If you’re woebegone, searching the Internet for college football pieces that are written far too early, congrats, you’ve come to the right place.
The horses are extra dark this time of year, because we have no idea who is going to win position battles, let alone succeed in live games when the lights are on. But for the sake of enjoying the dance of speculation, why the hell not? Here are your five Heisman dark horse candidates … in March. If any of these win, oh, I told you so.
5. Brett Rypien, QB, Boise State
Rypien ranked 26th in the nation in passing yards in spite of playing in “only” 11 games (we’re at a point where playing 11 games in a college football season qualifies as an “only”). Now onto his sophomore season, he’s battling in spring with Ryan Finley for the rights to the starter’s job. BSU gets enough air time that whoever their key players are, they’re well-known enough to move the needle. This isn’t some ridiculous pull from the middle of nowhere suggesting Vermont’s QB has a shot at it. Rypien, who has the bloodline, forum, and obviously the talent, could easily become a household name if he can best Finley for the gig.
4. Bo Scarbrough, RB, Alabama
At this point, “Alabama running back” is the “hey, I have a friend that wants to go out with you. She’s a UC-Santa Barbara cheerleader” of blind dates. Scarbrough, who missed the first four games of his freshman season, looks the part and ran hard in bulldozing Michigan State in the limited carries he had. He’s only had limited action, with a max of 10 carries for 69 yards in a sleepwalk against Charleston Southern. A lot of people would chafe at the idea that a bruising, skull crushing RB not named Leonard Fournette would have a shot at this award over him, but hey, if Alabama keeps winning, someone will get the credit for it.
3. JuJu Smith-Schuster, WR, Southern Cal
Everyone knows who he is at this point, and by “everyone,” I mean you can’t go ask your mom if she knows who he is just to prove this column wrong. It means college football fans know him. The reason he’s a bit of a long shot is that the Heisman landscape really doesn’t allow much for wide receivers to crack the hallowed halls. It’s pretty much a quarterback and “running back at Alabama” award. JuJu was 11th in the nation last year in receiving yards. The big question isn’t whether or not he can have another big(ger) year, but who will be throwing to him to help him out on that quest.
2. Luke Del Rio, QB, Florida
Get your spade out. We’re digging deep. Florida will have a new starting signal caller, we know that much. While you probably won’t get your coveted “naming the starter” until a gnat’s backside from kickoff of game one, Del Rio probably has the inside track. The redshirt junior transferred from Oregon State after Mike Riley left for Nebraska and was recruited by Jim McElwain whilst at Colorado State. McElwain is a very good offensive mind, and was working with a roster last season not tailor made for explosive offense, especially when Will Grier was suspended for the year. After that, it was a scene from “Hostel” every week. Look for Del Rio to take the job and do very, very well with it.
1. Jake Browning, QB, Washington
Jake was the first freshman to start a season opener in Washington football history, and Washington’s passing offense is hitching its future. He tossed for 16 touchdowns and the team finished strong, going 3-0 including a Heart of Dallas Bowl win. We’ve seen what Chris Petersen can do with the quarterback position over time, and he’s giving Browning all the chance one player can ask for. People don’t understand, there was a lot to build up at Washington when Petersen came in, and it’s only a matter of time before they’re a weekly national story. Having a young, growing QB will help them get there. Browning is in good hands. Look out. And I know I’ve been saying this for a few years, but I really mean it this time.