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Spring Top Five Big Ten Heisman Contenders
- Updated: April 10, 2017
With spring practices rapidly coming to a close in April, it’s time to start thinking about legitimate Big Ten Heisman contenders in 2017. There didn’t seem to be many promising contenders last spring. Due to versatility, Jabrill Peppers earned a spot in the top five for the Michigan Wolverines. However, sporadic quarterback play never really gave the conference a chance at the Heisman Trophy.
Defenses dominated the Big Ten in 2016. Therefore, some quarterbacks never had a chance to flourish in certain games. Whether they were freshmen like Alex Hornibrook or seniors like C.J. Beathard, Big Ten quarterbacks had a difficult time establishing consistency last year. This should all change in 2017.
First of all, the Penn State Nittany Lions should have one of the best offenses in college football next season. They also might have the best quarterback-running back duo in the country. Meanwhile, the Ohio State Buckeyes are in the process of revamping their offense.
Keep in mind, a Big Ten player has not won the Heisman Trophy since Troy Smith in 2006. Furthermore, the conference only has one Heisman Trophy since Ron Dayne won in the 1999 season. Eric Crouch of the Nebraska Cornhuskers won in 2000, but they were a member of the Big 12.
Big Ten Heisman Contenders
1. Trace McSorley– Penn State Nittany Lions
McSorley is setting up to have a prolific 2017 season. He led the Big Ten with 29 touchdown passes while throwing eight interceptions last year. McSorley has room for major improvement. Opponents sacked McSorley 23 times during his first season at quarterback. He only completed 58 percent of his passes, so there’s a shot for the Nittany Lions to be a juggernaut. More importantly, his exciting style of play should play well in front of the Heisman voters.
2. J.T. Barrett– Ohio State Buckeyes
When 24 touchdowns and seven interceptions are deemed a disappointment, you know you’ve done some special things. During his first three seasons, Barrett has helped lead the Buckeyes to a Big Ten title and two College Football Playoff appearances. However, he has unfinished business on the field. The Buckeyes need their offense to be more consistent next season. If that happens, Barrett will post historic numbers in the passing game.
3. Saquon Barkley– Penn State Nittany Lions
Barkley is the best running back in the Big Ten. He will come into the season as one of the best players in the country. Barkley is more elusive than your favorite running back. He has the speed to score from anywhere on the field. However, defenses will key on him from the very beginning. Will defenses want to face the passing game or the ground attack? Either way, Barkley can decimate opponents. He led the Big Ten with 18 rushing touchdowns.
4. Wilton Speight– Michigan Wolverines
Speight was a pleasant surprise for the Wolverines’ offense last season. After winning the starting quarterback job, he had Michigan on the cusp of a Big Ten title. Although Speight didn’t finish the deal, he has a shot to become the best passer this season. The Wolverines are reloading on offense, so it’s up to Speight to lead by example. Speight had 18 touchdowns and seven interceptions last year. If the Wolverines win the Big Ten, he will be a Heisman contender in November.
5. Justin Jackson– Northwestern Wildcats
Quiet as kept, the senior running back led the Big Ten in rushing yards. He gained 1524 yards and scored 15 touchdowns in 2016. Jackson is also the returning leader in rushing attempts in the conference. But is he one of the legitimate Big Ten Heisman contenders? Jackson hasn’t always shown the ability to break long runs, but he had four games with runs over 40 yards. Jackson’s consistency is second-to-none. But we know how hard it is for running backs to win the Heisman Trophy.
Harrison has covered NFL, NBA, and CBB in the past. Earlier in his career, he was a national college football writer and Team writer for Husker Corner. Harrison also created the college football "Treat 16 Power Poll" some years back when college coaches relied on the running game.
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