The Book On Book: Underappreciated Heisman Contender?
By Joe Kerrigan
The 22-year-old QB at Notre Dame University is in his final senior year. Coming from an affluent district of Sacramento, California, he has one of the highest winning percentages in college football over the last decade and is the number one all-time winningest quarterback for the Fighting Irish. But will Ian Book be truly recognised for his achievements or become another under-appreciated generational talent?
South Bend Superstar
Ian Book was lightly recruited coming out of Oak Ridge High School, based in El Dorado Hills, California and whilst initially committing to Washington State, decided to change his commitment to Notre Dame before the 2016 season.
Book has been the starter at Notre Dame for three straight years after a redshirt during his freshman season and only played two games the following year. At Notre Dame, Book boasts 30 career wins with his 45-21 victory over Syracuse, the most in the school’s history -and the Irish are 30-3 with the shot caller at the helm.
When you consider the greats that have come before Book, like Brady Quinn, Jimmy Clausen and Joe Montana, it really puts into perspective how impressive this feat really is.
Over the last 10 seasons, the only quarterbacks with a better career record are Trevor Lawrence, Tua Tagovailoa, Deshaun Watson, Jameis Winston and Justin Fields. Four of them have won a national championship and Fields was a runner up for the Heisman last year – all good signs for Book.
Comparing The Stats
Notre dame finished the regular season with a perfect 10-0 record, making this season second time in three years the Irish have finished with an undefeated record.
But when we delve deeper into Book’s 2020 season and compare his achievements to other QB’s gunning for the top award in college football, the stats speak volumes.
Considering Book’s stellar record this season and a good performance against ranked teams, his season stats do not compare well to the other QB’s this season. Book has the lowest quarterback rating, lowest passing yards per game and lowest total yards.
He is tied with Justin Fields on touchdown passes (15), despite Fields playing half as many games and also has the second lowest total touchdowns.
An area that Book has been criticised on in the past is his performance in big games, but in 2020, he has played extremely well, especially against ranked opponents. His huge fourth quarter comeback against Clemson was the kind of ‘Heisman moment’ that he needed to boost his contention.
However, considering his victories in both games, his stats just don’t compare to the top contenders like Kyle Trask or Mac Jones. For example, in Book’s last two ranked opponent fixtures, he totalled 704 yards (passing and rushing) and 2 total touchdowns. Whereas the top performers, Trask and Jones, totalled 785 yards and 8 touchdowns and 830 and 8 touchdowns respectively.
So frankly, the thing that hurts Book’s Heisman candidacy, are his stats. He is part of an offense that is not built for him to put up the same numbers as the top contenders, with a strong focus on the run game rather than a traditional air-raid style.
Therefore, to finally answer the question, should Ian Book be a legitimate Heisman Trophy contender? In my opinion looking at his stats and his average performance against poor teams (Duke, USF, Louisville, Georgia Tech) I believe the answer is no, but there is perhaps still hope.
On December 19th, Book will face Clemson again for the ACC title game at the Bank of America Stadium in Carolina. This will be a huge test for the Irish QB; last time he went toe to toe with DJ Uiagalelei, a terrific talent but a QB starting just his scond game. The re-match will see him pit his wits against Trevor Lawrence, widely regarded as the greatest quarterback in college football and next year’s presumed number one pick in the NFL Draft. If Book can lead Notre Dame to another victory over the Tigers, it will make his overall numbers look much better and add another big game performance to his name.
A win here would all but solidify Heisman contention and potentially knock the once deemed ‘number one overall pick’ out of the top three.
The Irish defense and running game were good enough to carry to a 6-0 start, despite Book not playing good football. It could not, however, win all of its final four games without Book being at his best, and he was certainly that.