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The Heisman Trophy Has a Surprise Favorite: a Wide Receiver

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The Heisman Trophy will be handed out Tuesday night, a month later than usual in a college football season in which almost nothing has turned out quite as expected.

Here are four ways this season’s ceremony will be different.

Who’s the biggest star in college football? Most fans and experts would say Trevor Lawrence, the Clemson quarterback. Who’s going to go No. 1 in the N.F.L. draft? Probably Lawrence.

So Lawrence has to be the Heisman favorite, right? Guess again. Although he led Clemson to a 10-2 record and a spot in the College Football Playoff semifinals, and while he is one of the four finalists announced, and while quarterbacks have won in nine of the last 10 years, Lawrence is not expected to win. Bookmakers are quoting him as a 7-to-1 underdog.

And we already know that Justin Fields, the Ohio State quarterback and another preseason favorite, won’t win. He finished seventh in the voting.

DeVonta Smith of Alabama is a big favorite. That’s notable because he plays wide receiver.

The Heisman has recently gone almost exclusively to quarterbacks — 17 times in the last 20 years. In the other three years, the award went to running backs. The last receiver to win was in 1991: Desmond Howard of Michigan. Howard is now 50 years old.

Tim Brown of Notre Dame in 1987 and Johnny Rodgers of Nebraska in 1972 are the only other wide receivers to win the award, which dates to 1935.

Smith has caught 105 passes for 1,641 yards and 20 touchdowns this season. Like Lawrence, he is a surefire top-five pick in the N.F.L. draft.

Alabama quarterback Mac Jones, who was on the passing end of most of Smith’s yards and touchdowns, is also a finalist, and their Crimson Tide teammate Najee Harris, a running back, finished fifth in the voting by news media members and previous winners.

Only Ohio State in 1973 (John Hicks, Archie Griffin and Randy Gradishar) and Army in 1946 (Glenn Davis, Doc Blanchard and Arnie Tucker) have matched that feat.

Not incidentally, Alabama is 12-0 and favored to beat Ohio State in the national championship game next Monday.

The fourth finalist is Florida quarterback Kyle Trask.

For years, the Heisman was presented with a certain stuffy charm at the venerable Downtown Athletic Club in Manhattan. More recently, the event has been held at a Broadway theater.

Not this year. The award will be announced at a much less glamorous location, ESPN’s studios in Bristol, Conn., starting at 7:30 p.m. Eastern time. All four finalists will appear via video.

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