5 dark-horse Heisman Trophy candidates

By Joel Boyd

Chicago Tribune

You probably know all about Bryce Love, Jonathan Taylor and Khalil Tate.

But if you’re looking for some slightly longer shots with a legitimate chance to win college football’s most prestigious individual award, here are five players lurking just outside the spotlight.


McKenzie Milton, Central Florida, QB (+4,000 in Bovada’s Heisman prop)

Milton is hardly an unknown, having finished eighth in last year’s Heisman voting while leading the Knights to an undefeated season. And UCF is making a big promotional push for the Hawaii native (#HIsman). Still, to make it to New York as a finalist, he likely needs the team to repeat its success and voters to get past the Knights’ AAC schedule.

Nick Fitzgerald, Mississippi State, QB (+5,000)

Assuming Fitzgerald is fully recovered from the ugly ankle injury he suffered against Ole Miss, the big (6-5, 230) dual threat figures to thrive in Joe Moorhead’s offense that allowed Trace McSorley to put up big numbers at Penn State. Yet Fitzgerald lags behind fellow SEC quarterbacks Tua Tagovailoa, Jake Fromm, Drew Lock and Jarrett Stidham when it comes to Heisman buzz. A win at Alabama on Nov. 10 would go a long way.

Ryan Finley, N.C. State, QB (+10,000)

Finley is no dark horse to NFL scouts, appearing in the first round of many 2019 mock drafts. His 339-pass streak without an interception was second in school history to Russell Wilson’s FBS-record 379. With West Virginia, Clemson and Florida State on the schedule, Finley will have plenty of potential signature games to make voters remember.

Ed Oliver, Houston, DT (+10,000)

Oliver has to overcome a double whammy of biases against defensive players and Group of Five programs. But the potential No. 1 pick in April at least enters the season with more hype —the cover of Sports Illustrated and ESPN’s ranking as the top player in college football —than Nebraska’s Ndamukong Suh did in 2009, when he finished fourth as the last defensive lineman to be a Heisman finalist.

Myles Gaskin, Washington, RB (not on board)

Jake Browning (sixth in 2016) understandably is swallowing up any preseason Heisman talk about the Huskies. It’s a quarterback award after all, with 15 of the last 18 winners playing the position. But Gaskin quietly is the active FBS leader in career rushing yardage (4,055), and if he puts up big numbers in Washington’s marquee games —particularly the opener against Auburn and a showdown with Love and Stanford on Nov. 3 —he could start to make some noise.

Top 10 Heisman favorites, per Bovada

Bryce Love, Stanford RB, +700

Tua Tagovailoa, Alabama QB, +700

Jonathan Taylor, Wisconsin RB, +800

Dwayne Haskins, Ohio State QB, +1,100

Jake Fromm, Georgia QB, +1,500

Will Grier, West Virginia QB, +1,500

Trevor Lawrence, Clemson QB, +1,500

Trace McSorley, Penn State QB, +1,500

Khalil Tate, Arizona QB, +1,500

J.K. Dobbins, Ohio State RB, +1,800