Jayden Daniels is having a Heisman-worthy season, regardless of LSU's record

If LSU was even one game better, how much of a favorite would Jayden Daniels be for the Heisman Trophy?

Daniels was unstoppable in the Tigers’ 52-35 win over Florida on Saturday night as LSU improved to 7-3 on the season. Daniels accounted for 606 of LSU’s 701 yards against the Gators as Florida was hopeless to stop him through the air and on the ground.

The former Arizona State QB was 17-of-26 passing for 372 yards and three touchdowns and rushed 12 times for 234 yards and two scores. Daniels broke off TD runs of 85 and 51 yards as the Gators allowed the most yardage in school history.

At the moment, Daniels is third in BetMGM’s Heisman odds at +400 behind Oregon’s Bo Nix and Washington’s Michael Penix Jr. And while those odds are likely indicative of Daniels’ Heisman chances through the first 11 weeks of the season, he’s made it clear that he’s the best player at the most important position in college football this season.

Daniels is third in the country in passing yards behind Penix and USC’s Caleb Williams but is tops in yards per attempt (11.6), passing TDs (30) and pass efficiency rating (202.1). Daniels is also 27th in the country in rushing yards and is No. 1 among quarterbacks in the category.

The 4,082 total yards Daniels has put up so far this season are far and away the most of anyone in college football. Just 13 quarterbacks have accounted for more than 3,000 total yards in 2023 and Penix is a distant second to Daniels at 3,506.

It’s impossible to argue against Daniels’ status as the best quarterback in the SEC and it’s easy to see how much worse LSU’s record would be without him. The Tigers are allowing 6.2 yards per play in 2023 as opposing offenses get nearly five yards on every rushing attempt. Daniels single-handedly led LSU to a win over Missouri in October with his second-half performance and led a game-winning drive against Arkansas in September.

Heck, just look at how hopeless the LSU offense was in the fourth quarter against Alabama after Daniels left the game following a big hit. It was clear that the Tigers had no shot of a comeback — or even cutting a 14-point deficit to seven — without Daniels on the field.

If the Heisman is supposed to go to the most outstanding player in college football, it’s hard to argue against Daniels’ case at this point. But past history makes it clear that the performance of LSU’s defense will be held against him. Just 14 Heisman winners have been on teams with three or more losses and only four of those winners have happened since Tim Brown won as a part of an 8-3 Notre Dame team in 1987.

Texas was 8-3 when Ricky Williams won in 1998, Tim Tebow won for a 9-3 Florida team in 2007 and Baylor and Louisville were both 9-3 when Robert Griffin III (2011) and Lamar Jackson (2016) won the award.

The good news for Daniels’ case is that Tebow, Griffin and Jackson were clearly the best dual-threat quarterbacks in college football those seasons just like Daniels is this year. It’s just now up to enough voters to realize how good Daniels has been to see if he joins them in the exclusive club.

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