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The Debate: Will this be the year that UNC has a Heisman Trophy winner?

Sam Howell had a fantastic freshman season. Will his sophomore campaign bring home the Heisman?

Military Bowl Presented by Northrop Grumman - North Carolina v Temple Photo by Patrick McDermott/Getty Images

Welcome to The Debate. Each week, this article presents a topic for discussion. Whether in the comments section, on the golf course, or around the weekend game table (with proper social distancing of course), the goal is to provide enough background that either side could be a winner. In order to facilitate the discourse, a suggested beverage pairing is also included. So speak up, mix it up, and drink up.

As a freshman, Sam Howell was one of the most exciting players in all of college football. Howell threw for over 3,600 yards, had 38 passing touchdowns, a rushing touchdown, a receiving touchdown, and only threw 7 interceptions. That is a great stat line for any player, but even more impressive for a freshman who was not certain of a starting job on a rebuilding team.

Perhaps more impressive is what Howell did with the game on the line. In the fourth quarter and overtime, he had 13 of his touchdowns without throwing an interception. This is simply amazing for a team that was in a ton of close games and needed their quarterback to be at his best to win. He was.

Turning the page to the unusual season that will be fall, 2020, Tar Heel fans should be asking more than, “can Sam repeat his freshman performance?” Sights should be set higher. This could be the year that Carolina finally has a Heisman Trophy winner.

The Debate for the week of August 29: Can Sam Howell win the 2020 Heisman Trophy?

Point: This is absolutely Sam Howell’s year.

Let’s start with the novelty of playing football during a pandemic; not everyone is playing football. The field of potential competitors for the best player in the land award has already been cut almost in half. It is sure to be cut more.

Also, don’t write in the comments about the nonsense that the twelve-team Big 10 is playing. Not only do they not know math, they have also lost the concept of current events. The Big 10 made its play and hoped that everyone would follow. Instead, only the PAC 12 followed and the nation lost one or two championship participants every decade or so. We mourn the absence.

Now, the Big 10 is thinking about joining the party late. I say, must be present to win.

This brings us back to Sam Howell. Win the ACC, and he will win the Heisman.

First, there are two other highly ranked candidates in the conference. Last year, against the Heels, Trevor Lawrence went 18/30 for 206 yards and a touchdown. He also rushed 11 times for 45 yards and a touchdown. That’s a good day.

Howell went 15/27 for 144 yards and 2 touchdowns. Neither had and interception. That is also a good day. Whoever came out of that day with the victory will always be viewed as having the better day. The same is true for this year, except the match-up would be in the ACC Championship.

With so little play between conferences, the race to a championship is also the race to a Heisman. Everyone will be playing the same teams, even D’Eriq King who gets a taste of ACC defenses. The team that wins the ACC will have their quarterback win the Heisman. That’s not going to be Miami.

Fewer televised games means more eyes on Sam Howell and his late game heroics. The legend will build. The Heels will win. The Heisman is calling.

Counterpoint: Howell is likely a year away from serious consideration.

It would be helpful if this conversation were about a pre-season All American. It is not. Chazz Surratt is second team, that’s the highest ranking this year for a player with experience as a UNC quarterback.

Don’t get me wrong, Sam Howell is incredibly under-appreciated, but college football rankings are about moving up when he team or guy ahead of you loses. That’s the simple truth. The preseason rankings are far too influential on voter preference once actual games are played. Lazy voters simply say ask lost this week? Ok, they move down. Who won? Ok, the get to move up. Why is this the case? Why does the status quo of expectations based on last year’s players and school names dictate a shot at glory? Where is the provision for someone like Sam Howell who breaks on the scene as a freshman and wins the hearts of anyone actually watching college football?

Here is the despicable truth: winning the Heisman means that your team has been churning for years toward national prosperity. TV ratings draw voters’ eyes more than box scores. Carolina is just not in that game yet. Sure, there will be more eyes on the Heels this year simply because there are fewer games to watch, but many television networks do not recognize the value of excellent players on good teams versus any player on a team that looks like it could be in the SEC.

The deck is stacked against you, Sam Howell. Go prove them all wrong.

Time for you to decide!

Could Sam Howell ride off with the Heisman this year or has the decision already been made that it belongs with a national champion? But what if Carolina is the national champion? I did not hold back this week so chime in with comments.

Drink Pairing

In need of encouragement to debate – My friend discovered, again, ginger beer. It goes great with bourbon. Don’t drink it if you don’t like spice but do drink it if you enjoy drinking little sips of heaven. Larceny is the best, Devil’s Cut is second, I will take additional recommendations.