The Heisman Trophy race has narrowed down to leading candidates, and they happen to be the quarterbacks for the two leading programs of the College Football Playoff era.
Ohio State’s C.J. Stroud and Alabama’s Bryce Young are those frontrunners heading into rivalry week. The two quarterbacks have emerged as the easiest answers in what has been a wide-open 2021 race.
Don’t act surprised. Alabama and Ohio State are the only two FBS programs with a winning percentage better than 90% in the CFP era. Don’t penalize either Stroud or Young for the talent around them either. It’s not their fault.
Stroud made an emphatic statement in a top-10 showdown against Michigan State on Saturday. He finished 32 of 35 for 432 yards and six TDs in a 56-7 blowout before sitting out most of the second half.
Young countered by finishing 31 of 40 passing for 559 yards and five TDs in a 42-35 victory against Arkansas. The season statistics for both quarterbacks are predictably prolific:
Bryce Young vs. C.J. Stroud 2021 Stats
MORE: Five crazy stats from Ohio State’s first-half blitz
The other contenders have fallen off a bit in the race. Michigan State’s Kenneth Walker III was limited to 25 yards on six carries against Ohio State, the fourth time he’s been held under 100 yards this season. Ole Miss’ Matt Corral didn’t do enough against Alabama. Pitt’s Kenny Pickett won’t get that big stage.
Stroud will get that next week against Michigan in another top-10 showdown, which could set up a Big Ten championship spotlight against Wisconsin. Of course, Young must go through the Iron Bowl at Auburn before the SEC championship against top-ranked Georgia. If Young sweeps those two matchups, then he could squeak by Stroud for the Heisman (and they might see each other in the CFP semifinal).
Does it water down the race knowing Stroud and Young are working with skill-position groups flush with NFL talent? Ohio State has three potential first-round receivers in Garrett Wilson, Chris Olave and Jaxon Smith-Njigba and freshman phenom TreVeyon Henderson at running back. Young is working with the 1-2 receiving tandem of Jameson Williams and John Metchie III along with veteran running back Brian Robinson.
So what? Look at the last two Heisman winners.
In 2019, LSU’s Joe Burrow was part of an offense that averaged 48.4 points per game with a supporting cast that included Clyde Edwards-Helaire, Ja’Marr Chase, Justin Jefferson and Terrace Marshall Jr. That’s four first-round picks and a second-round pick.
In 2020, Alabama receiver DeVonta Smith won the Heisman Trophy and was one of three Crimson Tide players who finished in the top five in the voting along with Mac Jones and Najee Harris. Those three and Jaylen Waddle were first-round picks in the 2020 NFL Draft.
Stroud and Young have the same dynamic supporting casts. That’s why they’ll be in New York.
That’s certainly not their fault.
Current Heisman Odds
Here are the current Heisman odds according to FanDuel.com.
|CJ Stroud (QB, Ohio State)||-220|
|Bryce Young (QB, Alabama)||+200|
|Matt Corral (QB, Ole Miss)||+2000|
|Kenneth Walker III (RB, Michigan State)||+2500|
|Kenny Pickett (QB, Pittsburgh)||+5000|
When is the Heisman Trophy Ceremony
The Heisman will be awarded on Dec. 11, one week after conferences hold their conference championship games. Last year, because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the ceremony was held virtually and not until Jan. 5. This year, the ceremony is back to its normal date in mid-December.
Week 12 Takeaways
— Clemson still rules Death Valley. The Tigers extended their FBS-best home winning streak to 34 games with a 48-27 blowout against Wake Forest. Kobe Pace (24 carries, 191 yards, 2 TDs) and Will Shipley (19 carries, 112 yards, 2 TDs) led a rushing attack that piled up 333 rushing yards. The Demon Deacons can still win the ACC Atlantic with a victory against Boston College, but this is a reminder that Clemson will be the team to beat in the ACC in 2022.
The Tigers have a long way to reach Miami’s FBS record of 58 straight home wins. Hey, the Hurricanes come to Death Valley in 2022.
— Nebraska still one score away. Wisconsin beat Nebraska 35-28 in the Huskers’ fifth one-score loss to a ranked team in 2021. That game ended on a no call on what could have been pass interference on the Badgers. Was this PI?
This isn’t going to change coach Scott Frost’s status. He’s Nebraska’s coach in 2022, which feels like an or-else season in Lincoln. Frost could build goodwill by knocking off Iowa, which has won the last three meetings against the Huskers in, you guessed it, one-score games.
MORE: No-call on late pass seals Nebraksa’s fate
— OSU, Michgan and ND all hit 10 wins. Ohio State, Michigan and Notre Dame won by a combined score of 170-25 on Saturday. All three traditional Midwest programs clinched 10-win seasons.
It’s likely that the Buckeyes, Wolverines and Irish will be in the top seven in the next set of CFP rankings, too.
Since the BCS era began in 1998, this is the fifth time all three schools hit the 10-win mark in the same season.
The other years were 2002 and 2006 in the BCS era, years in which the Buckeyes reached the BCS championship game; and 2015 and 2018 in the CFP era. The Irish made the CFP in 2018.
— Florida State-Florida has changed. From 1990-2000, Florida and Florida State played in 13 consecutive top-10 matchups. On Saturday, the Seminoles and Gators will meet in a matchup of 5-6 teams trying to become bowl eligible. This is a gotta-have-it-matchup for Mike Norvell and Dan Mullen given the circumstances.
Norvell has done a reasonable of job of righting the ship after a wretched 0-4 start that included a loss to Jacksonville State. The Gators won the last two meetings in 2018-19, and last year’s game was not played because of COVID-19.
What happens to Dan Mullen if the Gators lose? The Gators fell 24-23 to Missouri on Saturday, which continued the worst second-half downward spiral east of Texas. Mullen needs this one more than Norvell.