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Michigan State’s Kenneth Walker III not being a Heisman finalist means the award has lost credibility

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When the award continuously leaves out its best players, it’s important to ask why we should care.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: NOV 13 Maryland at Michigan State

Perhaps no one besides Alabama quarterback Bryce Young and Michigan State Spartans running back Kenneth Walker III deserved invitations to New York for the final Heisman trophy presentation.

Young threw for 4,332 yards, had 43 touchdowns, and only four interceptions. His passer rating in 2021 was 175.5 and he broke an unbreakable Georgia defense. That was a Heisman moment. Walker ran for 1,636 yards, more than 40 FBS teams. He put up 197 yards and had five touchdowns in the Spartans’ biggest game of the season.

Perhaps nobody truly believes Walker should actually win the Heisman Trophy. Surely his chances were crushed after Michigan State lost to Ohio State 56-7 and he didn’t play much in that game

He still should’ve attended the ceremony, however, and it’s a joke that he won’t.

If I had been a Heisman voter, my ballot would look like this: Young at the top, Walker second and maybe either Desmond Ridder or Kenny Pickett third. Voters get to pick three. At the very least, I thought Walker and Young would be on most ballots. For the 800-plus members of media personnel, that wasn’t a popular opinion.

The four Heisman finalists were Young, Pickett, Michigan defensive end Aidan Hutchinson, and Ohio State quarterback C.J. Stroud.

Young seemed to be the unanimous favorite. His performance against Georgia sealed the deal: 421 yards and three touchdowns. He wasn’t sacked once.

The argument against Pickett is pretty simple: he had no Heisman moment. It’s incredible that he was able to lead Pittsburgh to the program’s first ACC title since 1976, but it isn’t Heisman-worthy. Pickett had 253 yards of passing against Wake Forest and didn’t have enough to overcome Western Michigan or Miami (FL).

For Stroud, his performance against top defenses have not gone all that well. The nice thing about Stroud is that he’s a freshman. He didn’t do enough to win games against Oregon and Michigan. If you give any quarterback three NFL receivers, I’m sure they would often have a field day, too.

I’m sure we’ll be having a real Heisman conversation about Stroud in the future. Throwing for a ridiculous amount of yards against college football’s worst pass defense (Michigan State) is not impressive to me, especially when Stroud is the fourth-best player on his team.

The main argument for Hutchinson is his game against Ohio State. Hutchinson is one of the reasons that Michigan was able to dominate that game. Without him, it’s hard to see a clear way in which Michigan wins, at least as comfortably. Still, defensive players rarely win the Heisman and there’s a reason why. Is Hutchinson a good player? Of course, maybe even a great player. Is he a top-four player in college football, though? Is he a once-in-a-generation defensive player? No. He’s not Ndomukong Suh, and he’s not Charles Woodson.

Then there’s Alabama linebacker Will Anderson Jr, who had more than twice as many tackles-for-loss (32.5 versus 15) and more sacks (15.5 versus 13.5) than Hutchinson. There’s a reason why Anderson was given the Nagurski Trophy, given to the top defender in college football, and Hutchinson wasn’t.

While it may seem unclear as to why Hutchinson or Pickett were in, it’s hard to imagine that Walker doesn’t fit into this mix. He was easily the best offensive playmaker in college football this season, and an argument could be made that no single player lifted their team’s win totals as much as Walker did, yet he’s nowhere to be seen.

So the Heisman has lost credibility. The current problem, according to Lansing State Journal’s Graham Couch, is that so many people who vote don’t watch all of the games because they’re too busy focusing on one specific beat. Stanford’s Christian McCaffrey was snubbed for the award since he didn’t play for a high-profile football brand. Derrick Henry did and it was Alabama. He won.

I’m not going to lie, but I don’t watch many Stanford games either.

There are a few fixes to the current system. Consider slimming award nominations down to categories: top-two quarterbacks, best overall playmaker (probably an offensive skill position), and best defender. The problem with this is it assumes any defender can win any year. That isn’t true.

Charles Woodson won at Michigan because he was a once-in-a-lifetime talent. He may have been the best defensive player in the history of college football. Only players such as Suh and Deion Sanders are even worthy of being discussed in the same conversation.

Another solution is to lower the number of people who vote. If 800 people voted for the MVPs of the NFL, MLB, NBA or NHL, it would be chaos. More than 60 media personnel vote in the Associated Press poll and it became inaccurate based on preseason rankings. If your preseason ranking was high, your school would benefit.

The College Football Playoff Committee may be far from perfect (the farthest) and committee chair Gary Barta should be questioned for saying “set aside watching the games,” but it’s still better than the AP Poll.

In the AP Poll, writers send in their top-25 teams and No. 25 gets one point, No. 24 gets two, No. 23 gets three, and so on, until you reach No. 1, which gets 25 points. In the committee, members vote on a set of three or four of the best teams and add three teams to the list accordingly. It’s a conversation rather than an arbitrary rating.

Applying the same formula to the Heisman voting may solve the issue. One problem is I don’t think the Heisman Trust cares. It doesn’t matter since having Hutchinson from Michigan, one of the biggest fan bases in the U.S., benefits them the most. Walker doesn’t attract enough views.

If that’s what this is about, there’s no credibility anymore. This isn’t to award the best and most standout player in college football, it’s a popularity contest and it’s all for show.