College football: The case for Washington’s Michael Penix Jr. as a Heisman Trophy finalist

On Monday, the four finalists for the Heisman Trophy will be announced. 

Washington quarterback Michael Penix Jr., a former standout at Tampa Bay Tech, should at least be considered. 

After all, Penix Jr., is a leader.

At Tampa Bay Tech, Penix Jr. threw for a combined 61 touchdowns and just six interceptions while leading the program to consecutive district titles his junior and senior seasons (2016-17). 

He continued to excel at Indiana, going 12-5 as a starter. Before a season-ending injury in 2020, Penix Jr. led the Big Ten in passing yardage, yards per game, passing touchdowns, completions and attempts. 

But this is a what-you-have-done-for-me-lately world. And the Heisman Trophy is about this season, not some lifetime achievement award. 

No matter. 

Penix Jr. (featured photo above courtesy of Washington Athletics) still ranks among the top candidates for what he has been able to accomplish with the Huskies this year. 

The proof is in the stats. 

The Indiana transfer leads the nation in passing yards (4,354), passing yards per game (362.8) and is second in total offense (370.0 yards per game). 

Against Arizona, Penix Jr. threw for a school record 516 yards. He needs just 104 more yards to set the single-school 

By putting up big-time numbers, Penix Jr. has led Washington on a remarkable transformation. After going 4-8 in 2020, the Huskies are now 10-2 and ranked No. 9 in the country. 

Penix Jr. also has raised his profile. He threw out the first pitch at a Mariners’ game. T-shirts have been made in his honor. 

And the school has started and the hashtag #penix4heisman to create more national exposure. 

If Penix Jr., makes it to New York, he would become the first Tampa Bay area player to be a finalist. 

He has a chance considering there are no clear front-runners among the potential candidates. 

  • USC’s Caleb Williams and Ohio State’s CJ Stroud are coming off losses. 
  • Michigan’s Blake Corum and Tennessee’s Hendon Hooker both had season-ending injuries. 
  • Alabama’s Bryce Young has two losses this season, same as Penix Jr. 
  • Georgia’s Stetson Bennett has led the defending national champions to an undefeated season so far, but has thrown for 1,200 yards less than Penix Jr. 

The credentials – the stats, the turnaround, the national ranking – are all there to make Penix Jr. a legitimate candidate as a finalist. 

Now, the Heisman Trust just needs to recognize it when the finalists are announced on Monday.