Pac-12 Heisman, Bryce Love, Khalil Tate
Erich Schlegel-USA TODAY Sports

2018 Heisman Trophy Outlook: Pac-12 Candidates

Oddsmakers at BetDSI don’t have this prop available, but if bettors could wager on which conference the Heisman Trophy winner comes from, the Pac-12 or Big 10 would likely be the favorite. There are two Pac-12 Heisman candidates who are among the frontrunners for the award. Additionally, there are several players from the league who could put together a Heisman-caliber season.

Aside from Marcus Mariota’s Heisman season for Oregon in 2014, players from the Pac-12 have fallen just short over the last decade. Perhaps #Pac12AfterDark hurts the league since most of the best players and teams aren’t playing in prime time.

Pac-12, Heisman Candidates, College Football, Khalil Tate

But for the most part, Pac-12 players such as Andrew Luck, Christian McCaffrey, Bryce Love, LaMichael James and Toby Gerhart all lost to more deserving candidates.

Nevertheless, this could certainly be the year another Heisman winner emerges from the Pac-12. Here are the five most likely Pac-12 Heisman candidates for the 2018 season. Also, check out our top five candidates from the Big 12 and ACC.

Pac-12 Heisman Candidates

  1. Jake Browning, Washington

There wasn’t much difference between Browning’s performance for Washington in 2016 and 2017. However, his numbers slipped drastically in every area except for completion percentage. In 2016, Browning finish sixth in the Heisman voting as he led Washington to the playoffs. His touchdown to interception ratio was a staggering 43 to 9.

Last year, Browning only threw five interceptions, but he also only threw 19 touchdowns. Losing speedy receiver John Ross hurt the offense’s ability to generate explosive plays. It’s no coincidence that when Browning struggled, Washington lost.

The Huskies will likely be a contender again in the Pac-12 in 2018. If Browning has a statistical season closer to 2016 than 2017, he will be in the Heisman conversation again this fall.

  1. Myles Gaskin, Washington

Gaskin is returning for his senior season in Seattle after he surprisingly opted to forgo the NFL Draft. The 2018 running back draft class was loaded with talent, but Gaskin still likely would have been drafted. Now, he returns to school and has a chance to become the most accomplished running back in school history.

It won’t take long for Gaskin to surpass Napoleon Kaufman as the school’s all-time leading rusher. Gaskin is only 52 yards behind Kaufman, and he’s rushed for over 1,300 yards in each of his three seasons with the Huskies. While Gaskin has produced similar yardage numbers each year, his touchdown total spiked in 2017. He rushed for 21 touchdowns while catching three touchdowns out of the backfield.

If Gaskin can add 200-300 more yards on the ground and Washington is a contender again, he could earn an invite to New York in December.

  1. Justin Herbert, Oregon

Though Herbert has yet to play a full season, he’s compiled very impressive stats during his first two seasons in Eugene. In 2016, Herbert became the first true freshman to start at Oregon since 1983. He threw for 19 touchdowns and four interceptions as a freshman, and he was even better as a sophomore.

Herbert was on pace for more turnovers last season before sustaining a season-ending injury. However, his completion percentage increased from 63.5 to 67.5, and he looked more confident in the pocket.

The only negative to Herbert is that he’ll be playing under his third head coach in as many seasons at Oregon. Quarterbacks need consistency on the sidelines. The good news is that new head coach Mario Cristobal was the co-offensive coordinator for the Ducks last season, and current OC Marcus Arroyo called plays last year. Not having Royce Freeman in the backfield will hurt, but Herbert has the talent to be one of the top players in the country this season.

  1. Bryce Love, Stanford

Love’s spectacular 2017 season fell just short of winning a Heisman thanks to Baker Mayfield. Nevertheless, Love still is back for more after opting to return for his senior season at Stanford. He rushed for 2,118 yards and 19 touchdowns a season ago. Love is considered to be one of the favorites to win the Heisman entering the 2018 season.

Stanford relied on Love to do pretty much everything offensively last year. He carried the ball 263 times, and he still managed to average over eight yards per carry.

Love will be asked to do more of the same throughout his senior season. He wore down towards the end of the year; however, he still carried the ball 20-plus times in the final three games of the season. Stanford players have fallen just short of winning the Heisman in the last decade. Could Love be in store for another second place finish? Or can he break through and become the school’s second Heisman winner alongside Jim Plunkett in 1970?

  1. Khalil Tate, Arizona

It took until October before Tate became the starter at Arizona. Coincidentally, the Wildcats’ season turned around when he took over the job.

Arizona was 2-2 in September, and Tate only played sparingly. During a road game at Colorado, Tate burst onto the scene, rushing for 327 yards and four touchdowns on only 14 carriers. He also completed 12 of 13 passes for 154 yards and a touchdown. On the year, Tate rushed for over 1,400 yards and 12 touchdowns while throwing for 15,91 yards and 14 scores.

Tate’s numbers tailed off towards the end of the year, and he was an erratic passer at times. So why is there optimism for the 2018 season? For starters, Tate has a full offseason to work on his passing. Furthermore, new coach Kevin Sumlin has plenty of experience working with dual-threat quarterbacks. Sumlin will run everything through Tate offensively, and he’ll have plenty of opportunities to light up the scoreboard.

Love and Tate are both capable of winning the award even if they aren’t on championship contenders. For the first time since 2010 (Andrew Luck and LaMichael James), there could be two Pac-12 Heisman finalists in New York in December.

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About Cole Frederick

Cole Frederick graduated from the University of Mississippi with a degree in journalism. He spends his free time (all of his time) watching sports or The Office.

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