Ohio State quarterback Justin Fields put together a historic season in his first year with the Buckeyes last fall, and his efforts landed him in New York City where he finished fourth in the Heisman Trophy race behind LSU quarterback Joe Burrow, Oklahoma quarterback Jalen Hurts and Ohio State defensive end Chase Young.
At that point, he had led the Buckeyes to a perfect 13-0 record after accounting for more than 3,400 yards and 50 total touchdowns against just one interception.
It was a phenomenal season for the first-year starter, and it was special enough for the 2019 Heisman Trophy winner to make a prediction.
“Obviously Justin Fields will be back next year, and I think he’ll win [the Heisman Trophy] next year,” Burrow said in his press conference after the ceremony.
Fields will have to clear several hurdles for a return trip to New York City this December. Obviously the biggest one may be whether the season itself takes place, as the coronavirus pandemic rages on and experts remain uncertain when large sporting events can take place.
But assuming life returns to some semblance of normalcy, these are the challenges Fields will have to overcome in order to win the 2020 Heisman Trophy.
A Shortened Offseason
One of the biggest hits Fields (and Ohio State... and every team in the country) took was the loss of spring practice.
The Buckeyes have to replace three of their top five pass-catchers from a season ago in K.J. Hill, Binjimen Victor and Austin Mack. Spring practice is always an important step in both identifying new contributors and building chemistry between quarterbacks and receivers.
Ohio State will have to identify those replacements and Fields will have to develop that rhythm and timing with his new receivers in fall camp, and that's assuming the best case scenario that social distancing restrictions are lifted and camp can start on time.
A Tough Schedule
Ohio State's schedule won't be the most difficult this season, but it certainly features some tough matchups for Fields and the Ohio State offense.
That will start in the second week of the season when the Buckeyes travel to Eugene for a showdown against what will likely be a top-10 Oregon squad.
The Ducks have a lot of question marks offensively, primarily at quarterback and along the offensive line, but the defense is loaded with a lot of experience and talent. Cornerbacks Deommodore Lenoir and Thomas Graham Jr. and defensive tackles Jordon Scott and Austin Faoliu all spurned the NFL for another season at Oregon, and they'll make things difficult for the Ohio State offense.
But back-to-back road games at Michigan State and Penn State in the middle of October and the season-ending matchup against Michigan in Columbus will make or break Fields' Heisman campaign.
A Strong Field
Fields is the current favorite to win college football's highest individual honor with 7/4 odds, but the field itself is strong.
Clemson's superstar quarterback Trevor Lawrence is a close second with 9/2 odds, followed by Oklahoma quarterback Spencer Rattler (12/1) and Miami quarterback D'Eriq King (14/1).
A host of other quarterbacks like Texas' Sam Ehlinger, USC's Kedon Slovis and Alabama's Mac Jones could and likely will join the fold. But a pair of running backs could disrupt the quarterback party with Travis Etienne (who piled up 2,046 total yards and 23 touchdowns for Clemson last year) and Chuba Hubbard (2,292 yards and 21 touchdowns for Oklahoma State) returning in 2020.