In seven games, we’ve seen 930 rushing yards and 10 touchdowns, 319 receiving yards and three touchdowns and a punt return that will go down as one of the greatest moments in North Carolina football history. You just read the season stat line of North Carolina’s one and only Giovani Bernard. What a season this young man is having. He is putting up nationally competitive numbers and is among the top 20 rushers in America in both yards and touchdowns having played three and a half games less than everybody else.
People forget that Gio missed the Wake Forest and Louisville games due to injury. Can you imagine what his statistics would be if he had played? People also forget that Gio rush for 93 yards and a score and put up a receiving touchdown to boot in just ONE half against Elon. Can you imagine what he could have done had he played more? Not to mention that Gio had 70 rushing yards and two touchdowns against Idaho and only had TWO rushing attempts the entire game? He may have rushed for 500 yards in that game alone if he didn’t get taken out after touchdown number two.The question for me is are these stats good enough to be considered for the Heisman Trophy awarded to the best player in college football? I think it all depends on how you measure the criteria. If you think that the Heisman Trophy should be awarded to the best player on the best team then Gio is probably not your guy. Traditionally, the Heisman follows this route and at least three or four of the five finalists play for top tier teams. Last year’s winner Robert Griffin III won the prestigious award and was almost an exception to the rule since he represented a school with three losses at the ceremony. Granted, those losses came early on in the season, but every other finalist played for a team with no more than one loss. As much as I love Gio, I’m not sure he’s RG3, but I do think he’s as talented a back as Mark Ingram from Alabama who is the last running back to win the award.
If you look at a candidate and say not only does this person need to be the best player on their team, but they need to be the best player in their conferece especially coming our of the ACC. In this case, Gio Bernard definitely qualifies. Can you name another player in the ACC who is absolutely indespenseable for their team? I’m sure you can make a case for several players such as EJ Manuel, Tahj Boyd, Sammy Watkins, Mike Glennon, etc, but none of them are having the same type of effect on their team as Bernard. With Gio’s 15 total touchdowns this season, he accounts for 90 of UNC’s 355 total points. That’s 25%! EJ Manuel, for example, has 17 total touchdowns as a quarterback for a top 15 team which totals up to 102 points out of Florida State’s 403 total points. That is also 25% of his team’s points. However, Manuel has played every game while Bernard has not and that makes a huge difference.
I think that it also speaks to Gio’s value that both games that Bernard didn’t play, North Carolina lost. A Heisman Trophy winner for sure must be a direct impact on the team’s record and it’s completely evident that that is indeed the case here with North Carolina and Gio Bernard.
Bernard has the stats and the value to back up Heisman credibility, but should be a Heisman finalist? I personally don’t think so. I do think that there are five players in college football that are better than him and hold more of a direct impact with their respective teams, but do I believe that Gio Bernard deserves to be one of the five or six players outside of the finalists that are in the discussion? Absolutely. With the type of season that this kid is having, it would be complete injustice not to include him in the Hesiman conversation. I don’t know how much, if any, he will be included here in the coming weeks, but if Gio decides to come back for another season after this year, you can almost guarantee that he will get the national respect he deserves.