2022 Heisman Trophy Candidates: Mid-American Conference
In 2021, the Mid-American Conference season did not fulfill preseason expectations. The season took a lot of wild twists and turns, with Kent State surprising everyone and winning the MAC East Division championship. Northern Illinois went on the road and upset Toledo to win the MAC West title, while defending conference champion Ball State crashed and burned. The 2022 season feels like a complete jump ball, with lots of teams in the hunt for the MAC championship. Within that cluttered and confusing context, here are the four players with the best, most realistic chance of making a run at a Heisman Trophy finalist’s berth in December at the Downtown Athletic Club in New York.
Lew Nichols, Running Back, Central Michigan
Central Michigan scored the Mid-American Conference’s biggest, best, and most important bowl win of the 2021 college football postseason when it upset Washington State of the Pac-12 in the Sun Bowl. The MAC beating the Pac-12 was and is a very big deal for the conference and for Central Michigan. The Chippewas can use that bowl win as a catapult and springboard to a big 2022 season. If CMU does indeed produce a great 2022 regular season, complete with a MAC West Division championship, the odds are that running back Lew Nichols will have an eye-popping stat line and a series of high-impact performances. If this overall scenario comes to pass, Nichols will then be able to play in the MAC Championship Game and give himself a platform from which he can make a final Heisman Trophy statement. Remember this about the Heisman: It is handed out on the second Saturday of December every year. Players in small conferences such as the MAC need to be playing on the first Saturday of December so that they are centrally visible and get more television and media coverage. Not being on that first Saturday of December (for the MAC Championship Game) would be a crushing blow to their Heisman chances. Nichols needs to lift Central Michigan to that game in Detroit. The other players on this list similarly need to reach the MAC Championship Game to have a real shot at the award.
Hassan Beydoun, Wide Receiver, Eastern Michigan
The senior receiver is one of the most proven players in the MAC entering 2022. Beydoun needs to not only meet, but exceed, the expectations attached to him. If Eastern Michigan doesn’t win the MAC West Division championship, Beydoun’s Heisman stock will decline. Given how difficult it will be for the Eagles to win their division, Beydoun needs to think less about stats and more about making huge highlight-reel plays which carry EMU to the top of the standings. That is where – and how – he can make his biggest move.
Marquez Cooper, Running Back, Kent State
The Kent State Golden Flashes surprised everyone by winning the MAC East title last year. They need to repeat that feat this year, but then take the next step of winning the MAC championship, for Cooper to get a serious look at the Heisman. Kent State was blown out by Northern Illinois in last year’s MAC title game. The Golden Flashes need to avenge that loss and elevate Cooper’s national profile for Heisman voters.
DeQuan Finn, Quarterback, Toledo
DeQuan Finn struggled for Toledo in an ugly Bahamas Bowl loss to Middle Tennessee last December. He was visibly frustrated during that game. He has had a full offseason to think about that game and what he needs to do to improve. If he takes the lessons provided by that game to heart, he can have an explosive and dynamic 2022 season which puts him on the Heisman radar in early December.