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Oklahoma Sooners Football: Jalen Hurts and the 2019 Heisman Trophy field

How do each of the 2019 Heisman Trophy finalists stack up against each other and what separates them from the rest?

NCAA Football: Big 12 Championship-Baylor vs Oklahoma Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

The ceremony for the 2019 Heisman Memorial Trophy takes place on Saturday, Dec. 14 at 7 p.m. CT in the Big Apple, and the Oklahoma SoonersJalen Hurts is one of four finalists for college football’s most prestigious individual award.

Before a winner is announced, here’s a closer look at the field and a case for why each of them are worthy candidates.

Joe Burrow — LSU, QB

There’s a reason Joe Burrow has led the Heisman discussion for the better part of the 2019 season. Actually, there are multiple reasons why. First of all, he’s led the LSU Tigers to a perfect 13-0 record and an SEC Championship against one of the toughest schedules in college football. He’s also been recognized for several other major honors, such as the AP Player of the Year, the Walter Camp Player of the Year, the Maxwell Award, the Davey O’Brien Award and the Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Award, which indicates the highest individual honor will likely be etched with his name, as well. Finally, LSU’s offense ranks first nationally in offensive SP+.

It’s worth mentioning that a big part of why Burrow is in the position he’s in is because of first-year passing game coordinator and Broyles Award winner Joe Brady. Since arriving to Baton Rouge, he’s transformed LSU into an offensive powerhouse propelled by this superstar senior quarterback. Going into the bowl season, the Tigers lead the nation in total offense, and are third in the nation in scoring.

As for Burrow’s numbers individually, the stats speak for themselves. The Heisman favorite leads the nation with the following figures: 48 passing touchdowns, a 77.9% completion rate, a 93.7 QBR and a 201.5 passer efficiency rating. In total, he’s amassed 4,715 passing yards (second nationally) and thrown just six INTs on 439 attempts. He’s also rushed for 289 yards and three more scores in his 13 games. All things considered, it’s not difficult to see why he’s the odds-on favorite heading into Saturday’s Heisman Trophy ceremony.

Justin Fields — Ohio State, QB

Taking the entire 2019 season into account, the Ohio State Buckeyes’ Justin Fields has probably received the least amount of consideration for the top spot of the 2019 Heisman Trophy race compared to the other three finalists. Burrow is clearly that guy right now, Hurts was in front for much of September and part of October, and Young — OSU’s other candidate — even sparked first-place discussion all while playing on the defensive side of the ball. Still, no one has been more consistent than Fields, and in his first season in Columbus, his consistency has been at an elite level.

The most eye-popping stat in favor of Fields is that he’s only accounted for one interception all season. You read that right. Through 13 games, just one of his 308 passing attempts has successfully ended in the hands of an opponent. In fact, there are 102 QBs in the FBS who have thrown for more than 10 TDs on the season, and he’s the only one who has yet to toss more than a single pick.

Fields’ rise to this stage is even more remarkable when you consider all the variables that had to properly align. After transferring to Ohio State from Georgia, the Buckeyes were also transitioning from the Urban Meyer era to the Ryan Day era. Not only has Fields picked up where Dwayne Haskins left off, he’s helped bring much more balance to OSU’s offense.

By the numbers, Fields has racked up 2,953 yards and 40 passing touchdowns on a 67.5 percent completion rate. He ranks second nationally with a 92.4 QBR and third with a 190.3 passer efficiency rating. He’s also added 471 rushing yards and 10 more scores with his legs on 123 carries. In all, this has been one hell of a campaign for the sophomore signal caller, and going forward, the future in Columbus looks awfully bright for him and his Buckeyes.

Jalen Hurts — Oklahoma, QB

If there was a lifetime achievement award for college football players, I’d imagine Jalen Hurts would be the odds-on favorite to win it this season. Still, after his three years at Alabama, he’s since joined forces with the Oklahoma Sooners and helped send OU back to the playoff.

Perhaps the most telling way one could underscore why Hurts’ 2019 season is worthy of Heisman Trophy contention is by comparing his production with the past two winners — both of whom just happen to have played for OU. Through 13 games, Hurts has more total yards (4,889) and touchdowns (50) than Baker Mayfield did in 2017 when he went on to win the award. If that’s not impressive enough, he’s also a mere 56 yards and one touchdown off of Kyler Murray’s mark in 2018 when he also took home the prestigious hardware. That’s not to say that he possesses anything close to the passing ability of his predecessors, but the overall production has been superb.

Something that separates Hurts from the other QBs in this year’s Heisman discussion is his production on the ground. He ranks second among all QBs (behind Navy’s Malcolm Perry) in rushing yards with 1,255, and seventh overall in rushing touchdowns with 18.

Even after compiling an abundance of yards and TDs, it can be argued that Hurts’ greatest strength can’t be measured by statistics. That’s because his poise under pressure and experience in big games are what make him such a formidable force. Another prominent yet immeasurable strength of his also be found in the manner in which he has led this group that he only just met this same calendar year.

If it wasn’t for the loss at Kansas State, or the uptick in untimely turnovers down the stretch, perhaps the gap between Burrow and Hurts wouldn’t be as wide as it appears to be right now. At the same time, his propensity to overcome his own miscues and come up clutch in the biggest moments has helped elevate him to finalist status. Nevertheless, winning the Heisman is something Oklahoma fans can probably be content watching another program claim for now. After all, Hurts has this team right where he wants it — back in the CFP with a chance for a whole lot more.

Chase Young — Ohio State, DE

It’s unfortunate that the Heisman Trophy is almost exclusively about one side of the ball, and this season has presented another perfect example of why that mentality needs to change. Ohio State’s Chase Young might very well be the most dominant player in college football right now, regardless of position.

Just how dominant has this pass rusher been for the Buckeyes’ defense? Even after missing multiple games while serving a mid-season suspension, he still managed to lead the FBS in total sacks (16.5), rank second nationally in forced fumbles (6) and ranks fourth in total tackles-for-loss (21).

With production like Young’s, it’s a shame he hasn’t received the amount of Heisman recognition he truly deserves outside of a few corners, but at least he won’t be finishing the year empty handed. The 2019 Hendricks, Nagurski and Bednarik Awards are all etched in his name, and rightfully so. And on Saturday night, Young has a chance to become the first defensive player to place among the top three vote getters since Notre Dame’s Manti Te’o in 2012.

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