Drake Maye is the best quarterback in college football.
There, I said it.
Maye is, by all measures, in the midst of a historic season for UNC. And with the two odds-on favorites to win the Heisman Trophy — Tennessee’s Hendon Hooker and Ohio State’s C.J. Stroud — both coming off disappointing performances, the time is finally right to make the ‘Maye for Heisman’ push.
Heisman voters tend to like a few things in a candidate.
First, the panel loves statistical dominance. And Maye’s season has been nothing but dominant. The first-year quarterback is on pace to throw for 3,952 yards and 41 touchdowns — both UNC records. He leads the nation in passing touchdowns through nine games with 31 and is second only to Oregon quarterback Bo Nix in total scores, with 35 to Nix’s 36. He’s fifth in the FBS in passing yards and second in passer rating. Not to mention, Maye’s done all of this while facing five top-50 defenses. Statistically, Drizzy is second to none.
Another thing the 928-person voting body wants to see? A pedigree.
The Heisman award tends to find its way back to programs with a history of success. Of the last 10 Heisman winners, eight came from a program with at least 3 national championships. Schools with a history of success tend to get more spotlights on their players and more time in the national eye. While UNC doesn’t have the illustrious college football history of an Ohio State or a Michigan, the Tar Heels do have two important things: an easily recognizable national brand and a Hall of Fame coach.
Mack Brown has over 270 career wins and a BCS Championship under his belt. He’s top-20 all time in career wins, placing him among the likes of coaches like Frank Beamer and Nick Saban. His iconic postgame dances get plastered all over Instagram each football season. Brown’s presence at the program has helped ensure fans get plenty of chances to watch the Tar Heels at work.
The third vital aspect of any Heisman campaign is the narrative. Hooker has been the Heisman betting favorite so far because of Tennessee’s unexpected dominance. Stroud was a preseason favorite and the quarterback of one of the most NFL-ready offenses in the country. The narrative is just as — if not more — important than any of the on-the-field numbers a potential Heisman winner can put up. Luckily, Maye has a narrative claim among the best in the country. Not only is Maye the young leader of a UNC team that has been shattering analyst expectations, he’s the brother of Tar Heel legend Luke Maye. Seeing Drake Maye enshrined next to his brother in UNC sports history would make even the most stoic Tar Heel fan shed a tear.
Do I believe Drake Maye will win the Heisman Trophy? Well, it’s far from a surefire thing.
Stroud is still the quarterback of an undefeated CFP contender. Bo Nix has reinserted himself into the conversation as the season has continued. And Michigan’s Blake Corum could be the first running back to win the award since 2015. But if Maye keeps playing the way he has through nine games, don’t be shocked to see him on that podium in December.
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