UNC’s Drake Maye should still be the Heisman favorite

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North Carolina quarterback Drake Maye is currently third in odds to win the 2022 Heisman Trophy, listed as high as +650 at Caesars Sportsbook.

But should the redshirt freshman be the outright favorite with one week to go in the regular season? I think so.

Maye currently trails C.J. Stroud (+110) and Hendon Hooker (+375) in odds. While the Ohio State and Tennessee quarterbacks have had very respectable seasons, neither have been as important to their team as Maye has been to the Tar Heels.

Maye is currently third nationally in passing yards with 3,4614, which is more than either Stroud (2,991) or Hooker (3,135). He’s also just one behind Stroud with 34 touchdown passes.

Where Maye has differentiated himself from the other two is in the running game. In 10 games this season, he’s run for a team-high 584 yards and added five rushing touchdowns. As things stand, Maye currently has more rushing yards than Hooker and Stroud have combined (488).

While the normal stats tell part of the tale, the advanced analytics really hammer home who the clear favorite should be. According to Pro Football Focus, Maye has 38 big-time throws, more than Stroud (23) or Hooker (19). He’s also only had “turnover-worthy plays” on 1.8% of his throws, which is just slightly behind Hooker (1.2%) but considerably better than Stroud (4.3%).

UNC is currently ranked No. 18 nationally at 9-2, and there’s no reason to believe the Tar Heels would be nearly as good with anyone else besides Maye under center. Unlike Ohio State and Tennessee — which could likely still find a way to win games with a backup quarterback — North Carolina would be in absolute panic mode if Maye went down with an injury.

As a team, UNC ranks 121st out of 131 Division-I teams in yards allowed per game (452.9) and 104th in points allowed (30.4). Without Maye carrying the offense, the Tar Heels could very well be a 5-6 team, not one about to compete for an ACC Championship.

If Maye can lead UNC through the rest of the regular season unfazed, the title game against Clemson — scheduled for Dec. 3 — will likely determine whether or not he takes home the Heisman. A win would give him a solid shot. But even a loss shouldn’t disqualify him from taking home the trophy.

Maye has had the best season of any college football player this season, and the best individual season by any UNC quarterback ever. He deserves to be recognized for that.

Sports Editor Jeremy Vernon can be reached at jeremy@chathamnr.com or on Twitter at @jbo_vernon.

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