Heisman Watch: The recent performances of Notre Dame QB Ian Book can't be ignored

Nick Bromberg
·5 min read

Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly was fired up about quarterback Ian Book after the Fighting Irish’s win over North Carolina on Friday.

Kelly called out an article from a national newspaper that didn’t include Book as one of the top 10 QBs in the country.

“They listed the top 10 quarterbacks in college football and they didn’t even list Ian,” Kelly said in his postgame news conference. “So he’s got a little fuel, he’s got a little chip on his shoulder as well. He won the matchup [Friday].”

Book was great again against the Tar Heels as Notre Dame improved to 9-0 in 2020. His stat line wasn’t as good as some of the other QBs in the country — Book was 23-of-33 passing for 279 yards and a touchdown while rushing for 48 yards — but he produced the most memorable play of the weekend with his backhanded flip to TE Michael Mayer.

Somehow this ended up as a completion. (via ABC)
Somehow this ended up as a completion. (via ABC)

It’s no coincidence that Notre Dame has emerged as a serious threat for the national title as Book’s play has gotten better and better in 2020. After failing to throw for 200 yards in two of Notre Dame’s first four games, Book has thrown for over 275 yards in four of the Irish’s most recent five. And he’s thrown at least one TD pass in five straight games.

He’s also a serious threat to hurt opposing defenses on the ground. Book has rushed for 412 yards in 2020 and has rushed for at least 40 yards in each of Notre Dame’s last seven games.

Is Book going to win the Heisman? Probably not. His stats aren’t eye-popping like Kyle Trask, Trevor Lawrence or even Mac Jones. But consider him the 2020 version of what AJ McCarron was in 2013.

Over 20 QBs threw for more yards than McCarron in his senior season, 14 had more passing touchdowns, 11 had a better completion percentage and 10 averaged more yards per attempt. But McCarron finished second in the Heisman voting that season because he was a very good QB on a fantastic football team.

That’s why it’s not going to be a surprise if Book is a Heisman finalist. Especially if Notre Dame beats Clemson in the ACC championship game.

Notre Dame quarterback Ian Book (12) scrambles against North Carolina during the first half of an NCAA college football game in Chapel Hill, N.C., Friday, Nov. 27, 2020. (AP Photo/Gerry Broome)
Notre Dame quarterback Ian Book played well against North Carolina on Friday. (AP Photo/Gerry Broome)

1. Kyle Trask, QB, Florida (LW: 1)

Trask did absolutely nothing to hinder his Heisman hopes in an easy win over Kentucky on Saturday. Trask was 21-of-27 passing for 256 yards and three touchdowns. He hasn’t thrown an interception in nearly a month and has completed over 74 percent of his passes in each of his last three games. His Heisman odds reflect his sustained success. He’s the prohibitive betting favorite. Odds: -130

2. Trevor Lawrence, QB, Clemson (LW: 3)

Welcome back, Trevor. Lawrence played for the first time since he tested positive for COVID-19 in a win over Pitt on Saturday. Lawrence had just the second 400-yard passing game of his career has he was 26-of-37 passing for 403 yards and two touchdowns against the Panthers. Lawrence has now thrown 19 touchdowns to just two interceptions in 2020. Odds: +800

3. Mac Jones, QB, Alabama (LW: 4)

Jones has some great betting odds. His disadvantage may be the talent around him on the Alabama offense even without Jaylen Waddle. But it’s hard to argue with Jones’ performance. He had his first five-TD game of the season against Auburn as he was 18-of-26 for 302 yards and those five scores. Odds: +200

4. Justin Fields, QB, Ohio State (LW: 2)

Fields was always at a disadvantage to players in other conferences because of Ohio State’s eight-game regular season schedule. And now that’s down to six games after the Illinois cancellation. Assuming Fields and Ohio State play Michigan State, Michigan and Northwestern over the next three weeks, there’s plenty of time for Fields to put himself back in the Heisman mix. But it’s hard to see him close to the top two right now. Odds: +1400

5. Ian Book, QB, Notre Dame (LW: NR)

Like McCarron in 2013, Book is in his third season as a starter. While he threw for 34 TDs as a junior in 2019, he also doesn’t have receivers like Chase Claypool on his team in 2020. Plus he’s averaging nearly a yard more per passing attempt and is completing a greater percentage of his passes in 2020 than he did a season ago. Odds: +4000

Also considered

Breece Hall, RB, Iowa State

Hall’s streak of 100-yard games in 2020 came to an end on Friday in the Cyclones’ win over Texas. Hall had 20 carries for 91 yards as he failed to crack triple-digits for the first time all season. Hall did score a TD to keep his streak of scoring a TD in each of ISU’s nine games this season alive.

Desmond Ridder, QB, Cincinnati

Ridder didn’t have a chance to boost his Heisman stock after Thanksgiving as Cincinnati’s game vs. Temple was canceled. The Bearcats are off this upcoming weekend and play at Tulsa on Dec. 12.

DeVonta Smith, WR, Alabama

Smith caught at least two touchdown passes for the third consecutive game against Auburn. Smith had seven catches for 171 yards and two scores in Alabama’s win over Auburn. Smith now has 72 catches for 1,074 yards and 12 TDs and has also scored a rushing TD in 2020.

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