The best running back in that country that you may not know about? That would be Memphis’ Kenneth Gainwell. Could he win the first Heisman Trophy in school history? Here are two props available to wager at Mybookie on Gainwell’s Heisman Trophy chances and Memphis’ 2020 college football season – assuming there is one – and an overview.
Kenneth Gainwell Heisman Trophy Odds & Analysis For 2020 Season
Gainwell played quarterback at Yazoo County High School in Mississippi. He was a three-year starter. As a senior, he passed for 1,139 yards and 10 touchdowns and ran for 1,834 yards and 32 touchdowns. Gainwell chose Memphis in a minor surprise over Ole Miss.
He moved to running back during summer training camp as a freshman at Memphis and played in four games before deciding to redshirt the rest of the season. He finished the season with four carries for 91 yards and a touchdown, a 73-yard run, and six receptions for 52 yards.
Last year, Gainwell was named the Tigers’ starting running back following the departure of Tony Pollard to the NFL. He rushed for 1,459 yards with 13 touchdowns on 231 carries and caught 51 passes for 610 yards and three touchdowns and was named the AAC Freshman of the Year and first team All-AAC. He also became the first freshman since Wisconsin’s Jonathan Taylor have 2,000-plus combined yards in a season.
Gainwell was one of two unanimous all-conference selections on the All-AAC team along with SMU wide receiver James Proche. Gainwell was the second Tigers player to earn Rookie of the Year after T.J. Carter in 2017.
He was the only running back in the country to earn Pro Football Focus rushing and receiving grades over 85.0. Gainwell displayed next-level explosiveness by recording 37 plays of 15+ yards. He averaged 27.6 yards per carry on his 13 touchdown runs. That’s the best mark of any back in the country who had 10 or more touchdowns in 2019.
Gainwell’s production dipped some when Patrick Taylor returned late in the season from a foot injury, but Taylor is gone now. With Gainwell’s ability as a rusher and a receiver and the majority of Memphis’ offense returning this season, the sophomore could have an even bigger year.
Memphis coach Mike Norvell left for Florida State, but the Tigers return a prolific group of offensive playmakers and most of their defensive starters for first-time coach Ryan Silverfield. There was plenty of outside interest in the Memphis job, but Silverfield got the nod after spending four seasons on staff, most recently as offensive line coach and deputy head coach. By promoting Silverfield, the Tigers kept a loaded roster and 2020 recruiting class ranked No. 3 in the AAC intact.
Finishing last year ranked 17th nationally while earning a New Year’s Six berth in the 84th Goodyear Cotton Bowl Classic, Memphis opens the season with five games in 27 days.
The first game is Sept. 5 vs. Arkansas State. That revives A-State’s longest series against any opponent in school history. Arkansas State has played Memphis 57 times since the two teams first met in 1914. They haven’t played since 2013 but have split their last four games overall.
The next week, Memphis visits Big Ten opponent Purdue in Ross-Ade Stadium on Saturday, Sept. 12. It will mark the first meeting between the Tigers and Boilermakers, and Memphis’ first regular season Big Ten opponent since 1998 at Minnesota.
In the first year without divisions since 2015, the American will have its top two teams play in the AAC Championship on Saturday, Dec. 5, in the top seed’s home stadium. The conference is going away from divisions because it has lost UConn. The NCAA deregulated conference championship game rules in 2015. Conferences can now hold a championship game pitting the top two teams provided they play a round-robin schedule. Prior to 2015, conferences had to have at least 12 members and be divided up into divisions.