With the regular season essentially over outside of the always memorable Army-Navy game on Saturday, it’s time to look a fond look back at what was one of the more memorable regular seasons we’ve seen in quite some time.
Without further ado, the regular season roundtable.
Who should win the Heisman Trophy in 2019?
Christopher Crawford: If Chase Young had not have been handed his two-game suspension -- justifiable or not -- I would have gone with him. Easily. He was, however, so I have to go with Joe Burrow. What he did this year was nothing short of spectacular, and there’s simply no way that LSU is where they are right now without his efforts. Lots of great seasons this year, but Burrow’s is at another level.
Eric Froton: Burrow - An important aspect of any MVP/Heisman award is perspective. When we hearken back to 2019 in five+ years, who will be the player we most identify with this season? Burrow boasts a reality-defying 78% completion percentage in the ultra-competitive SEC West. His lowest passing yardage total for the year was a 293 yard showing in a 42-28 win over Florida in which he completed 87.5% of his passes. 2019 was the Year of Burrow.
Raphielle Johnson: Chase Young. Supposedly the Heisman is given to the most outstanding college football player in the United States. For me, he fits the definition better than any other candidate.
Derrik Klassen: Burrow should be the Heisman winner. Not only is Burrow's story from average to all-star compelling, but he's broken a number of school and conference records along the way, including the SEC passing touchdown record. Burrow has accomplished all of this in the country's toughest conference, taking down a handful of tough defenses like Alabama, Auburn, and Florida along the way. Justin Fields will get another shot at the award next year, but this time, it should go to Burrow.
Mark Lindquist: As much as the contrarian in me would like to argue a winner other than LSU's Burrow, the contrarian in me is standing down. There are many, many awesome Burrow stats out there, but probably my favorite are that he failed to throw for at least touchdowns in just two contests (against Northwestern State and Auburn), and likewise failed to throw for at least 300 yards in just two contests (against Georgia Southern and Florida).
Who would be your fifth Heisman finalist?
Crawford: I’d like to go with J.K. Dobbins, but something about three Heisman finalists from the same school bugs me. It’s probably a me thing. Instead, I’ll go with Jonathan Taylor. It’s an obvious choice, but that doesn’t make it a bad one. Taylor has been one of the best running backs we’ve seen in this decade, and despite facing loaded boxes all season, he was still able to put up monster numbers and help Wisconsin win 10 games. Ja’Marr Chase also deserves some love.
Froton: Taylor - He posted 299 carries, 1,909 yards, 26 touchdowns en route to becoming the all-time rushing leader for a junior and one of only seven players to rush for over 6,000 yards in their career. Taylor capped off his record-breaking season with a 20 carry, 148 yard, one touchdown showing in the Big Ten Championship against the vaunted Ohio State defense. He is the best RB in the country and deserves to be present for the Heisman ceremony.
Johnson: Clemson RB Travis Etienne. He’s been outstanding for the Tigers, and if not for a few of their games being blowouts his numbers would be even gaudier than they are.
Klassen: Oklahoma State's offense got derailed by injury down the stretch, but running back Chuba Hubbard was one of the most explosive players in the country before things fell apart. Hubbard led the country in rushing yards in just 12 games at a clip of over six yards per carry and tied for second in the country in rushing touchdowns. He was the perfect blend of incredible production and a jaw-dropping play style.
Lindquist: Clemson QB Trevor Lawrence. Lawrence played him way out of the conversation early in the season but has been masterful over the final eight games of the year, putting up a 26/3 TD/INT ratio while leading the scariest down-the-stretch offense in college football.
Who was the most impressive player you saw this season?
Crawford: Burrow and Young would be a tie for me, just because it’s not a fair comparison, and because I’m a coward.
Froton: Isaiah Hodgins. Since this is a personal preference question, the aspect of college football watching I enjoy most is when a WR is able to dominate a game even with the defense intently focused on shutting him down. In the wake of Trevon Bradford's season-ending injury, A true number-two WR opposite Hodgins never emerged for the Beavers to take some heat off him. It didn't matter as Hodgins was a matchup nightmare for PAC-12 DB's all season long, racking up 86 catches for 1,171 yards and 13 touchdowns. He also made what I consider the most-difficult catch of the 2019 season when he reached back with one hand to grab a stray Jake Luton bullet from about 10 yards away that was thrown well behind Hodgins. It's hard to do it justice in print, but I've never seen a WR running in the opposite direction pivot and reach back to corral a 75-MPH fastball with one hand before.
Klassen: If "impressive" is to be considered regardless of expectations for a player, Chase Young would be my pick. Young is one of the best pass-rushers of the past two decades, and has a rare blend of speed, power, and technique that will make him a 10-sack player in the league for a long, long time. If "impressive" is to be considered with respect to expectations, however, LSU freshman CB Derek Stingley Jr. has to be the guy. Top recruit or not, Stingley played like a top-5 draft pick as a true freshman in the SEC. That's incredible.
Lindquist: I will give you two. Alabama WRs Henry Ruggs and Jaylen Waddle, who made future NFL athletes look like they were running in cement. Ruggs could break the combine 40 record come the spring, while Waddle almost single-handedly put Alabama on the verge of winning the Iron Bowl with a four-touchdown performance to end the regular season. This might have been LSU's year, but nobody made as many WTF highlights as Ruggs and Waddle.
Who was the most disappointing team of the 2019 season?
Crawford: Texas, with Washington a relatively close second. I thought the Longhorns would contend for a playoff spot. They did not contend for a playoff spot. I can’t help but wonder how much the loss to LSU took out of them, but this was a mediocre football team when (almost) everyone thought they’d win 10 games and at least be among the contenders to win the conference. Nope.
Froton: Houston - Upon Dana Holgorson's arrival this year, many pre-season prognosticators thought Houston would contend with Memphis for the AAC West division title. It wasn't an unreasonable assumption, since Holgerson is a well known offensive guru and Houston was coming off a 8-4 season where they scored 44 PPG and were still stocked with talented skill position players like D'Eriq King and Marquez Stevenson. However King decided to redshirt after four games and Houston ended up reversing their record to 4-8, with two of their victories coming against Prairie View A&M and lowly UConn. Not the debut the Cougars faithful were expecting.
Johnson: Syracuse. It’s one thing to not be the biggest threat to Clemson in the ACC Atlantic. It’s another to crash out in the manner that the Orange did.
Klassen: Maybe an odd pick since they almost made the playoffs, but I thought Georgia would be better than they were. Their defense certainly held up their end of the bargain, which is to be expected of a defensive-minded HC like Kirby Smart, but the offense was abysmal. It's not just that the offense was bad, it's that they made no effort to try to be anything other than a milquetoast 1960s ground-and-pound team. Sure, Georgia lost a lot of their receiving talent over the summer and Lawrence Cager was always hurt, but they called their offense as if they were scared to make a mistake, rather than calling it to actually put points up.
Lindquist: I wrote up Northwestern as the winner of the Big Ten West in our season preview series, waxing poetic on the upside of Hunter Johnson. Then I saw the former five-star play football. Attempt to play football. The Wildcats finished the season at 3-9 (1-8 in conference) and Johnson finished the year averaging four yards per attempt with a 46.3% completion percentage.
What two teams play for the championship, and who wins?
Crawford: LSU and Clemson, with the latter taking home the title. Clemson and Ohio State is going to be one of the best semifinals we’ve ever seen -- yes, I know that’s not saying a ton since this system is still pretty new -- but ultimately I believe that the Buckeyes aren’t quite at the same talent level as the Tigers. I’d be stunned if Oklahoma was within 10 points of LSU, but, I guess that’s why they play the game. Clemson-LSU will be a wonderful way to start the new decade, but I’ll take the orange Tigers over the ones on the Bayou by about a field goal or so.
Froton: LSU and Ohio State will play in the CFB championship, with LSU winning. Both teams are undefeated and worthy of their status as the top two teams in the country. The semi-finals games will feature arguably the four best QB's in the nation, we will be treated to an excellent QB showdown regardless of which teams advance to the national championship game.
Johnson: Clemson beats LSU. Dabo may be manufacturing some of the “disrespect,” but I see it paying off in the end.
Klassen: Clemson will beat LSU. Clemson has been on a tear over the past two months and look to be peaking at the right time. They have a tough road having to play Ohio State first, which may be the tougher matchup given they are more balanced than LSU, but Clemson's offense can tear through an LSU defense that's been a bit shaky this season.
Lindquist: Clemson and LSU. I think LSU is close to a lock -- Oklahoma has not played an impressive game since mid-October -- and while the OSU-Clemson semi is more of a clouded glass of water, the Tigers are playing at another level in my mind. The advantage especially tilts if Justin Fields is still feeling limitations with his knee, which cut out portions of the playbook when he was going with a brace against Wisconsin.
If I were a "team of destiny" kind of guy, LSU would be my title pick. I'm not that kind of guy. Clemson has the title game experience that no other team in this field does, for one thing. Pick LSU or OSU at your own peril. Just remember that Clemson utterly dismantled Alabama last January. LSU this season essentially played Alabama to a draw.
If you had the first pick in the 2020 NFL Draft, who would you take?
Crawford: As much as I love Chase Young and think he’s the best prospect in this class, if I’m the Bengals, Dolphins or a quarterback-needy team, I’m taking Burrow. If I’m the Giants or a team that has already invested in a young signal-caller, Young.
Froton: If the team who wins the first pick has a quality QB already, then I would go with Chase Young. If the team selecting first does not have a QB, then the choice has to be Joe Burrow. His 78% completion percentage combined with the third-most air yards by a QB this season is a feat that cannot be overstated.
Johnson: Chase Young.
Klassen: Well, it sorta depends on which team you are, but chances are the No.1 pick team needs and will select a quarterback. In that case, it has to be Joe Burrow. Burrow doesn't have the flashy ceiling other No.1 picks like Cam Newton, Andrew Luck, or Kyler Murray had, but Burrow's floor is incredibly high due to his accuracy, decision making, and pocket management.
Lindquist: Depends on need blah blah blah. I'm taking Chase Young and I'm not really thinking twice about it. Burrow might be the popular pick, here, but I'll be honest -- I'm not 100% sold. Who is Joe Burrow with the Miami Dolphins or Cincinnati Bengals? Is he the same guy he was with Tigers passing-game coordinator Joe Brady? Maybe. Or maybe, removed from a comfortable system, removed from an LSU fan base that has welcomed him in as one of their own, he's the guy who never broke out at Ohio State. He's the guy who threw 16 touchdown passes in 2018. I think he's better than that. I'm not going to pretend that 2019 was the only year of his career, though. I have no concerns about Young. You know exactly what you are getting, there. You are getting a player who wrecks offensive game plans.