Heisman Trophy ballots are due by 5 p.m. today and an announcement on who will be invited to New York will come shortly after. The biggest question for Oklahoma State fans is if Pokes running back Chuba Hubbard will be invited or not.
At this point in time, LSU quarterback Joe Burrow is the runaway favorite to win the trophy. It would be shocking if someone else won, much less if the race was close. However, there are a handful of good candidates behind Burrow. In addition to Hubbard; Justin Fields, Chase Young and J.K. Dobbins (Ohio State), Jalen Hurts (Oklahoma) and Jonathon Taylor (Wisconsin) have received Heisman buzz.
The question that will answer whether or not Hubbard will get an invite is how many players the Heisman Trust will invite to New York. Here are some numbers on that.
Prior to 1982, the Heisman Trophy Presentation was not televised. The trophy was awarded in New York to the winner, with no “finalists” announced before hand. In 1982, the awarding of the Heisman Trophy was televised for the first time with three finalists. The finalists that year were Eric Dickerson, John Elway (who did not attend) and winner Herschel Walker.
Since then, at least three finalists have been invited to New York for the announcing of the winner. The Heisman Trust automatically extends an invitation to the top three candidates every year, regardless of vote margin. Beyond that, the invitees are determined by vote margin.
Since 1982, five players have been invited to the ceremony 11 times, the most common number. Four players have been invited 10 times and three players have been invited nine times. In 1989, eight players were invited, but only four attended. That was the only year that more than five have been invited.
So how does the Heisman Trust decide to invite three, four or five players? As mentioned, the top three will always be invited. Past that, the Trust will look at the gap in votes between third, fourth and fifth place.
This season could resemble 2010 in terms of voting. That year, Auburn quarterback Cam Newton was the runaway favorite. Newton received over 2,200 votes while second place Andrew Luck received just more than 1,000 votes.
As mentioned, the top three always get invited. But in 2010, four players were invited despite Newton receiving over 80 percent of the first place votes. The way this was determined was gap size between third, fourth, and fifth place. The third place finisher was LaMichael James, with 916 votes. Kellen Moore finished fourth with 635 votes. The gap between James and Moore was deemed small enough to invite Moore, despite him having over 1,600 less votes than winner Cam Newton.
The gap between Moore and OSU’s own Justin Blackmon, who finished fifth with 105 total votes, was deemed to be significant enough to not invite Blackmon.
Back to this season. Burrow should be the runaway winner. It wouldn’t be a surprise if Ohio State quarterback Justin Fields and Oklahoma quarterback Jalen Hurts finished second and third in voting. If this is the case, Hubbard needs some help. If he finishes fourth, he will likely need to be within 100-200 votes of third place. If Hubbard finishes fifth, he’ll need to be within 100-200 votes of fourth place if fourth place is close enough to third to be invited.
The good news is the margin of victory by Burrow over the rest of the field won’t play a factor on if Hubbard will be invited or not. Hubbard needs only to be close enough to third place (or fourth place IF fourth place is close enough to third to be invited) to receive an invitation to New York.
While Burrow is head-and-shoulders above the rest of the field, the order from two-to-five can be debated. Hubbard had the best season of any running back by the numbers, but his team also lost more games than anyone else. I think the margin between the third and fifth place finishers will be close enough to invite five.
I could be wrong, but if that’s the case, Hubbard’s invite will likely be determined on how the voters view his season with his teams’ record against J.K. Dobbins or Jonathon Taylor and their performances coupled with the success of their teams.
Because Heisman voters fill out their top three choices only, it will come down to if voters decide to take three quarterbacks or two, and if they decide to give that other vote to defensive end Chase Young or a running back. Hubbard will need to be third place on more ballots than not to have a chance.
A big point of trouble could be that Oklahoma State played in less nationally televised games than the teams of any other finalist. This isn’t even to mention that Hubbard’s best game (296 yards against Kansas State) was behind the de-facto paywall of ESPN+, meaning most voters likely didn’t see it at all. Hubbard should have no problem getting votes among voters from the southwest region, but it may be difficult for him to garner votes from other regions who didn’t see much Cowboy football this season.
We will find out the results around 5:25 tonight on ESPN.