The formula for the Heisman Trophy is usually pretty simple. Be the best offensive player on the best team, and you would have a pretty good chance of winning the award.
That formula has held true over the years, with very few exceptions to it. One of those exceptions to that was Robert Griffin III, who won the Heisman for a 3-loss Baylor team. The following season, Johnny Manziel captured America’s hearts for 2-loss Texas A&M. Those two players, along with Carson Palmer and Lamar Jackson, are the 4 Heisman winners since 2000 that have not played in the national championship game during their Heisman seasons.
As the 2017-18 season progresses, a few players have separated themselves as frontrunners. Saquon Barkley, the odds-on favorite, is the do-it-all back for #3 Penn State. Bryce Love is averaging more than a first-down per carry (10.51 yards, to be exact) for Stanford. Baker Mayfield and Luke Falk are gunslingers for #12 Oklahoma and #8 Washington State, respectively.
Even Zach Abey, the quarterback from #24 Navy that leads quarterbacks in rushing and is 4th nationally, is receiving consideration from the national media.
There’s one thing missing from all of these contenders, however.
None of them are the best offensive player for the best team. That would be Jalen Hurts.
In 6 games this season, Hurts has not committed a turnover, even while playing Florida State, who boasts their All-World defensive backs in Tarvarus McFadden and Derwin James. Even while his passing numbers are not the most impressive on a base level, his impact in the passing game cannot be denied. His passing efficiency is on par with the elite in the NCAA, such as Lamar Jackson and Falk, and his total QBR is 4th in the country, only behind Mayfield, Mason Rudolph of Oklahoma State, and Ryan Finley of North Carolina State.
One thing that differentiates Hurts with every other quarterback that is under consideration for the award is the way that he controls the game from the quarterback position. His composure is quite remarkable for a 19-year-old true sophomore, and that composure is why he has a record of 19-1 as a starting quarterback at Alabama.
Surrounded by five-star players on the field, he consistently shines on the offensive side, defying recruiting rankings that said that he’d play second-fiddle his entire career at Alabama behind the likes of Blake Barnett, David Cornwell, and Cooper Bateman, who all transferred (and proceeded to lose each of their quarterback battles) to West Coast schools after Hurts’ prophetic rise to power.
The narrative behind Jalen Hurts fits the Heisman formula. Come from the bottom, beat out three quarterbacks to win the starting job, win 19 of 20 games, tearing apart teams (save Clemson) limb from limb, all while maintaining a sense of calm and even temperament in the rare face of adversity. The stats also back up Hurts as one of the top quarterbacks in all of college football. Combine those two factors and we should see Hurts in the conversation for the award.
But we don’t.
Why, you may ask? Well, Hurts gets lost for how good he is in the quality of his teammates. There’s a certain narrative that is propagated that Hurts is propped up by the other offensive players around him, which could be true, in part. However, if you take most quarterbacks and put them at Alabama, they would not accomplish nearly as much as Hurts has. Hurts’ unquestioned leadership and poise from his first snap as a true freshman cannot be understated, and is not possessed by many quarterbacks in the NCAA.
Maybe, just maybe, Jalen Hurts should be evaluated not on the quality of his teammates, but on the quality of his play. The quarterback that is guiding the best team in the nation with extremely high efficiency and balance not being in the conversation for the MVP trophy of college football is a downright travesty, and the public should begin to focus in on Hurts as Alabama enters into the meat of their SEC schedule. Perhaps, if Saquon Barkley and Penn State slip up along the way and Alabama takes care of their business for the rest of the season, Hurts can work his way up the raw statistical leaderboard and make his way into the conversation for the trophy whose namesake, John W. Heisman, carried himself in the same way that Hurts does; measured and analytical. Jalen Hurts may not be getting the recognition for the Heisman that he deserves, but if Heisman himself were a voter, Hurts would most definitely be on his ballot.