Heisman Watch: Ranking the Big Ten's Top Candidates for 2019

Another 2,000-yard season and Wisconsin's Jonathan Taylor could end up winning the stiff-armed trophy

The history of the Heisman Trophy is full of players representing Big Ten schools, but the last time a player from the conference was named the Heisman Trophy winner was 2006. Ohio State's Troy Smith remains the last Big Ten player to win the Heisman Trophy, although a few players since then have at least made the trip to New York City as a finalist for the most iconic individual award in sports.

 

The Heisman Trophy conversations for 2019 are already underway, with Clemson's Trevor Lawrence appearing to be an easy favorite. But can any player from the Big Ten challenge him and other potential Heisman candidates for the award? If so, what might it take for some of the Big Ten's top players to bring the Heisman Trophy home?

 

Here is a look at 10 top Heisman Trophy candidates from the Big Ten in 2019.

 

10. KJ Hamler, WR, Penn State

Penn State's electric sparkplug certainly showed off his raw speed in some key moments last season. One of the fastest players in the Big Ten could get some opportunities to make some big plays again this fall for the Nittany Lions. But receivers have a tough time cracking the Heisman conversation because the quarterbacks tend to hog all the glory.

 

9. Anthony McFarland Jr., RB, Maryland

As a freshman, Maryland's McFarland rushed for more than 1,000 yards and he figures to be a key player in the Maryland offense this season under new head coach Mike Locksley. McFarland may have quite the uphill climb to make some noise in the Heisman conversation, but if the Terrapins rack up some offense early on, McFarland could build the numbers to support a case.

 

8. Donovan Peoples-Jones, WR, Michigan

The versatile Peoples-Jones has the potential to be in for a major jump in production this fall as the Wolverines look to expand the playbook with a new style. That's why a wide receiver with 612 yards and eight touchdowns a year ago should be up for consideration in the Heisman Trophy conversation among Big Ten players. Peoples-Jones being a special teams player leads to some possible signature punt returns, a Michigan tradition.

 

7. Mohamed Ibrahim, RB, Minnesota

The Gophers are a bit of a wild card in the Big Ten West this season, and their young running back is one of the reasons why. Ibrahim was the Big Ten's second-leading rusher last season as a freshman with 1,160 yards and nine touchdowns.

 

6. Rondale Moore, WR, Purdue

Wide receivers rarely get the Heisman Trophy recognition, and odds are Purdue will not win enough games to give any campaign for Moore enough of a push, but he is the best wide receiver in the Big Ten coming into the 2019 season. Moore led the conference with 1,258 receiving yards as a freshman in 2018 and he ended the year tied for the most touchdown catches in the conference.

 

5. J.K. Dobbins, RB, Ohio State

After rushing for 1,403 yards in his freshman season two years ago, Dobbins saw his production dip despite a few more carries per game. But with an offense breaking in a new quarterback, it is possible Dobbins could be the primary focus of the offense early on to set the tone for the 2019 season in Columbus. Dobbins could threaten to lead the Big Ten in rushing as the Buckeyes look to capture a Big Ten title and return to the playoff.

 

4. Adrian Martinez, QB, Nebraska

The hype for Nebraska football has been refreshing in Lincoln and having a playmaker like Martinez running the offense certainly helps. Martinez is a dual-threat option and could do some damage with his arm and his legs this season. Last year, Martinez passed for 2,617 yards and 17 touchdowns and rushed for 629 yards and eight touchdowns. Those numbers will have to go up and the Huskers will have to live up to the preseason hype for Martinez to be on the radar.

 

3. Shea Patterson, QB, Michigan

The Wolverines are expected to open things up offensively under new offensive coordinator Josh Gattis. That is assumed to be a benefit for Patterson, who could really thrive in a system he is more accustomed to playing. Last year's Heisman finalists — Kyler Murray of Oklahoma, Tua Tagovailoa of Alabama and Dwayne Haskins of Ohio State — ended the season with at least twice as many passing yards and touchdown passes than Patterson. If that's the bar, Patterson has some catching up to do.

 

2. Justin Fields, QB, Ohio State

A year after Dwayne Haskins finished third in the Heisman Trophy voting and was named a finalist, the blueprint is there for an Ohio State quarterback making a run to New York. If the Buckeyes are successful this season and find a way to get into the College Football Playoff as Big Ten champion, Fields likely will be a major reason why. That alone could throw the Georgia transfer into the Heisman conversation. Young quarterbacks certainly have changed the Heisman picture in recent years, so Fields turning some heads would not be out of the ordinary in today's game.

 

1. Jonathan Taylor, RB, Wisconsin

Already with 4,171 career rushing yards to his name, Taylor figures to rack up plenty of yardage on the ground once again this fall for the Badgers. It may take a few more touchdowns in key games (for instance, against Michigan and Ohio State) would certainly help his cause. Taylor also had some fumble issues that held him back last season as well, so if he can secure the football better and lead Wisconsin to a bounce-back season, he could very well be heading to New York as a Heisman Trophy finalist.

 

— Written by Kevin McGuire, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. McGuire also contributes to College Football Talk and The Comeback as well as hosts the No 2-Minute Warning Podcast. Follow him on Twitter @KevinOnCFB and Like him on Facebook.

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