Alabama wide receiver Devonta Smith won the 2020 Heisman Trophy, the first wide out to win the award since Michigan’s Desmond Howard took home the hardware in 1991.
As only the 6th receiver to ever win the Heisman, Smith’s win was the exception, not the rule. 12 of the previous 14 Heisman winners were quarterbacks, which is part of the reason why USC QB Kedon Slovis currently has the 8th best chance to win it in 2021, with odds at +1900 according to SportsBettingDime.
Slovis was also one of the favorites prior to the 2020 football season following his record breaking freshman campaign and the return of Graham Harrell and his quarterback friendly version of the Air Raid offense. But the global pandemic put the Trojans season in serious jeopardy and without a well timed letter from the USC football team to California governor Gavin Newsom, the Pac-12’s fall season would never have materialized.
Even after that letter paved the way for California college teams to practice and play football, the Pac-12 didn’t get the season rolling until early November. By the time Slovis took his first snap, Smith already had 56 catches for 759 yards and 9 total touchdowns. By the end of the season Smith had nearly as many receiving yards (1,856) as Slovis had passing yards (1921) and he finished with more receiving TDs (23) than Slovis had passing TDs (17).
To make a serious run at the Heisman Trophy in 2021 Slovis will need to play a full season, stay completely healthy by getting good protection from new offensive line coach Clay McGuire and his crew and get contributions from young receivers like Kyle Ford and Bru McCoy and transfer receiver K.D. Nixon. Having a competent run game is important as well, but for Slovis to win his stats will have to be off the charts so having too much run game could hinder that.
Team success is also a major factor in winning the Heisman during the modern college football era, a huge reason why Alabama went from having zero Heisman winners to three Heisman winners in the last 12 years of the incredibly successful Nick Saban era.
At the moment the top-3 Heisman contenders are:
Spencer Rattler (Oklahoma) at +371
Bryce Young (Alabama) at +581
DJ Uiagalelei (Clemson) at +783
What do those players have in common? All three play for programs that have been in the College Football Playoffs and in the case of Alabama and Clemson, they have been mainstays in the CFP. Interestingly enough, former USC and current Georgia QB JT Daniels is currently 5th in the Heisman winner odds at +1225.
For Slovis to earn a trip to New York, the Trojans will have to put up a lot of W’s on Saturdays. If USC is in the national spotlight with an undefeated start to the season and is able to secure an October road victory over Notre Dame, Slovis will likely be near the top of the Heisman list. If he goes on to win the conference and put up numbers similar to his freshman season, his odds of becoming a Heisman finalist will be extremely high.
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