Saturday, the Notre Dame Fighting Irish rolled to a dominant 45-21 victory over ACC foe Syracuse. Notre Dame’s 24-point margin was the cherry on top of the 10-0 perfect regular season for the Blue & Gold – the first such undefeated regular season for the Irish as a complete member of the Atlantic Coast Conference.
While the trouncing of a 1-10 (1-9 ACC) Syracuse team by the No. 2 Irish on Senior Day in South Bend wasn’t particularly surprising, it was a historic win for ND signal caller Ian Book. With the win, Book became the all-time winningest quarterback in Notre Dame history with 30 wins.
Following the regular season finale, Notre Dame veteran quarterback Ian Book was also named a semi-finalist for both the Maxwell Award and the Davey O’Brien Award.
The Maxwell Award goes annually to the nation’s best all-around player. The Davey O’Brien Award is presented to the nation’s top quarterback.
Individually, No. 12 has passed for 2,382 yards and 15 touchdowns this season, and he was picked off just twice all season. The fifth-year senior completed 63.3% of his passes and added 465 rushing yards and eight touchdowns on the ground.
Statistical achievements aside, Book and the Irish will face No. 3 Clemson on Dec. 19 for the ACC Championship. If Book and Co. outlast a healthier, Trevor Lawrence led Tigers squad, the El Dorado Hills, CA native will be cemented as the only Irish quarterback to bring a conference title to South Bend. Similarly, if Book is able to secure two more wins after the Dec. 19 matchup in Charlotte, NC, helping guide Notre Dame to a perfect 13-0, he will bring the Irish their first national championship in more than three decades.
Is Ian Book the greatest quarterback to ever grace the gridiron at Notre Dame Stadium?
The obvious answer is a resounding no.
The greatest Notre Dame quarterback is (and probably will always be) Johnny Lujack (1942-43, 46-47). He won three national championships, became a two-time unanimous All-American, and took home the 1947 Heisman Trophy.
Ian Book is no Johnny Lujack. However, Book has come a long way from his days as a three-star Rivals recruit out of California. He has come a long way since being fourth (sometimes even fifth) quarterback on the Fighting Irish depth chart.
Wherever you rank Ian Book on the illustrious list of the best South Bend pigskin slingers, you cannot deny that he deserves a spot on the aforementioned list.
Regardless of how the Irish postseason progresses, Ian Book is concluding a remarkable career in South Bend and is easily one of the most underrated quarterbacks in the country in 2020. It is time that people not only begin to respect Ian Book, but also acknowledge him for what he is: A winner and 2020 Heisman Trophy candidate.
Few can argue that the Heisman has become a quarterback-driven accolade. Since 1999, only one non-quarterback (Alabama running back Mark Ingram, 2009) has been selected to receive college football’s highest individual honor. It is also not uncommon that the winner will have compiled a rather gawdy stat line by seasons end.
With this in mind, let’s see how Book’s season stats compare to nine other players considered top NCAA quarterbacks, some of whom might be considered Heisman frontrunners.
Here is my case for Ian Book as a Heisman hopeful.
Admittedly, Book would be considered the laggard of the group from a statistical vantagepoint. He has the lowest passing yards per game, lowest quarterback rating and lowest total yards (passing and rushing). He has the second lowest touchdown total, and the only player with fewer (Justin Fields, Ohio State), has played half the games. The only area in which No. 12 comes out ahead of the pack is with total wins (10).
What cannot be gleaned from a stat sheet though is how these gunslingers faired against ranked opponents.
When using ranked opponents as a primary metric for evaluation, the stat sheet tells a vastly different tale. Rather than finding his name near the bottom of this grouping as he did when looking at season stats in their entirety, Book ranks near the top of the pack (behind only Florida’s Kyle Trask and Alabama’s Mac Jones). Simply put, Book shines when the lights are brightest. That has to count for something.
Truthfully, Book’s battle for the 2020 Heisman (which ironically is awarded in January 2021) is a longshot. His case is undoubtedly hampered by poor statistical performances in his first six outings. Through the first six games, Book averaged just 204.2 passing yards per game, 239.5 total yards per game and tallied just 12 touchdowns.
However, in his final four games, Book has been trending up statistically speaking. Over this span Book averaged 289.3 passing yards per game, 352.5 total yards per game and accounted for 11 total touchdowns.
And, who could forget this gem during Notre Dame’s 31-17 victory over North Carolina on Black Friday.
While Ian Book’s numbers may not be as “sexy” as the other candidates, the reality is that the kid wins football games, and wins a lot of them. And, he has won more games this season than any other candidate on the list. Again, this has to count for something, and ultimately it should carry significant weight.
If on January 5, 2021, when the Heisman Trophy Trust virtually awards the newest installment, (sans all the traditional glitz and glamour of an in-person ceremony) Ian Book and the Irish are 12-0 with a spot in the CFP National Championship, then Book should not only be considered a finalist for bronze trophy, but also the winner.
Whether Book is awarded the Heisman or if he merely secures an invitation to the virtual Zoom ceremony, you cannot argue that Ian Book is one of the most underrated college quarterbacks in college football. He is a true Heisman Trophy candidate. He wins football games.
And most importantly, he deserves your respect.