The case for Gator QB Kyle Trask to win the Heisman

Florida’s quarterback is one of four finalists for the Heisman Trophy
Florida quarterback Kyle Trask throws a pass against LSU during the first half of an NCAA...
Florida quarterback Kyle Trask throws a pass against LSU during the first half of an NCAA college football game, Saturday, Dec. 12, 2020, in Gainesville, Fla. (AP Photo/John Raoux)(John Raoux | AP)
Published: Dec. 29, 2020 at 11:17 AM EST
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GAINESVILLE, Fla. (WCJB) -Florida quarterback Kyle Trask will play the final game of his tremendous 2020 season on Wednesday when the Gators take on Oklahoma in the Cotton Bowl. Trask is among four finalists for the Heisman Trophy.

The voting for the award has been completed, and a lot of analysts are saying that Florida’s three losses lessen the case for Trask. There is plenty of recent history to indicate that’s a foolish argument. There was a period from 1998 to 2002 in which the Heisman became a bit of a lifetime achievement award, so a good place to start season comparisons of Heisman winners would be the last 15 years.

Last 15 Heisman winners (2005-present)

*Six played for teams that were undefeated at the time of the voting (Reggie Rush, Troy Smith, Mark Ingram, Cam Newton, Jameis Winston, and Joe Burrow)

*Five others played for teams that had one loss at the time of the voting (Sam Bradford, Marcus Mariota, Derrick Henry, Baker Mayfield, and Kyler Murray)

*One played for a two-loss team (Johnny Manziel)

*So, 11 of the last 15 winners had a chance to play for the national title after winning the award, whether it be through the BCS title game pre-2014, or through the CFP post-2014.

*Let’s look at the resumes of the three players who had three or more losses in their Heisman seasons and see how Trask’s season fits in historically.

2016 Lamar Jackson

*51 total touchdowns (30 passing, 21 rushing), combined total was second-most in the country

*Team finished 9-4 (three straight losses to end season, including bowl), didn’t win conference or division

*Had the type of highlights that went viral like leaping over a Syracuse defender.

*This was Jackson’s sophomore year, he wasn’t a threat in the previous year’s Heisman race

*Other finalists: Oklahoma QB Baker Mayfield, Michigan LB Jabrill Peppers, Clemson QB Deshaun Watson, and Oklahoma WR Dede Westbrook

2011 Robert Griffin III

*37 TD passes, 6 INT’s, 4237 yards in 13 games, plus 700 rushing yards and 10 TD’s. Yardage total ranked sixth in the nation, TD total fourth in nation

*Team finished 10-3, won final six games, didn’t win conference, final AP ranking 12

*Campaigned for himself on live TV after last second win over #5 Oklahoma (had two games left before voting).

*RGIII was also a non-factor in previous year’s voting.

*Other finalists: Wisconsin RB Montee Ball, Stanford QB Andrew Luck, LSU CB Tyrann Mathieu, and Alabama RB Trent Richardson

2007 Tim Tebow

*3286 yards passing, 32 TD’s, 6 INT’s, 23 rushing TD’s (first 20-20 season ever)

*First sophomore to win the award

*23 rushing TD’s ranked fourth in the country (top three were all RB’s)

*Led the nation in yards per pass attempt

*Team lost three regular season games, didn’t win SEC East, lost bowl game as well (9-4 overall)

*Entered the season with some buzz after playing a role for ’06 BCS champs

*Other finalists: Arkansas RB Darren McFadden, Missouri QB Chase Daniel, and Hawaii QB Colt Brennan

*This was an especially weird season across college football with no Power Five unbeatens and only two Power Five one-loss teams prior to the bowls.

Now, let’s invite Kyle Trask and see where he fits into this group. Remember, he has played slightly fewer games than most of the other winners due to the pandemic and late start. That’s why it’s important to place his numbers into context.

2020 Kyle Trask

*4125 yards passing, 43 TD’s, 5 INT’s, 3 rushing TD’s

*Trask’s yardage and TD totals are single season program records. One record stood for 19 years, the other for 24 years.

*The yardage and TD totals both lead all FBS quarterbacks.

*His 4125 yards are 386 more than second place (about his one game average)

*His 43 TD’s are 10 more than second place. Subtract all 12 of his TD’s to Kyle Pitts and he would have only one fewer TD pass than First Team All-American Mac Jones.

*Trask’s three-game average in the games without Pitts: 26-37, 404 yards, 3.67 TD’s, 2 total INT’s.

*Team has lost back-to-back games entering the bowl, had playoff hopes until final regular season game, but played for the SEC title. Team currently ranked 7th.

*As to the significance of being the national leader, one might wonder about the sample size of Trask’s competition based on COVID restrictions. Twenty-four FBS QB’s still played at least 10 games this season, and 18 others played nine games.

*Like Jackson and RGIII, Trask was not one of the most hyped Heisman candidates entering the season.

Other than the rushing touchdown totals, Trask’s numbers within the context of the season he played are very comparable to the others who won the award despite multiple losses. If you want to nitpick, he lacks two other things that count for something in the Heisman race:

*The “wow he just did that” factor that is more commonly associated with dual threat QB’s. Trask’s wow factor is his ability to fit throws into tight windows, but he doesn’t have many of those viral plays where he shakes off three defenders, scrambles, and throws the ball 60 yards.

*There doesn’t seem to be a definitive “he just won the Heisman” moment, but you could say that about all the candidates this year. If you want to pinpoint a moment for Trask, it could have been the final eight minutes of the first half against Georgia, where after the Pitts injury, he led the team to 17 more points and essentially had the game won at halftime. Either that or his six-TD performance against Arkansas where he only threw six incompletions. Most “Heisman moments” also come in close games. Florida has only played in three games decided by a touchdown or less and lost them all (by 12 combined points).

You can still argue however, that his season individually has been the best by a player in the country.

Other 2020 Heisman Finalists

*Mac Jones: 3739 yards passing, 32 TD’s, 4 INT’s

*Trevor Lawrence: 2753 yards passing, 22 TD’s 4 INT’s (missed two games)

*DeVonta Smith: 98 receptions, 1511 yards, 17 TD’s

The most compelling case among the other three candidates belongs to Smith, whose reception and yardage totals both lead all FBS players. His touchdown total ranks second. Smith’s production has been particularly outstanding considering fellow receiver Jaylen Waddle has been out since Oct. 24 with an ankle injury.

Trask’s 2020 season ranks right up there with that of the other finalists, however. It sure as been a performance that no Gator fan will ever forget. On Jan. 5, we’ll find out whether that will be reflected in the Heisman Trophy voting.

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