An emotional Urban Meyer entered the media room in the bowels of Michigan Stadium on Saturday minutes after his Ohio State team routed its biggest rival, 42-13. Meyer sat down in a chair at the podium for his postgame press conference and began his opening statement by expressing his satisfaction for what had just transpired on the field hours prior.
“I’ve been fortunate to be around some big-time games,” Meyer said. “From the bottom of my heart, I told our players, that might have been the best I’ve ever seen.”
Meyer says things like this often. There are a lot of “bests.” But just moments later he did something he doesn’t typically do: He lobbied. He lobbied hard for his running back, junior Ezekiel Elliott, to be a finalist for college football’s most prestigious individual award, the Heisman Trophy.
“He should be in New York,” Meyer said of Elliott. “That’s one of the best players in America. He should be a Heisman guy.”
Meyer admitted he’s not sure if Elliott should win the award. He says he’s too wrapped up in his own team to know what other players around the country are doing. “I don’t know if he should win it, I don’t know the other guys,” Meyer said. “But he’s as good a player as I’ve ever been around.” Most other coaches would say the same.
Was Meyer right, though? Does Elliott belong in New York as a finalist for the Heisman Trophy?
There’s certainly an argument to be made. Elliott ranks fourth nationally with 1,672 rushing yards and is sixth in yards per game at 139.3. His 19 rushing touchdowns trail only Alabama’s Derrick Henry. Elliott has at least 100 rushing yards in every game this season except for one — his season-low 33-yard effort against Michigan State.
But this is also a crowded year, especially at Elliott’s position. Henry is the no-doubt frontrunner and will likely win the award. The Alabama junior is the nation’s leading rusher with 1,797 yards and his 22 rushing touchdowns are also tops in the country. LSU’s Leonard Fournette — the early-season favorite — also possesses slightly better numbers than Elliott, with 1,741 rushing yards and 18 touchdowns. Florida State’s Dalvin Cook with 1,658 yards 18 scores and Stanford’s Christian McCaffrey with 2,997 all-purpose yards and 11 total touchdowns are also in the mix.
Then, of course, there are the quarterbacks and a quarterback has won the award each of the last five seasons. The two at the top of the list right now are Clemson’s Deshaun Watson and Oklahoma’s Baker Mayfield. Both of whom are leading teams likely bound for the College Football Playoff. Watson has 3,223 passing yards, 756 rushing yards and 36 total touchdowns, while Mayfield has 3,389 passing yards, 420 rushing yards and 42 total scores.
So, yeah, there are quite a few candidates this season.
Elliott is one of them, for sure, but a finalist? That’s hard to see at this point, despite the lobbying from Meyer. There are just too many candidates this season and not all of them will be invited to New York. There has to be a cutoff at some point.
Another thing hindering Elliott’s chances is the fact he doesn’t have an opportunity to play on championship Saturday. His final impression was a strong one — a 214-yard, two-touchdown effort against Michigan — but he doesn’t have a conference title game to make state his final case. Henry, Cook, McCaffery and Watson all do.
Still, though, it’s a possibility. Hearing the praise from Meyer was plenty good enough for Ohio State’s star running back.
“It meant the world to hear [Meyer] come out and say that,” Elliott said. “He’s coached Heisman winners before and he knows what it takes. The Heisman, it would mean a lot to me and it would mean a lot to my family.”