This is the newest edition of our MNC Wednesday miniseries entry scrutinizing Heisman Trophy history, and in 60 seasons overall, we have confirmed just 17 vote winners. There’s just too much hype that goes into shallow voting, and with the ballots so public, too, mediots are worried about backlash if they vote for someone their uninformed audiences don’t think is worthy. It’s a shame real journalism has gone the way of the dodo in modern times, isn’t it? Enjoy our analysis …

2016 Heisman Trophy winner: Lamar Jackson, QB, Louisville (original); Deshaun Watson, QB, Clemson (revised)

The Louisville Cardinals posted a 9-3 record and finished in a tie for Atlantic Division lead in the ACC, but due to a head-to-head loss against Clemson, they were relegated to the Citrus Bowl. Quarterback Lamar Jackson (148.8 QB rating) won the Heisman vote, mostly due to the the close loss versus the Tigers. He passed for 3,543 yards, ran for another 1,571 yards, and totaled 51 touchdowns against just 9 interceptions—but only against the No. 50 SOS in the nation.

Par for the course, there are always other high-quality candidates to consider. This is our final list of firmly vetted Heisman candidates for the 2016 Heisman Trophy, and it’s a very short roll call:

  • Deshaun Watson, QB, Clemson: 5,222 total yards with 50 TDs, 17 INTs, and a 151.1 QB rating (No. 4 SOS)
  • Baker Mayfield, QB, Oklahoma: 3,872 total yards with 46 TDs, 8 INTs, and a 196.4 QB rating (No. 30 SOS)

One of the issues we have with Jackson is the hype: Louisville lost its last two regular-season games to drop 12 spots in the Associated Press poll and out of the major bowl picture. Both losses were to unranked regional rivals. We’re not sure why voters stuck with him, other than the video-game statistics and the “near win” against Clemson. His SOS is middling, and his QB rating is less than middling. We’re clearly not high on his overall profile, compared to past winners chosen here.

Watson also had a middling QB rating and a lot of turnovers, but the SOS is elite. Also, Clemson did beat Louisville while going on to take the ACC title and earn a berth in the CFP. Those are big positives. Mayfield led the nation in passing efficiency, helped his team go undefeated in the Big XII, and guided his team to a Sugar Bowl bid. The SOS is merely good, however, in comparison to Watson’s SOS. That’s a tough comparison, but both these QBs are more worthy than Jackson.

So, do we go with the superior efficiency or the superior SOS? The ultimate dilemma. That is a huge gap in QB rating, but it’s also a big gap in yards and SOS. What about the turnovers, too? This all evens out on the surface, so let’s go look at the supporting casts and see what we come up with:

  • Clemson: RB over 1,100 yards and WR over 1,350 yards—seven players over 500 yards total
  • Oklahoma: Two RBs over 1,050 yards and WR over 1,500 yards—but no other players over 500 yards

What we see here is Watson as distributor and leader, while Mayfield was more of the beneficiary of talent around him. That seals it for us, despite the TOs and QB rating. Clemson relied more on Watson to make its offense successful, while Mayfield was set up for success by the collection of high-bar talent around him. We are comfortable with this analytical context deciding our minds for us. The 2008 season was the last time we confirmed a Hypesman winner, by the way.

Congratulations to Deshaun Watson, the real Heisman Trophy winner for 2016.