When Jonathon Taylor burst onto the scene back in 2017, it was immediately clear he was the new face of Wisconsin Badger football.
Despite his heavy workload and sturdy Big Ten defenses specifically plotting to stop him, he helped spur Wisconsin to a 13-1 record and amassed 1,977 yards on the ground as a freshman, placing him fourth on the University of Wisconsin’s all-time single season rushing leaders.
Yet like some of the other backs on that list, namely Melvin Gordon and Montee Ball, Taylor’s accomplishments were pushed to the side as Oklahoma’s Baker Mayfield took home the Heisman trophy.
In his sophomore campaign, Taylor stepped it up even further on the statline and led the nation with 2,194 rushing yards and added 16 touchdowns to go with it.
Despite this, Wisconsin’s lackluster 8-5 record last season, including losses to BYU, Northwestern and Minnesota, made it easy for Heisman voters to dismiss Taylor’s candidacy and again select an Oklahoma quarterback, this time Kyler Murray.
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This year, however, with Jack Coan under center and a plethora of other options like Quintez Cephus, Danny Davis III and A.J. Taylor, the Badgers look as geared up as ever for a postseason run.
With that in mind, Jonathon Taylor should have already bought his ticket to New York City for the Heisman ceremony in December.
According to Vegas Insider, Taylor currently has the sixth best odds to take home college football’s most prestigious award behind Alabama’s Tua Tagovailoa, Clemson’s Trevor Lawrence, Oklahoma’s Jalen Hurts, Ohio State’s Justin Fields and Nebraska’s Adrian Martinez.
It’s true — all these guys are worthy candidates. I’ll even go as far as to say each probably has an undergrad writing an article for a student-run newspaper about why they should take home the Heisman Trophy. But just like none of those papers are The Badger Herald, none of those candidates are Jonathon Taylor.
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We’ll start off with the favorites. Alabama quarterback Tagovailoa — who came in second behind Murray’s 517 first-place votes with 299 of his own last year — and Clemson sophomore Lawrence. The two are head and shoulders above the pack when it comes to hype surrounding this season’s award.
The lefty gunslinger Tagovailoa seems primed to bring another Heisman to Birmingham after he infamously stole the Tide’s starting job from now Oklahoma Sooner Hurts.
Meanwhile, Lawrence’s stellar performances — including leading the Tigers to a victory over Tagovailoa’s Crimson Tide in last year’s national championship as a true freshman — have thrust him into the national spotlight.
Admittedly, it’s tough to put anyone over them, even Taylor. But Alabama and Clemson having rosters littered with future NFL draft picks from top to bottom should be something Heisman voters see as a downfall.
Both have multiple players like Jerry Jeudy, Najee Harris and Travis Etienne who show up on those same Heisman watch lists, and impact the game in ways that significantly boost their stats.
In addition, because Tagovailoa and Lawrence attend two of the most dominant college football schools in recent history, any bad losses or multi-interception big games will see their Heisman odds decrease dramatically.
Wisconsin, on the other hand, is an underdog this year relative to the traditional powerhouses. Wins against Michigan, Ohio State and Iowa would almost surely come as a result of big performances from their star running back, potentially vaulting him ahead of the two current favorites.
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Hurts, Fields and Martinez round out those ahead of Taylor in betting terms. Notice a trend here? That’s right — all five are quarterbacks.
And while the Heisman is trending toward being a QB award — only two non-QB winners have won since former Badger Ron Dayne in 1999 — being one of the only running backs with a shot at the award will work as an advantage for Taylor.
At least one or two of those guys are going to suffer a bad loss or performance that has the potential to derail their Heisman hopes. Hurts plays for Oklahoma, there’s no way the committee gives out three straight awards to one program, right?
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Most importantly, Taylor will get a chance to go up against Fields and Martinez on the road. Two conference wins in hostile environments against fellow Heisman candidates would surely have Tagovailoa and Lawrence feeling the pressure.
If he can continue to produce at the level he has over the past two years and lead Wisconsin to its first ever College Football Playoff, an essential for just about any Heisman hopeful, Taylor will become the third Heisman Trophy recipient in Wisconsin history.