The Heisman race has seemed to favor the running back this year, with LSU’s Leonard Fournette, Ohio State’s Ezekiel Elliott, and Georgia’s Nick Chubb garnering serious consideration, while TCU quarterback Trevone Boykin and has also emerged as a big favorite to take home that rather large bronze trophy.
There are other outside candidates as well, including USC’s defensive back Adore’e Jackson, Texas Tech quarterback Pat Mahones, and Texas A&M defensive end Myles Garret, but on all the watch lists out there on the collective Internet, there is one name that is noticicibly missing: Bowling Green quarterback Matt Johnson.
Johnson has been the starter for the Falcons for the past three seasons, and helped take Bowling Green to the MAC title in 2013, before ultimately losing in the final Pizza Bowl against the Pitt Panthers. Over his career prior to this season, Johnson accumulated 3,611 yards, 27 touchdowns, and seven interceptions, with one of those seasons (2014) being cut short after one game with a season-ending hip injury. Those numbers were mostly achieved in Dave Clauson’s multiple system offense, which was dependent on a few playmakers, rather than playing by a consistent system.
This season, the expectations were huge for Johnson, who had a whole season to learn Dino Babers’ “Baylor Lite” Air Raid attack that turned Eastern Illinois’ Jimmy Garappollo into 2nd round NFL material in a single season. In his first season as the starter, Johnson had 3,467 yards and was pretty much unstoppable in the air, throwing 25 passing touchdowns. Johnson also showed promise in his only appearance in 2014, throwing for 313 yards and a touchdown on the road against Western Kentucky in one half before suffering what would be a season-ending injury.
Why are these numbers so important? Because Matt Johnson has is already close to matching his 2013 yards this season… in five games.
In the young season, Johnson has an NCAA-high 2,084 yards passing, slinging 14 touchdowns and only two interceptions along the way. BGSU did not play any FCS foes this season, and the Bowling Green Falcons picked up wins against two Power Five teams, including an absolute shellacking of Maryland and a squeaker against a pesky Purdue squad that recently gave No. 5 Michigan State a run for their money.
BGSU also hung tough against a Memphis team that has received Top 25 consideration, and gave Tennessee a scare on a neutral field for at least a while. Johnson has been playing better than any MAC expert could have imagined, with Johnson currently averaging an impressive 416.8 passing yards and 2.8 touchdowns per game, proving himself to be one of the most efficient quarterbacks in the nation.
The most interesting part about Johnson’s Heisman campaign is that there is room for improvement. BGSU has owned the MAC East the last two seasons, and the division is once again weak this year. BGSU also faces four teams that rank in the bottom half of the FBS in passing defenses, with three of those ranked 90th or lower, including No. 24 Toledo (93rd), Miami of Ohio (114th) and Ball State (115th). Johnson has led the Falcons to be the second -best passing offense in the nation (behind only Texas Tech) and the eight-best in total offensive efficiency
The arguments against him are the strength of schedule and the fact that he didn’t dominate in his first conference matchup. However, those are arguments that are going to occur for any candidate from the Group of Five. Football is results-oriented, and the numbers speak for themselves. One more big game from Johnson should give him the Heisman hype that he rightly deserves.