It’s Campaign Season in Football, With the Heisman Trophy on the Line

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A look at a ground game that plays out away from the field, yet is important for universities chasing college football’s top award.Wisconsin running back Jonathan Taylor is one of several candidates vying for attention in a crowded campaign for the Heisman Trophy.Credit…Glenn HarveyOct. 24, 2019MADISON, Wis. — The website befits a candidate for Congress.There is a biography, loaded with superlatives and the contender’s record of community service, plus a slogan. A visitor can watch a sharply produced 88-second video, or browse favorable press clippings and specially chosen statistics.Wisconsin is a presidential battleground, but the state’s flagship university is also in the thick of an entirely different campaign: a push to make running back Jonathan Taylor its first Heisman Trophy winner in two decades.Similar, if less visible, efforts are unfolding across the country as universities, understanding the pride and public attention that come when one of their own wins college football’s most prestigious award, seek any edge in a race that culminates with an election.Up to 929 votes — from 870 journalists, 58 living Heisman recipients and one program that allows fans a limited voice in the process — will decide who is, as the engraved award presented by the Heisman Trophy Trust says, “the outstanding college football player in the United States (The New York Times does not participate in the voting). Since ballots are not distributed until early December, ahead of the Dec. 14 ceremony, there is still plenty of time for more of the lobbying, cajoling, publicizing, pandering and sweet-talking that started before the season began.“Our view of the campaign, if you will, is pretty tactical: We know who our audience is, who we want to get, we know what information we want to get to them, and it’s just a matter of how do you do that,” said Brian Lucas, Wisconsin’s director of football brand communications and an architect of the “Bringing Running Back” campaign for Taylor. “It’s really about setting up his name to take advantage of opportunities.”Taylor will have perhaps his biggest stage on Saturday when No. 13 Wisconsin plays at No. 3 Ohio State, though the matchup lost much of its appeal after the Badgers took a stunning loss to Illinois last weekend. Taylor had 132 yards and a rushing touchdown, but also a costly fumble that spurred Illinois in its last-quarter co

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