Heisman Trophy Race 2019: Ohio State’s Trio of Fields, Young & Dobbins Could Make History

The order of the top four Heisman Trophy contenders didn’t change after Week 9, but the most interesting development in how Vegas views this season’s Heisman race lies with who is arguably the fifth-best candidate.

According to BetOnline, LSU’s Joe Burrow (4/5), Oklahoma’s Jalen Hurts (9/4), Alabama’s Tua Tagovailoa (5/1) and Ohio State’s Justin Fields (6/1) still have the four best odds, in that order, followed by Ohio State defensive end Chase Young at 25/1 after he wreaked havoc in Wisconsin’s backfield to the tune of six total tackles, five tackles for loss, four sacks and two forced fumbles.

(If you’re interested in reading more about Burrow, the Heisman frontrunner, my weekly college football column breaks down his performance against Auburn based on the numbers of pass rushers he faced and how long it took him to get rid of the ball.)

On Saturday, Ohio State Coach Ryan Day said that Young is “probably the most dominant in all of college football now” and FOX analyst Brady Quinn, who was a Heisman contender as a Notre Dame quarterback, said Young is the best player in the country.

It sets up Ohio State to potentially, if not likely, have three top-10 finishers in this year’s Heisman Trophy voting, which hasn’t been done since… Ohio State in 1973.

That year, Buckeyes offensive lineman John Hicks finished second, running back Archie Griffin finished fifth and linebacker Randy Gradishar finished sixth.

Depending on what you think of a team producing both the Heisman winner and another top-10 finisher like USC did in 1979, 2004 and 2005, Ohio State in ’95, Miami in ’92 and Nebraska in ’83, it’s arguably the most impressive achievement a team can attain in an individual award’s voting process.

Since Ohio State put three players among the top 10 vote-getters in the 1973 Heisman Trophy results, 26 teams have had two players finish in the top 10 of Heisman Trophy voting but none have had three.

The complete list is at the bottom of this story, but seven schools have had multiple top-10 finishers in multiple seasons in the last 45 years — USC (four, if you include 2005), Miami (three), Nebraska (three), Oklahoma (three), Florida State (two), Notre Dame (two) and Penn State (two).

In 2004, six of the top 10 finishers came from three schools, each school with two.

Ironically, it feels like Ohio State’s trio of Fields, running back J.K. Dobbins and Young could finish in a very similar order, respectively, this season as the Buckeyes’ three top-10 finishers did in ’73.

Fields currently has the fourth-best odds, according to BetOnline, but he’s barely behind Tagovailoa, who is expected to return to practice on Wednesday, according to Nick Saban. Tagovailoa and Burrow’s teams will compete head-to-head in Week 11, and we’ll explore in next week’s column what has happened historically when two Heisman contenders share the field, but it’s not a stretch to think that one of them could drop in the pecking order after that game in Tuscaloosa.

Dobbins is currently second nationally in rushing yards with 1,110 yards, 11th in yards per attempt (7.2) and tied for 15th in rushing touchdowns (nine). On Saturday, he outplayed Wisconsin’s Jonathan Taylor, who was held to 52 yards on 20 carries and whose luster has diminished after the Badgers’ suffered their second loss in as many weeks.

Only Oklahoma State RB Chuba Hubbard’s rushing stats (1,381 rushing yards, 16 touchdowns) are clearly better than those of Dobbins, but Hubbard’s Cowboys are just 5-3, which could put a damper on the amount of Heisman attention he receives.

Then there’s Young, who has 13.5 sacks, 15.5 tackles for a loss and five forced fumbles through eight games.

That’s an average of 1.68 sacks per game — just 0.03 sacks behind Terrell Suggs’ mark of 1.71 per game in a season, which is the FBS record since 2000. Suggs had 24 sacks that season, also a record.

On Saturday, Young was half a sack away from tying the 15th-best single-game sack total in the FBS record book, which dates back to 2000.

His pace of 0.62 forced fumbles per game this season is 0.21 off the record set by Louisville’s Elvis Dumervil in 2005.

There have been 10 defensive players who have finished in the top 10 of the Heisman Trophy voting in the last 10 years — as few as zero in a given year and as many as three — so recent history says there will likely be at least one defensive player who’s among the top 10 finishers this year.

Young appears to be that player.

If he gets the “best player on the best team treatment” if Ohio State wins out, that won’t result in a Heisman for Young (it’s cliche, but an invite to New York should be considered a win for a defensive player), but he could finish in the range of fourth (Ndamukong Suh in 2009), fifth (Tyrann Mathieu in 2011) or sixth (Jadeveon Clowney in 2012).

At this point, it might be unlikely that any member of Ohio State’s trio will win the award because Fields, Dobbins and Young could cannibalize each other’s votes since Heisman ballots only include spaces for three players, and voters, especially those from outside the Midwest, might feel uncomfortable about putting multiple Ohio State players on a single ballot.

Plus, right or wrong, a loss or two by Ohio State could sink all three players’ Heisman chances.

But having a Buckeye hold up the Heisman Trophy in New York is almost besides the point. Having three players from the same team be considered for an award given to the best player in the country is an achievement that the sport hasn’t seen in roughly two generations.


Schools that have had multiple top-10 finishers in Heisman Trophy voting since 1973:

  • 2018 Alabama
    • 2nd: QB Tua Tagovailoa
    • 8th: DT Quinnen Williams
  • 2016 Oklahoma
    • 3rd: QB Baker Mayfield
    • 4th: WR Dede Westbrook
  • 2011 Wisconsin
    • 4th: RB Montee Ball
    • 9th: QB Russell Wilson
  • 2010 Stanford
    • 2nd: QB Andrew Luck
    • 10th: RB Owen Marecic
  • 2008 Texas Tech
    • 4th: QB Graham Harrell
    • 5th: WR Michael Crabtree
  • 2005 USC
    • 1st: RB Reggie Bush
    • 3rd: QB Matt Leinart
  • 2004 USC
    • 1st: QB Matt Leinart
    • 5th: RB Reggie Bush
  • 2004 Oklahoma
    • 2nd: RB Adrian Peterson
    • 3rd: QB Jason White
  • 2004 California
    • 8th: RB J.J. Arrington
    • 9th: QB Aaron Rodgers
  • 2003 USC
    • 6th: QB Matt Leinart
    • 8th: WR Mike Williams
  • 2002 Miami (FL)
    • 4th: RB Willis McGahee
    • 5th: QB Ken Dorsey
  • 2001 Miami (FL)
    • 3rd: QB Ken Dorsey
    • 8th: OL Bryant McKinnie
  • 1995 Ohio State
    • 1st: RB Eddie George
    • 10th: QB Bobby Hoying
  • 1994 Penn State
    • 2nd: RB Ki-Jana Carter
    • 4th: QB Kerry Collins
  • 1994 Nebraska
    • 8th: RB Lawrence Phillips
    • T-9th: OL Zach Wiegert
  • 1992 Miami (FL)
    • 1st: QB Gino Torretta
    • 7th: LB Michael Barrow
  • 1992 Florida State
    • 4th: LB Marvin Jones
    • 6th: QB Charlie Ward
  • 1991 Florida State
    • 2nd: QB Casey Weldon
    • 8th: DB Terrell Buckley
  • 1990 Virginia
    • 4th: QB Shawn Moore
    • 6th: WR Herman Moore
  • 1989 Notre Dame
    • 4th: QB Tony Rice
    • 10th: WR Raghib Ismail
  • 1983 Nebraska
    • 1st: RB Mike Rozier
    • 4th: QB Turner Gill
  • 1982 Nebraska
    • 5th: OL David Rimington
    • T-10th: RB Mike Rozier
  • 1982 Penn State
    • 6th: QB Todd Blackledge
    • T-10th: RB Curt Warner
  • 1979 USC
    • 1st: RB Charles White
    • 6th: QB Paul McDonald
  • 1977 Notre Dame
    • 3rd: TE Ken MacAfee
    • 5th: DL Ross Browner
  • 1974 Oklahoma
    • 3rd: RB Joe Washington
    • 7th: LB Rod Shoate
  • 1973 Ohio State
    • 2nd: OL John Hicks
    • 5th: RB Archie Griffin
    • 6th: LB Randy Gradishar
  • 1973 Arizona State
    • 8th: RB Woody Green
    • 9th: QB Danny White


MORE: Stadium College Football Insider Brett McMurphy’s Latest Bowl Projections