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The 10 leading Heisman Trophy contenders, from Trevor Lawrence to Jalen Hurts

For The Win logo For The Win 5 days ago Michelle R. Martinelli
a baseball player holding a bat: USA TODAY © USA TODAY USA TODAY

College football is so absurdly unpredictable, especially when it comes to the Heisman Trophy winner.

Between players (and their teams) not living up to extremely high expectations and breakout stars jumping into the national spotlight, it's possible that the 2019 Heisman winner isn't even among the top-10 preseason favorites. As FiveThirtyEight recently pointed out, over the last decade, just one of the 10 players favored to win college football's iconic trophy at the start of the season has actually won it (Marcus Mariota in 2014).

Based on recent years, there are a few other notable trends.

Since 2000, only two running backs/non-quarterbacks have won the Heisman, and they both went to Alabama. While plenty of winners haven't been quarterbacks throughout the last several decades, that stat helps explain why there's only one running back on this year's preseason top-10 list.

Additionally, since the College Football Playoff format began in 2014, there has only been one Heisman winner whose team was not in the playoff (Lamar Jackson in 2016). So not only is the winner likely a quarterback, but he's also likely to be a quarterback playing for a real national championship contender.

Although his list may look drastically different by November, here are the 2019 preseason top-10 Heisman Trophy favorites, according to PointsBet as of August 13.

10. Shea Patterson, Michigan quarterback

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6-foot-2, 202 pounds, senior

2018 notes: 64.6 completion percentage, 2,600 passing yards, 8.0 yards/pass, 22 passing TDs, 7 INT, 21 sacks, 273 rushing yards, 2 rushing TDs

Preseason Heisman odds: +2500

A transfer from Ole Miss, Shea Patterson was Michigan's starting quarterback last season, but at Big Ten media days this summer, coach Jim Harbaugh said he plans to play both Patterson and junior Dylan McCaffrey "in every game." While the Wolverines haven't played with two quarterbacks under Harbaugh, balancing both in 2019 would hinder Patterson's dark horse Heisman campaign if he can't pad his stats. He had a solid 2018 season but not Heisman-worthy, so he'll likely need as much playing time as possible, along with more production, to be a real contender this year.

Additionally, Michigan has a new offensive coordinator in Josh Gattis, who is expected to actually do the play-calling with a system that should favor Patterson's arm.

Other notes: A fake, super not real Twitter screenshot this summer made it look like Patterson used his real account rather than a burner to criticize Harbaugh and Ohio State QB Justin Fields. He did not tweet this.

9. Jonathan Taylor, Wisconsin running back

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5-foot-11, 219 pounds, junior

2018 notes: 2,194 rushing yards, 7.1 yards/carry, 16 TDs

Preseason Heisman odds: +2500

Jonathan Taylor is a beast, but the problem is that recent history favors quarterbacks in the Heisman race over anyone else. The good news is last season, Taylor led the nation in rushing yards, but the Badgers' offense wasn't exactly doing him any favors.

So for Taylor to seriously be in consideration, he'd likely have to have continue dominating on the ground, Wisconsin would have to destroy the Big Ten West and contend for a playoff spot and some of the quarterbacks favored over him would have to have some serious meltdowns. Not impossible, but certainly not an easy path to being a finalist or winner.

Other notes: He competed on Wisconsin's track team this year.

8. Jake Fromm, Georgia quarterback

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6-foot-2, 220 pounds, junior

2018 notes: 67.3 completion percentage, 2,749 passing yards, 9.0 yards/pass, 30 TDs, 6 INT, 16 sacks

Preseason Heisman odds: +2000

A third-year starter who played in the 2017-18 national championship game as a freshman, Jake Fromm is one of the more experienced passers on this list. If he can find a little more consistency - particularly against some of the SEC's tougher teams - limit mistakes and get rid of the ball faster, his Heisman stock will dramatically rise. But he'll also have to adjust to some new targets after the Bulldogs had three wide receivers and a tight end drafted this year.

But of course, Kirby Smart doesn't think any of that will be an issue for his quarterback, who no longer has any real competition for his job (more on that later). As Smart told Sports Illustrated:

"Jake is a special person, a special talent. I mean, the kid is resilient in every way. He's been a winner his whole life."

Other notes: He has the best social media name of the group, JakefromStateFromm on Twitter.

7. Jalen Hurts, Oklahoma quarterback

6-foot-2, 219 pounds, senior/grad transfer

2016 notes (best season): 62.8 completion percentage, 2,780 passing yards, 7.3 yards/pass, 23 passing TDs, 9 INT, 19 sacks, 954 rushing yards, 13 rushing TDs

Heisman odds: +2000

After two years as Alabama's starter before losing the job to Tua Tagovailoa and playing only a little in 2018, Jalen Hurts is now a grad transfer at Oklahoma. And that means - should this mobile quarterback thrive in the Sooners' system like Kyler Murray did - winning the 2019 Heisman could make Oklahoma the first school to have three different, consecutive winners. Like Hurts, Murray and Baker Mayfield before him were also transfers at Oklahoma, and they both carried the Sooners to the College Football Playoff.

Alabama's starter in 2016 and 2017, Hurts joins Oklahoma with more experience than his predecessors had, so he has the potential for a dominant 2019. And when he unexpectedly had to replace an injured Tagovailoa in the 2018 SEC championship game, he proved he hadn't lost a step on the sidelines and carried the Crimson Tide to a comeback win over Georgia.

Other notes: He's on board with a movie or 30 for 30 getting made about his redemption story over the last two seasons.

6. Sam Ehlinger, Texas quarterback

6-foot-3, 230 pounds, junior

2018 notes: 64.7 completion percentage, 3,292 passing yards, 7.7 yards/pass, 25 passing TDs, 5 INT, 26 sacks, 482 rushing yards, 16 rushing TDs

Preseason Heisman odds: +2000

Sam Ehlinger needs to hold onto the mentality and swagger he had in the Longhorns' Sugar Bowl win over Georgia last season - he had three rushing touchdowns and a 70.4 completion percentage against the Bulldogs - and find a bit more consistency in 2019. If he can do that, this dynamic quarterback could be a serious Heisman candidate, help Texas dethrone Oklahoma in the Big 12 and possibly lead his team to a College Football Playoff appearance. That's a lot of ifs, but it also seems doable for a guy with a chip on his shoulder that grows with each (inexplicable) critic.

Other notes: He has an adorable puppy named Spur.

5. Justin Herbert, Oregon quarterback

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6-foot-6, 237 pounds, senior

2018 notes: 59.4 completion percentage, 3,151 passing yards, 7.8 yards/pass, 29 TDs, 8 INT, 21 sacks

Preseason Heisman odds: +2000

Justin Herbert stunned NFL Draft analysts when he announced in December that he'd be returning to Oregon for another season. A curious move in what was considered to be a weak quarterback class, it was great news for the Ducks. His return gives Oregon a real shot at the Pac-12 title and maybe a College Football Playoff spot, should the team finish the regular season with a near-perfect record - all of which would boost his Heisman chances. And with the way draft experts were ( and are) talking about him, he should remain high on this list.

Other notes: He's a belly-flop-off-the-diving-board kind of guy.

4. Justin Fields, Ohio State quarterback

6-foot-3, 223 pounds, sophomore

2018 notes: 69.2 completion percentage, 328 passing yards, 8.4 yards/pass, 4 TDs, 0 INT, 4 sacks, 266 rushing yards, 4 TDs

Preseason Heisman odds: +1400

Despite his strong early odds, Justin Fields is probably the biggest question mark on this list because not only did he transfer from Georgia this year, but he and the Buckeyes are also working with a new head coach in Ryan Day. He's a phenomenal and dynamic replacement for 2018 Heisman finalist Dwayne Haskins - although he hasn't been named the starter yet and is in a quarterback battle with Kentucky transfer Gunnar Hoak.

But there's still a learning curve with chemistry on a new team as a first-year starter. Fields could end up making Georgia really miss him and carry the Buckeyes to another Big Ten title, or he could struggle a little and fall out of this debate. Obviously, not being Ohio State's starter would hold him back as well.

Other notes: He quickly learned to not like Michigan.

3. Adrian Martinez, Nebraska quarterback

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6-foot-2, 225 pounds, sophomore

2018 notes: 64.6 completion percentage, 2,617 passing yards, 7.5 yards/pass, 17 passing TDs, 8 INT, 23 sacks, 629 rushing yards, 8 rushing TDs

Preseason Heisman odds: +1200

Nebraska had a rough 2018, but that wasn't the then-true freshman's fault. Even when the Cornhuskers struggled as they lost their first six games last season, Martinez stood out - like when he had 441 total yards in the team's brutal loss to Wisconsin.

He has to cut down on some rookie mistakes like turnovers and try not to take so many sacks this year, but he's clearly a talented, dual-threat quarterback. His biggest issue in this Heisman race is getting overlooked if Nebraska only manages to put together four wins again. But in coach Scott Frost's second season, Martinez and co. could also capitalize on a weak division and keep the Heisman race interesting.

Other notes: He's growing out what he calls a #CampStache.

2. Tua Tagovailoa, Alabama quarterback

6-foot-1, 218 pounds, junior

2018 notes: 69.0 completion percentage, 3,966 passing yards, 11.2 yards/pass, 43 TDs, 6 INT, 13 sacks

Heisman odds: +275

After exploding into the national spotlight as Alabama's hero in the 2017-18 national championship game, Tua Tagovailoa was the Heisman frontrunner for much of the 2018 season. He led a lethal offense and what looked like Nick Saban's best team (for the first 14 games anyway) through multiple blowouts and easy wins. In six games, his completion percentage was at 75 or higher, and he didn't throw an interception until November. He, like others on this list, had several talented players around him, particularly Bama's offensive line, which gave him, like, 15 minutes to throw the ball.

Should Tagovailoa stay healthy this season - he sprained his ankle late last year - the Heisman race could come down to the very end between him and Clemson's Trevor Lawrence. But despite his precision, Saban still sees room for improvement this year, particularly with his decision-making:

"I think sometimes when you have success, you want to have more success, so maybe you start forcing plays. Trying to make plays down the field, trying to make explosive plays, when maybe they're not there."

Other notes: He plays the ukulele incredibly well.

1. Trevor Lawrence, Clemson quarterback

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6-foot-6, 215 pounds, sophomore

2018 notes: 65.2 completion percentage, 3,280 passing yards, 8.3 yards/pass, 30 TDs, 4 INT, 11 sacks

Heisman odds: +225

After leading Clemson to a national championship win over Alabama last season - plus a 15-0 record - Trevor Lawrence was the 2019 Heisman favorite back in February, and there's zero surprise he's still at the top with the start of the season around the corner. Even if you don't care about Clemson, he's the kind of player you can't take your eyes off.

As a true freshman last season, Lawrence stunned with young but already elite and powerful arm, tearing up defenses. In Clemson's two College Football Playoff games against Notre Dame and Alabama - the Tigers wrecked both teams - Lawrence combined for a 66.2 completion percentage, 674 yards, six touchdowns and no interceptions. With a similar performance in 2019, he'll certainly be among the Heisman finalists, if not win.

Other notes: Eating Chick-Fil-A helps him prepare for games.

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