USC quarterback Cody Kessler is among the early favorites to take home the Heisman Trophy in 2015. Does he have a real chance to take home the top award in the NCAA?
Kessler’s 2014 season was a statistical wonder.
In 2014 Cody Kessler set USC records for touchdowns in a game, interception rate, and passing efficiency.
The redshirt junior finished the year among the top quarterbacks in the nation, No. 11 in yards, No. 4 in touchdowns and No. 4 in quarterback rating.
He set USC season records for touchdowns in a game (seven vs. Colorado), completion percentage (69.7%), interception rate (1.1%, 5 in 452 attempts), and passing efficiency (167.06) besting marks by Matt Barkley, Rob Johnson and Mark Sanchez. He also tied Barkley’s record for touchdowns in a season at 39 and just narrowly missed surpassing Carson Palmer’s single-season yardage record by 116 yards.
Unfortunately, his Trojans were not always as reliably impressive. Losing four games, including two on last-second touchdowns, Kessler’s quarterbacking chops have been called into question. Especially in relation to a less-than-stellar performance against UCLA for the second year in a row.
Even acknowledging room for improvement, the Vegas oddsmakers have Kessler 12/1 in Heisman odds, sixth from the top.
Kessler’s numbers have certainly earned him a place at the table.
Marginal improvement in 2015 would see Kessler’s numbers well ahead of the Heisman seasons of Palmer and Matt Leinart.
Of course, quarterbacking top contenders at USC helped Palmer and Leinart, as being a part of one of the nation’s top teams has become as important a criteria for the Heisman as individual accomplishment.
That should work in Kessler’s favor in 2015 as well.
The Trojans are also among the favorites in Vegas betting for a spot in the College Football Playoff.
Nov 29, 2014; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Southern California Trojans quarterback Cody Kessler (6) celebrates after the game against the Notre Dame Fighting Irish at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
Though USC will need to work quickly to replace the contributions of Leonard Wiliiams, Nelson Agholor and Javorius Allen, the top recruiting class in the nation only has people salivating over Troy’s championship chances even more.
Still, there are hurdles Kessler must clear to truly be a contender.
Beating the Bruins is a must.
In fact, his record versus rivals leaves plenty to be desired, with one win in six tries against Notre Dame and UCLA. His record against ranked teams is nothing to write home about either. In 2014, Kessler’s Trojans went 1-4 against ranked opponents. It was the same in 2013.Unless USC finds a way to compete consistently with the ranked teams on the schedule, Kessler’s Heisman hopes will fade quickly.
It’s not fair to saddle one player with team results. After all, Kessler didn’t allow a Hail Mary touchdown as time expired against Arizona State, nor did he give up the late touchdown drive to Utah. Still, wins and losses are the criteria by which the national media grades quarterbacks, especially pro-style ones.
That’s another hurdle for Kessler. The last five Heisman winners have been dual-threat quarterbacks. You have to go back to 2008’s Sam Bradford to find a quarterback who doesn’t fit that mold and even further to Matt Leinart in 2004 to find a true pro-style quarterback who won the award.
In fact, it is fair to say the perceptions surrounding the award are the biggest road block for the Trojan quarterback.
It is not hard to imagine Kessler taking another step forward as a quarterback in 2015. It is also not a stretch to think the Trojans could tighten up and become true title contenders.
However, with dual-threat athletes like Mississippi State’s Dak Prescott and TCU’s Trevone Boykin, along with the trio of quarterbacks from Ohio State in the Heisman mix, Kessler will need to do something that sets him apart.
In other words, Kessler will need a hell of a Heisman moment.
Fortunately, he will have opportunities on the national stage to make his case.
USC has dates on the road with Arizona State, Notre Dame and Oregon. They finish the season with UCLA in the Coliseum.
In 2014’s regular season-ender, Kessler lit up the stage, throwing six touchdown passes, more against the Irish than any quarterback in USC history.
If Kessler leads an undefeated Trojan team against the Bruins in the crosstown rivalry game, a trip to New York could very well be on the line.
Are Cody Kessler's Heisman Trophy odds realistic?
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