throws that Florida’s offense has not had in some time. With players like Treon Harris, Austin Appleby and Luke Del Rio at the helm, these simple concepts are often missed because of a lack of talent on their part. Zaire, if he does nothing else, will be able to come in and provide immediate relief with these basic throws.

At his best, Zaire has proven that he is capable of working the middle of the field to a good extent. This is what separates good quarterbacks from average ones. Granted, he was working with an offensive line that contained future NFL players and a first-round pick in Will Fuller at wide receiver, but the throws that he made were impressive.

With a young, but talented, offensive line in Gainesville and players like Antonio Callaway and Tyrie Cleveland on the outside, it wouldn’t be a stretch to see Zaire make these type of throws for the Gators in the fall.

There’s no questioning Zaire’s arm strength. As seen by the clip above, he has the capability to stretch the field vertically in a big way. If Florida can get one of Callaway or Cleveland to be the big-threat type of player that Zaire had in Will Fuller, the Gators’ offense will become that much more dangerous.

Again, these are types of throws that Florida’s offense has not seen in quite some time. The best quarterback that Florida has seen since Tebow left was probably Will Grier for his six game stretch before being suspended. But even he was not capable of chucking 60-yard bombs like Zaire is able to do.

Perhaps the biggest area where Zaire will help the Gators’ offense is with his mobility on the ground. At 6-0, 225-pounds, Zaire is built like a running back and he can move like one too. Notre Dame used him extensively in the zone-read game and he was able to earn MVP honors in a win over LSU mostly because of his work on the ground.

But Zaire has also proven that he has reasonably good pocket presence as well. If the pocket is collapsing, he knows when to take off with his legs and scramble. If Zaire can be just an average passer while having the threat of his legs as well, he will succeed in Gainesville.

While I’ve said plenty of positive things about Zaire, take it with a heaping teaspoon of salt. Zaire only started three games at Notre Dame: versus LSU in 2014, and versus Texas and Virginia in 2015. None of those teams were superpowers and most of his stats came in the Texas game versus a dreadful Longhorns’ defense.

Florida fans should be cautiously optimistic about what Zaire can bring to their offense. At his best, Zaire is a quarterback who might be able to contend for All-SEC honors if he stays healthy and performs like we saw versus Texas in 2015. At worst or if he is beaten out by redshirt freshman Feleipe Franks, Florida is getting a fifth-year senior backup at the cost of one scholarship for the 2017 season. I’d call that a win-win scenario.

In short, time will tell what the Gators are getting in Zaire. But if he even performs at an average level, he might be the best quarterback to come through Gainesville since Tim Tebow.

It’s Not Great to be a Florida Gator Quarterback

It’s Not Great to be a Florida Gator Quarterback

It is no secret that the Florida Gators have struggled mightily at the quarterback position ever since the departure of Tim Tebow following the 2009 season.

The Gators have started nine quarterbacks in the six years since Tebow’s departure, each as lackluster as the one who came before him. The list includes names such as John Brantley, Jeff Driskel and Treon Harris, some of which were top-rated recruits that flamed out in Gainesville.

Even catching lightning in a bottle like they did with Will Grier never panned out, as the former blue-chip was busted for PEDs and transferred out of the program. That’s not even mentioning Jacoby Brissett, who transferred out and became a starter at North Carolina State and third-round draft pick by the New England Patriots.

But while Florida’s quarterback troubles have been well-documented, this got me thinking: how bad has it been in Gainesville as compared to other schools around the country?

Since the start of the 2010 season, Florida has not had a quarterback drafted, nor has it produced an All-Conference level of play at the position. Using those parameters, I looked at the 65 Power-5 teams across the country (including Notre Dame) and saw which ones either had a quarterback drafted or produced an All-Conference quarterback during that time period.

The results are a big shocking.

Since the 2011 NFL Draft, 44 Power-5 teams (67%) have seen at least one quarterback get drafted. While the obvious answers like Florida State, Texas A&M, and Stanford stand out, some surprising names like Duke, Iowa, and Oregon State have also been called during the draft. Keep in mind, this isn’t even counting Group of Five or FCS quarterbacks that have been drafted since this time period as well.

Of those 44 names, five more are added to the list when we also account for All-Conference level players. These players were great college players who were voted to first or second-team all-conference teams, but might not have been drafted due to physical limitations or other factors.

Those schools are Georgia Tech (Justin Thomas, 2014), Illinois (Nathan Scheelhaase, 2013), Kansas State (Colin Klein, 2012), Nebraska (Taylor Martinez, 2012), and Washington State (Luke Falk, 2015/16).

Thus, the Florida Gators are included in a list of 15 other teams that have neither produced a draft pick or all-conference level player at the quarterback position since the start of the 2010 football season. Including the Gators, those teams (in alphabetical order) are:

  1. Boston College
  2. Colorado
  3. Florida
  4. Iowa State
  5. Kansas
  6. Kentucky
  7. Maryland
  8. Minnesota
  9. Purdue
  10. Rutgers
  11. South Carolina
  12. Texas
  13. Utah
  14. Vanderbilt
  15. Virginia
  16. Wake Forest

This is not great company to be in. Jim McElwain is entering this third year as head coach in Gainesville and has yet another quarterback competition on his hands. Will it be senior Luke Del Rio or redshirt freshman Feleipe Franks throwing the ball this year? Regardless of who it will be, Gators’ fans can only hope this is the year where they finally get competent play from the quarterback position.