The race for the 2023 Heisman Trophy is down to three quarterbacks in Oregon's Bo Nix, the -160 favorite at DraftKings, LSU's Jayden Daniels (+130) and Washington's Michael Penix Jr. (+1600). Nix and Penix face off Friday in the Pac-12 Championship Game, and it seems very likely that if Nix wins the game and plays at his usual level that the Heisman will be his.
The past four weeks have seen Nix, an Auburn transfer, throw a combined 16 touchdowns with just one interception while throwing for at least 367 yards in each game. In last Friday's 31-7 Civil War win over No. 16 Oregon State, which is an excellent defensive team, Nix was 33-of-40 for 367 yards and two touchdowns, plus a rushing touchdown, helping Oregon to its sixth straight victory and a spot opposite unbeaten Washington the final Pac-12 meeting for both teams before they head to the Big Ten.
Nix leads the country in completion percentage at 78.6%, which would break Mac Jones' record of 77.4%, and in passing yards at 3,906. Nix has 37 TD passes and only two picks and is the only FBS player since at least 2000 to have at least 35 passing touchdowns and no more than two interceptions through a team's first 12 games. He would be the second Oregon player to win the Heisman after Marcus Mariota in 2014. Nix's showing this season has almost certainly earned him NFL consideration, but he isn't considered a can't-miss prospect.
It might be too late for Penix Jr. to close the gap unless he goes ballistic on Friday and the Huskies beat the Ducks for a second time this season to get in the College Football Playoff. Oregon, though, is a shockingly high 9.5-point favorite in Las Vegas. When Washington beat Oregon 36-33 in a spectacular game on Oct. 14 in Seattle, Penix Jr. threw for 302 yards and four scores, including the 18-yard winning TD pass to Rome Odunze with 1:38 left. Nix threw for 337 yards and two scores.
Washington's offense has gone cold. In the past two games, close wins over Oregon State and Washington State, Penix has totaled only 366 passing yards with four TDs and a pick along with a rushing score. The Indiana transfer has eight 300-yard passing games overall, though, and five games with at least four touchdown passes for a team that is 12-0 for the first time since 1991.
Washington has won 19 straight games, the second-longest active streak in the country behind Georgia and the third-longest in school history. Penix's 3,899 passing yards this season are second nationally and third-most in Huskies history. He has 32 TD passes and eight picks. No Washington player has won the Heisman.
What Daniels might need to steal the Heisman is a defensive battle between Oregon and Washington – good luck with that – where both QBs struggle, as LSU is idle until its bowl game. The three-loss Tigers really haven't beaten anyone of note except Missouri. On Saturday, they took care of Texas A&M in a 42-30 win with Daniels throwing for 235 yards and four scores and rushing for 120. Overall, he has set an NCAA record with a passer rating of 208.0 and has accounted for 50 total touchdowns while becoming the 11th player in FBS history to throw for at least 3,000 yards and rush for 1,000 yards in the same season. He has thrown for 3,812 yards and run for 1,134 yards.
The Arizona State transfer's season numbers are rather similar to a pair of former Heisman QBs in Johnny Manziel (4,600 total yards and 43 total TDs for Texas A&M in 2012) and Lamar Jackson (4,928 total yards and 51 total TDs for Louisville in 2016). Daniels is the only player in NCAA FBS history to have 12,000 passing yards and 3,000 rushing yards in a career. The Heisman, of course, is not a career award.
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