Gerrymander, noun. In U.S. politics, the dividing of a state, county, etc., into election districts so as to give one political party a majority in many districts while concentrating the voting strength of the other party into as few districts as possible.dictionary.com
Given the nation is in the midst of an election cycle, it is likely the word, “gerrymander,” will come up in conversation.
There is a form of gerrymandering happening in college football, but it is purely by circumstance.
It is simply how the nation’s players are divided into parts of the country. In some regions, there are many candidates worthy of the Heisman Trophy. In others, not so much.
The voters are more democratic. There are 145 voters in each of six regions – the Northeast, Mid-Atlantic, Midwest, South, Southwest and Far West. Also, the 59 previous winners get a vote as well as one fan vote.
It is where the players are that makes the voting have a hint of fratricide.
So, before the 2019 season kicks off, go ahead and award the Heisman Trophy to Jalen Hurts.
This has nothing with where the voters are located – they are equally distributed. The players who might win the Heisman are not.
It is because in the Southwest, except for possibly Texas quarterback Sam Ehlinger, Hurts is the only selection because he will have more wins and better statistics than the Longhorn quarterback.
In the other regions, too many players are going to split votes where Hurts will not have that problem.
The Far West
In the Far West, Oregon’s quarterback Justin Herbert will split votes with Washington’s Jacob Eason and possibly Southern Cal’s J.T. Daniels.
Herbert’s Ducks open with Auburn this season and if he puts big numbers up against the Tigers, he will be in the discussion early.
If Eason regains the form, he had at Georgia pre-Jake Fromm, he will have some of the lofty stats the voters love.
Daniels has the luxury of playing in the Los Angeles media market and he will have the national spotlight when the Trojans play Notre Dame.
But a problem with the players in the Pacific time zone is their night games don’t kickoff until the voters and many of the fans have already had 12 straight hours of football and they turn off the television.
So, the combination of splitting the vote and most of the country not seeing their night games makes a Pac-12 player fade later in the season.
In the Midwest, it is a given Notre Dame will have its candidate. This year it is quarterback Ian Book. Michigan will trot out Shea Patterson and Ohio State’s media relations department will promote the Buckeyes’ flavor-of-the-month.
Here is the problem with the Midwest candidates: They won’t win enough games impressively.
Notre Dame not only plays at Georgia but Book also must go head-to-head with Patterson. One of them is going to take a loss and if it is Book that could be two if the Irish lose to Georgia. In other words, Book could be out of the running by Halloween.
Patterson has the flair to win the Heisman, but during Jim Harbaugh’s tenure in Ann Arbor, the Wolverines have under-performed, and they will lose a game or two they shouldn’t. It could happen again.
As for Ohio State, for them to have a candidate, he will have to put up big numbers in the first three games against Florida Atlantic, Cincinnati and Indiana. But then, whomever the guy is, he will probably fade during conference play.
In any event, it is unlikely we will have a winner from the Midwest.
In the northeast, Pitt’s quarterback Kenny Pickett threw for nearly 2,000 yards last year, but the Panthers say they are going to run the ball this season.
Boston College’s Anthony Brown did throw for 2,000 yards last season and an easy early schedule will help him. But his candidacy should end in October beneath a bunch of orange jerseys at Clemson.
Other than Pickett and Brown, Penn State has no one. Nor does Rutgers. Nor does Syracuse. Nor does anyone else.
The Mid-Atlantic is interesting.
Geographically, some ACC teams are in the Mid-Atlantic. But some are in the Northeast and some in the South. That leaves only a few schools in the region.
Apart from Sam Hartman at Wake Forest and Virginia’s Bryce Perkins, there is not much smoking on Tobacco Road.
Maryland does have a 1,000-yard running back in Anthony McFarland, Jr., but the Terps are not going to be very good.
In addition, Hartman also gets that Clemson defense and the Cavaliers just won’t win enough games.
That brings us to the South where the real carnage will take place.
Trevor Lawrence, fresh off beating the tar out of Alabama for the national title and sporting the Fabio-like locks, looks to be one of the Heisman favorites as a sophomore.
Fromm will put up a bunch of stats for Georgia. The Bulldogs also should win the SEC East again and Fromm gets to play Notre Dame between the hedges in front of a national audience. Those factors should get voters’ attention should he perform well.
There is a possibility a non-quarterback sneaks into the mix. Florida State has lightning in a bottle in the form of tailback Cam Akers. If the Seminoles bounce back from a down year and Akers runs for a boatload of yards, he could turn heads.
Then we get to Alabama. Tua Tagovailoa is a front runner for the award, but he has competition in his own huddle. Wide receiver Jerry Jeudy caught 68 passes last year for 1,315 yards and 14 touchdowns. He could provide just the kind of Sportscenter highlights voters love.
So, breaking down the south, the Carolinas vote for Lawrence, Georgia and probably parts of Tennessee go with Fromm, some of Florida goes with Akers and Alabama splits between the two Crimson Tide playmakers.
That leaves south Florida, Mississippi, Louisiana and Arkansas up for grabs for the five southern candidates.
But don’t forget, those votes don’t have to stay in the South. Some of those votes, along with the ones from the other five regions will go to a player with nearly no regional competition.
This is not to say Hurts is not deserving. He will put up astronomical numbers and in all likelihood lead Oklahoma to the college football playoffs.
But he will benefit from being the only viable candidate in his region.
Jalen start writing your speech.
Steve Barnes brings the trifecta to sports journalism. He has served in the sports information departments at three universities and in media relations for three professional franchises, he has written for several newspapers, including having been a college football beat writer for the Montgomery Advertiser, and he has broadcasted both college and professional sports. Online he has written for Rivals.com, Football.com and SaturdayDownSouth.com.
He resides ten minutes from the beach in his hometown of Pensacola, Fla., because he has a brain and good taste.