2022 Heisman Trophy Candidates: Mountain West Conference

In the larger scheme of things, the Mountain West Conference is probably the conference where Heisman contenders begin to become realistic. What that means is that if a Mountain West Conference player has a spectacular year – not just very good, but truly amazing and overwhelmingly impressive – he will get a serious look at the Heisman. Several years ago, a Mid-American Conference quarterback named Jordan Lynch of Northern Illinois was able to finish third in the Heisman voting and earn a date to the Heisman Trophy ceremony in New York. That was 2013. The odds are stacked against these lower-conference schools and players, but in the Mountain West, it’s more realistic that something can happen.

Marshall Faulk of San Diego State, a Mountain West school, was second in the 1992 Heisman Trophy voting. Ty Detmer of Brigham Young, a school which used to be in the Mountain West, won the Heisman in 1990. It’s very hard to see anyone from Conference USA or the Sun Belt making a legitimate run at the Heisman in this season or any other year, for that matter, but in the Mountain West, it is a lot more realistic. With that in mind, let’s look at the four top candidates.

Jake Haener, Quarterback, Fresno State

For the Heisman hopefuls at the very small schools from Conference USA or the Sun Belt, winning the conference championship is a must. Making the conference championship game is a must as well. There really is no margin for error in terms of conference achievements. Players from those conferences have to be seen as much as possible, and they have to achieve as much as possible. In the Mountain West, it is still true that a conference title would go a long, long way toward boosting a player’s Heisman stock, but it isn’t 100-percent necessary. This is because the Mountain West schools play high-profile opponents in nonconference games.

Jake Haener defeated UCLA last season, 40-37, in one of the best performances from any quarterback in 2021. Haener now gets to play USC and Lincoln Riley in 2022. If he can lead Fresno State to an upset by playing extremely well in that game, he will get some Heisman consideration. If he can continue to play well through the rest of the season (the USC game is on Sept. 17), Haener will get more votes. Winning a conference championship, in addition to beating USC in brilliant fashion, might give Haener enough of a portfolio to shock the world and become a Heisman finalist.

Brad Roberts, Running Back, Air Force

The Air Force defense carried the team last year, but that defense loses six of 11 starters this season, meaning that the Falcons will need to rely a lot more on their offense in 2022. If Air Force wins the Mountain West’s Mountain Division, Roberts might at least get some consideration from Heisman voters, but at a service academy, the other thing a player needs to do to get Heisman love is to win the Commander-In-Chief’s Trophy, the prize given out to the team which wins both games against the other two academies. If Air Force can win the CIC Trophy by beating Army and Navy, while also winning its division and conference championships, Roberts might be able to sneak into New York in December.

Titus Swen, Running Back, Wyoming

Wyoming’s offense was inconsistent last year, and the Cowboys failed to win their division. If Wyoming can significantly improve from 2021 and capture the Mountain West Mountain Division championship, Swen might have a real shot at the stiff-arm trophy.

Jalen Cropper, Wide Receiver, Fresno State

Jake Haener is Fresno State’s best Heisman contender, but it is true for a number of teams that if a high-profile quarterback has a great year, a high-profile receiver on that same offense will also have a great year. When a great quarterback and a great receiver coexist on the same roster, the receiver needs to make tremendous catches with a high degree of difficulty so that Heisman voters clearly see that the receiver, not the QB, is doing most of the work.

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