With the college football regular season over, the bowl games have been set and teams will begin their postseason preparation.
But before the bowl games come the individual awards. Alabama players like safety Landon Collins and punter JK Scott will be up for their position’s top honors, but it’s Alabama wide receiver Amari Cooper who is in contention for the biggest individual prize in the sport: the Heisman Trophy.
The 80th annual Heisman Trophy presentation will take place in New York City on Saturday, Dec. 13th and will air on ESPN at 7:00 p.m. Central. Here are four reasons why Cooper should be standing on the stage holding the trophy at night’s end.
1. He’s the best player on the nation’s top-ranked team.
Since 2000, 10 of the 14 Heisman Trophies awarded went to the best player on the No. 1 ranked team in the country.
Alabama is entering the inaugural College Football Playoff as the No. 1 seed, and there’s no doubt who is the Tide’s best player.
This season, every defense trying to slow down Alabama’s offensive attack focused its preparation on how to stop Cooper. Other than the game against Arkansas — and the injury-shortened Western Carolina game — that hasn’t even come close to happening.
Cooper has 115 catches for 1,656 yards and 14 receiving touchdowns so far this season, and leads the nation in receptions and receiving yards. He’s also re-written the Alabama record book. Cooper is the program’s all-time leader in career receptions, single-season receptions, catches in one game, career receiving yards, single-season receiving yards, receiving yards in one game, career touchdown catches, single-season receiving touchdowns, and touchdown catches in one game.
He even set two records Saturday for most SEC receptions in a single season, and most receptions in the SEC Championship game.
2. A wide receiver is due.
“On Dec. 14, 1991, gasoline averaged $1.075 per gallon, Michael Jackson’s ‘Black or White’ was No. 1 on the Billboard charts and there were only about 150 Starbucks stores in the United States.”
That’s how Newsday describes the day Michigan’s Desmond Howard won the Heisman Trophy. He was the last wide receiver to pull it off.
Fellow Wolverine Charles Woodson, a defensive back and punt returner, won it in 1997. That’s the last time the award for “the most outstanding player in college football” went to someone other than a quarterback or running back.
A receiver who’s had the kind of electric season that Cooper’s been able to put together is due for a win, and he’s made a strong case to break the streak.
3. He came up huge on the biggest stage.
“It’s not just a statistics award,” former Heisman winner Desmond Howard explained recently. “You have to show up big on the big stage.”
This year’s Iron Bowl averaged 13,529,000 viewers and posted a 7.4 rating, which is ESPN’s most-watched and highest-rated regular season college football game ever, per ESPN PR Mike Humes. That viewership number makes the 2014 Iron Bowl the most-watched game of the season on any network.
On that massive stage, Cooper’s star shined the brightest.
He went off for 13 catches, 224 yards and three touchdowns in the team’s 55-44 win over Auburn, statistically his best game of the year.
4. He’s been dominant against the best defenses in the country.
Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota seems to be the Heisman frontrunner and made a strong final case for himself on Friday with a big performance in the Ducks’ win over Arizona.
Mariota has been a man among boys throughout the entire year, torching overmatched Pac-12 opponents every weekend. But by playing in the SEC West — arguably the best division in the history of college football — Cooper has been a man among men.
Unlike Mariota, Cooper faces the top defenses in the country week after week, rather than the likes of Colorado and Oregon State.
The best player on the best team in the best division of the best conference. Sounds like a Heisman winner to me.
What do you think?