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UNC Football: Sam Howell garnering attention as 2020 Heisman contender

The rising sophomore quarterback’s odds are looking good if you are a Tar Heel fan.

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Military Bowl Presented by Northrop Grumman - North Carolina v Temple Photo by G Fiume/Getty Images

North Carolina Tar Heel quarterback Sam Howell just finished one of the best freshman seasons in college football history and doesn’t look ready to slow down anytime soon.

Howell’s incredible performance as a freshman has Vegas buzzing as the 2020 Heisman odds were released following the National Championship this week. Fanduel released their odds for the 2020 Heisman Trophy and the Tar Heel signal caller comes in at a tie for 10th, with Alabama QB Mac Jones and LSU QB Myles Brennan with 25/1 odds.

The impressive part about Howell being 25/1 is that his odds opened at 40/1, meaning there has been some big money love put on Howell to claim the award next year.

Howell’s 2019 season was not only one of the best in the ACC, but it was remarkable on a national level. He ranked in the top 15 in passing yards and passer rating, and was 4th in the Country in passing touchdowns.

While it may seem like a long shot to many that Howell could win the Heisman, the path for him to win the award is viable. Let’s lay out the path that could result in the first Heisman winner in North Carolina history.

The path to winning a Heisman consists of having big games early in the season, which Howell does have with a road game at UCF and Auburn in Atlanta. UCF has taken a step back off the national stage, but it will still be a big game for the Tar Heels to ride their momentum from the 2019 season as well as the offseason. The game against Auburn could also be huge for a Tar Heel program that will be looking for another signature non-conference win over an SEC opponent.

After that, he will likely need a game to build some big numbers off of, which then comes the Tar Heels’ game against James Madison in September. James Madison is a FCS powerhouse, but the Tar Heels will presumably be one of the better teams in the FBS next year. Getting a big win and pairing it with inflated stats would go a long ways to keeping the early-season steam going for Howell.

We don’t yet know the clear conference schedule as far as dates are concerned for the Tar Heels, but we know for the most part that there won’t be any really great teams in the Coastal division. This could be lucrative for Howell and the Tar Heels, giving them chances to run through the Coastal, but the bad thing is that Howell likely won’t have a big game where he can have a “Heisman moment.”

But with the weapons Howell has returning, it’s possible that he doesn’t necessarily need a moment like that. He could just continue to rack up big numbers all season, making it impossible to ignore.

Being a national championship contender isn't a prerequisite to winning the award — see Lamar Jackson, whose team finished 9-4 — but it doesn’t hurt. The argument for Howell is based off of him putting up video game numbers, not just being the best player on the best team.

It may seem like a dream to have a Tar Heel quarterback in the Heisman discussion, but Howell having at minimum two more years in Chapel Hill gives him two really good cracks at the award, especially if he builds off his 2019 season.

I’m not saying it’s likely, or that it even has a good shot of happening. But it’s on the radar, and that’s something we should all sit back and relish as Tar Heel fans.