On Saturday, the Heisman Trophy will be unveiled to one of its four candidates: TCU’s Max Duggan, USC’s Caleb Williams, Georgia’s Stetson Bennett, and Ohio State’s C.J. Stroud.
While the Heisman Trophy is still the ultimate trophy in college sports, it’s also the one of several postseason awards where Group of Five players are left out.
In 2015, Navy quarterback Keenan Reynolds deserved a spot in New York for the Heisman Trophy ceremony. Reynolds, who played for a Navy team that finished 10-2, finished the season with 1,373 yards and 21 touchdowns on the ground.
If Reynolds couldn’t find himself in New York, no one from the “kid's table” will find themselves in New York.
The beauty of the internet is that we can make a Heisman Trophy for the Group of Five. It has no real stakes, but it is a fun thought experiment. Since it’s the internet, we can also do five finalists instead of the four that the Heisman Trophy chooses to do.
Here are the five candidates for our G5 Heisman Trophy and, more importantly, who could potentially walk away with the trophy.
UTSA QB Frank Harris
Passing: 305/429 (71.1%), 3,865 yards, 31 touchdowns, 7 interceptions
Rushing: 120 attempts, 588 yards (4.9 YPC), 9 touchdowns
The Case: The Heisman Trophy should go to a player who was the most valuable to a team’s success, and Frank Harris has been that for UTSA for years. The Roadrunners were undefeated in Conference USA play and went 11-2. Offensively, Frank Harris has been the catalyst for an offense that can not seem to be stopped. His 31 touchdowns rank in the top 10 nationally, and he has 40 total touchdowns, a number that trumps Heisman finalist Max Duggan.
Tulane RB Tyjae Spears
Rushing: 212 attempts, 1,376 yards (6.5 YPC), 15 touchdowns
Receiving: 21 receptions, 242 yards, 2 touchdowns
The Case: Michael Pratt’s performance in the AAC Championship Game stole the show, but it’s hard to imagine where Tulane would be without Tyjae Spears. Spears ranked in the top 20 nationally for rushing yards and rushing touchdowns. Spears crossed the century mark in Tulane’s final seven games, including 199 rushing yards against UCF in the AAC Championship. In terms of most valuable, Spears checks that as the lead producer on a Tulane team that will play in the Cotton Bowl.
Troy LB Carlton Martial
Stats: 121 total tackles (48 solo), 3.5 tackles for loss, 0.5 sacks, 1 interception, 1 forced fumble
The Case: Defensive players do not get love in the Heisman Trophy, but there are usually defensive players who deserve recognition. Troy’s defense allowed just 17 points per game, and linebacker Carlton Martial was a huge reason why. His 121 tackles rank 8th in the nation, and it is the third-highest among teams that made their conference championship. Being a critical piece on one of the better defenses in the country should get you a spot among the Heisman Trophy finalists, especially at the Group of 5 level.
James Madison QB Todd Centeio
Passing: 181/284 (63.73%), 2,697 yards, 25 touchdowns, 5 interceptions
Rushing: 94 attempts, 393 yards (4.2 YPC), 7 touchdowns
The Case: This is a storyline inclusion, I’ll admit. James Madison transitioned from the FCS to FBS this season and did it with flying colors. They finished the season 8-3 and would have made the Sun Belt Conference Championship had it not been for NCAA rules preventing it. Still, the Dukes averaged 37 points a game, and their quarterback, Todd Centeio was a large piece of the puzzle accounting for 32 touchdowns in 10 games.
UAB RB Dewayne McBride
Rushing: 233 attempts, 1,713 yards (7.4 YPC), 19 touchdowns
Receiving: 2 receptions 10 yards
The Case: Despite uncertainty at quarterback, UAB made a bowl game because of Dewayne McBride’s impact. McBride led the nation in rushing yards and had 19 touchdowns as UAB just “fed” the running back. Much like Spears, he was also consistent, putting up over 100 yards in all but one game and 200 yards in three different games. While the Heisman Trophy doesn’t normally go to a player who just puts up good numbers, there’s an argument to make that McBride was among the most impactful and valuable players at the G5 level.
The Winner is...
Frank Harris. There’s an argument to be had that UTSA is the best Group of 5 teams and Harris is a large reason why. When you put up numbers as Harris has, there’s no doubt that you’re among the best players at the G5 level too.
Now, there’s a real argument to be had that Spears deserves the award. He’s put him some insane numbers and, like Harris, was a critical part of Tulane’s success. There’s a reason Tulane finds itself in a New Year’s Six Bowl, and that reason includes Spears.