Introducing The First Annual Heisman Trophy Candidate Deathmatch

Determining champions in college football has long been an inexact science. We’ve ridded ourselves of the evil BCS supercomputers, now let’s let the ballers decide the Heisman Trophy themselves. To help do this, Elbow Deep presents the First Annual Heisman Candidate Deathmatch, an unarmed combat tournament to determine the most worthy football warrior in college football.


After watching Tyson Fury’s win over now-former heavyweight boxing champion Wladimir Klitschko on November 28th – a boring, messy bout featuring flailing haymakers and excessive wind sucking – I couldn’t help but feel that something was missing. This sentiment was not unique. Fury’s post-match Aerosmith cover and mocking of the Klitschko camp was good promo for a rematch, but the fight itself was a snoozer.

That same night featured some incredible Week 13 college football. One week later, college football’s conference championship showcase was equally impressive. As an impartial viewer at Blondies – the Upper West Side basecamp for Sparty fans in NYC – I can safely say that no virgin eardrums were left un-fucked following Michigan State’s go-ahead touchdown in Indianapolis.

NCAA football this year has shat all over the underwhelming NFL product while introducing fans to several superstars. Last week, Christian McCaffrey ran rampant on USC, winning the Pac-12 championship and breaking Barry Sanders’ 26-year old NCAA record for all purpose yardage in the process. Two other backs – Zeke Elliot and Dalvin Cook – had the week off, but spent the week prior two-stepping all over the Fighting Harbaughs and Florida Gators, respectively. Derrick Henry furthered his claim as the baddest man in football. Henry, the leading Heisman candidate, displays a mesmerizing combination of physicality and elusiveness has been impossible to stop for a full 48 minutes.

As for quarterbacks, Deshaun Watson just led Clemson to its first undefeated season since 1981. Navy’s Keenan Reynolds has dominated both the air and ground attack for the 9-2 Midshipmen.  Oklahoma’s Baker Mayfield – the rare white boy so smooth that he managed to whip and nae nae all over the Internet without simultaneously killing the trend –  clinched a spot in the College Football Playoff.

Oh, and don’t forget about everyone’s Heisman favorite for two-thirds of the season, Leonard Fournette. LSU struggled in Novemeber, but Fournette went off again in Week 13, rushing for 160 yards and a score. He also sports the most aggressive adult braces/bald head/beard look of all time.

Point is, these dudes are insane athletes. They’re physical specimens (Reynolds is the smallest of the bunch at 5’11/205) who dominate their sport. But if put to the ultimate test, who would persevere?  Sure, since the beginning of time, coaches have preached “winning with class” and told players to “leave it on the field,” but sometimes you just gotta drop the Nike Vapor Knits.

I propose that the Heisman Trophy be (hypothetically) awarded to the candidate that truly earns it. I demand bloodshed.  A Heisman Trophy Deathmatch, of sorts. Something tells me that placing a pair of college football’s finest in the ring would make for a much better spectacle than UFC 526 or a title defense by boxing’s biggest blowhard.

To emphasize on-field play, the tournament will be seeded based on each candidates odds to win the award.  For functionality sake, we’ll borrow Bellator’s 8-man tournament model.

#1 Derrick Henry (RB Alabama)*** – 2/7

#2 Christian McCaffrey (RB Stanford)*** – 2/1

#3 Deshaun Watson (QB Clemson)*** – 10/1

#4 Leonard Fournette (RB LSU) – 20/1

#5 Keenan Reynolds (QB NAVY) – 22/1

#6 Baker Mayfield (QB Oklahoma) – 25/1

#7 Dalvin Cook (RB Florida State) – 25/1

#8 Ezekiel Elliot (RB Ohio State) – 40/1

*** Henry, McCaffrey, and Watson were named the three Heisman finalists invited to New York City.

So, who ya got?  Will it be runaway manslaughter by Henry or Fournette, or will Mayfield prove that those countless Point Break viewings in the Delta Epsilon chapter room actually had tangible value? Don’t sleep on the serviceman either, folks. Keenan Reynolds is liable to submit the field.

In the end, the question is simple: Which of college football’s brightest stars would make the best brawler?  Let’s discuss.

 mankind cage match

 – Round 1, Quarterfinals

  • #1 Henry over #8 Elliot

Huge start to our Heisman Deathmatch. This is like one of those classic 1 vs 8 March Madness matchups where the lower seed is a powerhouse program that just happened to get bounced from its conference tourney early.  Think UNC or UCLA hoops every other season.

At 40/1, Elliot is the longest shot to win the trophy, but he’s still a monster. Zeke was last season’s playoff MVP and followed up with one of the best rushing seasons in Buckeye history this year.

But this is about bloodsport.  At 6’/225, Elliot’s sturdy base, speed, and agility are his strengths, but they’re offset by Henry. The fight game is all about matchups, and Derrick Henry is basically a bigger, stronger version of Elliot.

At 6’3/240, Henry is the Megladon of the field.  More than the advantage in size, Henry has the upper hand in mentality, too. Elliot’s Buckeyes looked sluggish all season and he did some whining after OSU’s first loss of the year. Bama, on the other hand, fell to Ole Miss early and has been a wrecking ball ever since. Henry gets better every weekend while carrying a massive workload. The man can’t be stopped for more than a quarter of football; no chance he’s losing in the first round of the Heisman Candidate Deathmatch.  Put these two in the ring and it’s only a matter of time until Henry turns it into a ground-and-pound bloodbath.

I mean, come on.

Sorry, Elliot. You’re dead.

  • #5 Reynolds over #4 Fournette

keenan reynolds               fournette

Another big-time match in the first round. Unlike the 1 vs 8, Reynolds/Fournette pits two players fighters of different style against each other. I’d look for Fournette to charge Reynolds like a bull in a china shop. He’ll want to get the little man on the floor and use those elbows. Fournette is a beast but he’s taken a pounding this season and can be stopped by a tough, agile defense (e.g. Bama). Plus, beneath that Maybach Music exterior is just a polite kid from Nawlins. Leo is no Jeremy Hill.

fournette gif

PREDICTION: Something tells me that Reynolds has done some sparring in Annapolis.  I like Reynolds to dodge Fournette’s charges, pepper the big man with jabs until he wears down, then catch him with some lighting to the chin. Big tree fall hard. It’s lights out for the Bayou Bengal.


  • #6 Mayfield over #3 Watson

Ahhh, a good old fashioned quarterback fight. Two high-character cats with great work ethic and unique paths to success.  I’d be willing to bet, though, that neither of these bros have scrapped since middle school.  Actually, I take that back. Mayfield definitely emasculated Davis Webb at some point during the 2013 Texas Tech season, but that was probably more of a locker room teabag session than an actual fight.

Both of these gunslingers are praised for their poise in the pocket, toughness, and ability to create plays with their legs.  Watson is definitely the superior athlete, but Mayfield can move, as well.

This fight goes the distance and I’m making a decision based purely on background.  Watson has been a star all his life. Four-year high school starter, heir apparent behind Tahj Boyd, and surefire NFL draft pick. That’s not a bad thing, but Mayfield is more of a scratch-and-clawer. No scholarships coming out of high school. First ever true freshmen walk-on to start at a BCS school (Texas Tech). After soaking up Kliff Kingsbury’s swag, he transfers to OU – without telling Bob Stoops – sits out a year, and takes the job from Trevor Knight.

I’d expect most QBs to be intimidated by Deshaun Watson as he is the better football player. But Mayfield has all the intangibles you want in a fighter. You can break this kid’s nose but he’ll break your jaw. Mayfield by Unanimous Decision.


  • #2 McCaffrey over #7 Cook

No way in hell I could pick against Ed McCaffrey’s kid here, right?  Yes, I’ll admit that it pains me to pick against any born and bred Miamian when it comes to physical combat.  You make the wrong turn down there and the city becomes a fucking war zone. Flesh-eating dopeheads and Kimbo running around snorting blow and bashing skulls while Billy Corben documents the carnage. It’s anarchy. Anyone who makes it out of Miami has my respect (I’m obviously talking about Dade County, not whatever gated community all the gold chain-clad Jewish guidos call home).

Anyway, Miami’s great but you know where Christian McCaffrey’s from? The front range of the Rocky Mountains, that’s where. Highlands Ranch, CO, stand up! Ever go for a hike in Denver? Thin air, rough terrain, medicinal buds and sunsets that leave you breathless. That shit will wear you out, man.

There’s two real reasons why I’m riding McCaffrey in this fake tournament, though.  First, his dad happens to be the best Caucasian wide receiver of all-time. That guy was an absolute stud. If Ed McCaffrey is your father, you won genetics. Plus, the McCaffreys are about five years away from becoming the First Family of the NFL. They’re like the Intelligent Gronkowskis. One son is an NFL prospect at Duke, Christian is the second-born, then there are two more big-time college prospects in high school. The time to buy McCaffrey stock is now.

Secondly, besides the Broncos, mountains, and sexy hippy chicks that could use a leg shaving, Colorado is home to the USA Wrestling Headquarters.  I don’t know much but I do know that McCaffrey is the only Heisman hopeful who has ever donned a singlet.  Probably looked damn good, too.

Prediction: Cook comes looking to land some bombs, but soon learns that this is no 21-year old female he’s up against. McCaffrey easily dodges Cook’s haymakers, double-legs him and earns a submission via rear naked choke.

mccaffrey gif

– Round 2, Semifinals

  • #1 Henry over #5 Reynolds

derrick henry gif

Derrick Henry versus Keenan Reynolds. The giant workhorse from villainous Alabama – servant of the tyrannous Nick Saban – against the swift, skilled, valiant hero.

reynolds ref gif

Similar to his first round knockout of Fournette, I like Reynolds to work the outside using his acrobatics to avoid Henry’s grasp while peppering the big man with body shots. Unfortunately for our underdog, Henry is a cyborg and gets stronger as the fight goes on.  Unless Reynolds can land one of these flying kicks

pettis super kick

he’s in big trouble. Eventually, Henry will grab hold of Reynolds. After some squirming and failed elbow locks, Derrick goes full Mountain on the Viper, crushing the Midshipman’s skull with his bare hands.

Sorry, Keenan. You’re dead.

  • #2 McCaffrey over #6 Mayfield

mccaffrey pic   mayfield pic

White on white crime, ya’ll. Such a damn shame. Pretty soon President Donald – from the future – will have eradicated crime entirely, but for now we must weather the storm. Once those damn Mexicans, Muslims, blacks, Turks, Jews, Jenners, and gays are gone we can get back to the good old days of peaceful race relations and myCopy 98 bright halfbacks.

Speaking of which, my man McCaffrey enters the semifinals as the most unscathed competitor. Cook’s a tough dude, but Dalvin’s haymakers were no match for a totally imagined master wrestler.

On the other hand, Mayfield went the distance in an epic trading of blows with Deshaun Watson. Mayfield had the tougher chin, but he enters Round 2 badly bruised.  Physical conditioning is the difference in this bout.  The baseball fans trade blows for a while, with Mayfield landing some good shots, but Baker’s previous injuries come back to haunt him. Cuts over his eyes lead to vision issues, and McCaffrey takes him to the ground looking for another submission. True to form, Mayfield never says “die” and refuses to tap. He’s put to sleep via guillotine choke. Lack of oxygen to the brain turns Baker into a vegetable, and in the cruelest long con since LostMayfield’s girlfriend pulls the plug. Pokes – 1, Sooners – 0.

Sorry, Baker. You’re dead.

– Round 3, Winner-Take-Heisman Final

  • #1 Derrick Henry vs #2 Christian McCaffrey

The moment we’ve all been waiting for. The matchup pitting the nation’s two greatest amateur football warriors against each other.  The odds-on Heisman favorite is Henry, workhorse for college football’s premier program. Henry leads the country in rushing yards (1,986) and touchdowns (23). He’s the exact prototype that you’d build in a running back factory.

Then there’s McCaffrey. The renaissance back from Stanford, raised on NFL sidelines. Probably bullied Jack Elway so hard in middle school. Henry leads the country in rushing yards, but McCaffrey’s not far behind. He leads the nation in total yards (3,496), breaking Barry Sanders’ aforementioned record while adding 13 touchdowns. TDs are the glaring difference between these candidates (Henry has 23), but that has a lot to do with Alabama’s ineptitude at quarterback. If Henry doesn’t score, neither does the Tide.

This match will be decided by mental toughness, something both these backs have in spades. The deciding factor, IMO, is McCaffrey’s mental makeup. He’s giving up 40 pounds, so he’ll need to withstand an epic beating – or earn a submission – to win the most prestigious award in sports. The question is, can he take the heat?

I mean, just look at this fucking kid:

christian mccaffrey

He’s so perfect that I have to believe there’s a screw loose. He’s like Channing Tatum if Tatum wasn’t a college dropout from West Virginia. At a certain point it’s impossible to perform at such a high level your entire life without being somewhat psychotic. The driving force for McCaffrey has always been the need to prove himself. The need to prove that he can live up to his family name, prove that he’s not undersized, and prove that white running backs can actually ball.

Unfortunately for white tailbacks and racists everywhere, I think the Kid’s armor cracks against Henry.  These two both deserve the Heisman and possess a level of toughness unparalleled by the rest of the field, but Henry’s combination of size, strength, and athleticism is too much to overcome. They trade standing blows for two rounds but McCaffrey can’t get Henry to the ground. In the third, Henry catches the Cardinal with a right hook and goes Brock Lesnar hammerfist for the finisher. Henry by TKO.

lesnar hammerfist

Sorry, Christian. You’re dead.


PS – See ya next year, Christian.

undertaker Alive!








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