Nick Shepkowski is the editor of Fighting Irish Wire. We’re going to have a good time with Nick this season, maybe even a great time. It would be fantastic if his Irish and our Trojans are both 10-1 heading into their huge game at the Los Angeles Coliseum this Thanksgiving weekend. That would mean both teams are in the playoff hunt. What a scene that would be.
Nick wants us to be good. We want Notre Dame to be good. It’s not generosity. It’s selfishness. We want that USC-Notre Dame game to mean as much as possible.
While we wait to see how the 2022 season plays out, it’s worth noting that Nick has done (and said) something very useful and important before Week 1. Nick has reminded us about the purpose of polls and rankings.
Nick released his preseason Heisman Trophy ballot at Fighting Irish Wire. He made clear to say that he was voting on the three best players in college football when he voted for Alabama’s Will Anderson as his preseason favorite. The explicit mention of the best player in the sport is acknowledgment of that worldview:
Will Anderson, Jr. didn’t win the Heisman Trophy in 2022 but that doesn’t mean he wasn’t the best player in the land. He is the most talented of anyone in college football entering 2022. Now can he back that up again or may we have a Jadeveon Clowney type situation from a few years back?
I’m not kidding when I say I’m disappointed that literally nobody else in our straw poll put Anderson number-one.
I am usually good about saying — when I make a preseason ranking or poll — that my ranking reflects a projection of who I think will win, or whether I am ranking the actual best teams/players/etc.
In the College Wire Heisman Poll, which you can view here, I went with C.J. Stroud at No. 1, Bryce Young at No. 2, and USC’s Caleb Williams at No. 3. Those rankings are connected to projections — who I think will win the award, based on the politics and the voting patterns of the award.
Nick Shepkowski has reminded me to be clear about how and why I present various rankings.
If I was to identify the best player in college football, yes, I would also identify Will Anderson as the best player in the sport. I would also note that Bryce Young did not deserve to win the Heisman last year. He was not even one of the four best players in the sport. Aidan Hutchinson of Michigan deserved to win the Heisman. Anderson deserved it more than Young did among Alabama players.
Kenneth Walker of Michigan State deserved it more. Kenny Pickett of Pitt deserved it more.
Young won because the Heisman, as it exists in a political context, rewards the starting QB on a team in the College Football Playoff. Like it or not, that’s what the Heisman rewards these days. Bryce Young was better than Stetson Bennett of Georgia, Cade McNamara of Michigan, and Desmond Ridder of Cincinnati (the other three playoff teams), so he won the award.
That doesn’t mean he was the best player. It frankly wasn’t even a close call.
Thank you, Nick Shepkowski, for reminding me and all of us that we should be clear in distinguishing between handicapping an award winner (projections of who will win) and identifying the actual best player (raw evaluation of performance) when making rankings.
We all need to do that in this industry.