Trevor Lawrence entered the 2020 season as the odds-on favorite to take home the first-ever Heisman Trophy in Clemson history.
Through the first six games of the season, Lawrence did nothing to change that narrative. As All Clemson’s deputy editor Brad Senkiw wrote, after Lawrence’s performance against Syracuse he was still the man to beat.
“(Lawrence) took a step back last week with his second interceptions of the season, which resulted in a defensive touchdown return,” Senkiw wrote. “Despite his lowest completion percentage (62.8) and QB rating (129.9) of the year, he's still completing 70 percent of his passes and has 17 touchdowns throws to two picks. He leads the ACC in yards per game and is the undisputed leader of the No. 1 team in college football.”
However, all of that changed last week.
Lawrence became the first major name to fall victim to 2020’s silent opponent—COVID-19. After head coach Dabo Swinney, announced that Lawrence would miss this week’s game against Notre Dame, Lawrence went from a favorite at +125 —as Ohio State's Justin Fields and Alabama's Mac Jones both jumped into the top spot at +150.
Those numbers, combined with the fact that Lawrence is going to miss the biggest game of the college football season, makes it likely that the Tigers will again finish a season without a Heisman Trophy in their ever-increasing trophy case.
But will it last more than a couple of seasons? No.
Because the first Heisman Trophy winner in Clemson history will be D.J. U Uiagalelei.
CBS Sports’ Dennis Dodd already stated the case that Uiagalelei will be better than Lawrence.
"He's a tremendous athlete, and after seeing his arm, it's stronger than Trevor Lawrence and it looks like he's a better runner," Dodd said during an appearance on CBS Sports HQ.
Dodd is not the only person that believes that Uiagalelei can be better than Lawrence. Swinney stated during the Tigers’ shortened spring practice that he made Lawrence look average.
"He sometimes makes Trevor just kind of look normal with his ability to just rip the football," Swinney said in the spring. "And we know what type of arm Trevor has, I have never seen a guy quite like him. He is very unique.”
In his first start, last Saturday against Boston College, Uiagalelei completed 30-of-41 passes for 342 yards and two touchdowns while adding a 30-yard touchdown run.
Clearly, Lawrence will return to the starting job as soon as he is healthy, but that does not mean that the 2021 Heisman Campaign for Uiagalelei cannot begin Saturday night under the watchful eyes of “Touchdown Jesus”–especially if he is able to lead the Tigers to a victory.