The race for the Heisman Trophy took an interesting turn during Week 12 as a number of fringe candidates saw their chances dwindle significantly.
Leonard Fournette wasn’t overly impressive as his team lost its third straight game. Ezekiell Eliott rushed for just 33 yards and his team lost as well, Corey Coleman had 21 yards receiving and Baker Mayfield and Luke Falk both left their respective games early due to injury.
For Heisman purposes, Week 12 was all about avoiding a stumble. And that’s what Navy quarterback Keenan Reynolds did.
The senior didn’t have a monster game Saturday against Tulsa, but he led the Midshipmen to a convincing 44-21 win while racking up 81 more yards on the ground and scoring two touchdowns.
The focal point of a Navy triple-option offense that’s scoring 40 points per game, Reynolds has racked up 1,009 yards and 18 scores on the ground this season. His rushing total is tops in the country for a quarterback, and his touchdown total ranks second overall behind only star Alabama running back Derrick Henry.
Reynolds has already broken the FBS record for most rushing touchdowns in a career (it was 77) and has a chance to continue etching his name in the history books. Reynolds is 66 yards away from breaking former running back Napoleon McCallum’s school record for rushing yards in a career and is two scores away from breaking former Wisconsin running back Montee Ball’s FBS record of 83 total touchdowns.
All the while Reynolds is leading a team that is having a special season. The Midshipmen are 9-1 and ranked No. 16 in the latest AP Poll. They’ll take on Houston this Saturday with a trip to the American Athletic Conference title game on the line. If Navy can win those games, they’ll surely head to a New Year’s Six bowl game, as the Group of 5 team with the highest ranking earns such an honor.
Still, Reynolds is fighting more for a trip to the Heisman ceremony than a chance at hoisting the trophy at this point. Simply put, there’s two standout candidates – we’ll get to them in a bit – that Reynolds has almost no chance of catching.
But, with his absurd numbers, Reynolds has a chance to earn an invite to New York and forever be remembered as one of the best players from this season if he can lead the Midshipmen to a New Year’s Six bowl.
While nothing can be considered a lock, it appears the Heisman Trophy race will come down to two names: Deshaun Watson and Derrick Henry. The two are having outstanding seasons on teams that appear destined to make the College Football Playoff.
We’ll start with Watson. The sophomore quarterback has led Clemson to the nation’s top ranking while carving up defenses both through the air and on the ground. He’s thrown for 2,944 yards (70.1 competition percentage) and 26 touchdowns while posting an efficiency rating of 161.1. He’s also added 642 yards and six touchdowns rushing. A great quarterback on the No. 1 team in the country? Yeah, that will make you a Heisman front runner.
As for Henry, he’s doing his best to end the five-year streak of quarterbacks winning the Heisman. The Crimson Tide back has bulldozed his way to a whopping 1,526 yards rushing (6.1 yards per carry) and 21 touchdowns rushing this season. While some running backs have worn down as the season as progressed, Henry’s only gotten better. He’s scored at least two touchdowns in each of his last five games and has at least 200 yards rushing in three of those games. During a season in which we’ve seen some great play from running backs, Henry has established himself as the best of the best.
Although Watson and Henry have separated themselves from the pack, they haven’t really separated themselves from each other. This race is neck-and-neck, and it might simply come down to who performs better in the final two weeks of the year.
Related: Week 12's top performers