Heisman Race 2021: List of Finalists for Coveted Trophy Announced

Joseph Zucker@@JosephZuckerFeatured Columnist IVDecember 6, 2021

ATLANTA, GEORGIA - DECEMBER 04: Bryce Young #9 of the Alabama Crimson Tide reacts during the fourth quarter of the SEC Championship game against the Georgia Bulldogs the at Mercedes-Benz Stadium on December 04, 2021 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

Alabama star Bryce Young headlines the list of four finalists for the Heisman Trophy.

Michigan's Aidan Hutchinson, Pittsburgh's Kenny Pickett and Ohio State's C.J. Stroud round out the group, with the winner to be announced Saturday at 8 p.m. ET on ESPN.

There's often one clear front-runner for the Heisman through his own performance, his team's performance or a combination of the two. The 2015 season was the last time the first and second-place finishers were separated by fewer than 100 first-place votes.

This year, there isn't a player who immediately stands out as the obvious choice for college football's top individual honor.

When the voting results are revealed, Young may nonetheless prove to be the Heisman winner by some distance.

The sophomore signal-caller has thrown for 4,322 yards, 43 touchdowns and four interceptions. Even though he completed fewer than 50 percent of his passes for the game (25-of-51), he probably had the Heisman sewn up when he hit Ja'Corey Brooks for a game-tying touchdown in the final minute of the Iron Bowl.

CBS Sports @CBSSports

TOUCHDOWN BAMA<br><br>TIE BALLGAME <a href="https://t.co/j4hJI4KfSG">pic.twitter.com/j4hJI4KfSG</a>

But one could argue Young isn't even the best player on his own team.

Will Anderson Jr. has been not of this world. The Crimson Tide linebacker has compiled 92 total tackles, 32.5 tackles for loss and 15.5 sacks. His production stacks up favorably with any of the most dominant defenders from the last decade.

Alabama Football @AlabamaFTBL

H31SMAN NUMBERS 🦾<a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/BamaFactor?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#BamaFactor</a> <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/RollTide?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#RollTide</a> <a href="https://t.co/cDtIb6iqi3">pic.twitter.com/cDtIb6iqi3</a>

Despite his best efforts, Anderson couldn't even earn a trip to New York City alongside Young. 

One pass-rusher did make the cut. Hutchinson is poised to have the best finish for a Michigan player since Charles Woodson lifted the Heisman in 1997.

The Wolverines defensive end had 15 tackles for loss, 13.5 sacks and two forced fumbles in 13 appearances. He delivered in his team's biggest game with his three sacks critical toward Michigan's 42-27 win over Ohio State.

FOX College Football @CFBONFOX

HUTCHINSON SACK 😤<a href="https://twitter.com/aidanhutch97?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@aidanhutch97</a> comes up big to help <a href="https://twitter.com/UMichFootball?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@UMichFootball</a> hold Ohio State to a FG <a href="https://t.co/HemDRondbD">pic.twitter.com/HemDRondbD</a>

That loss sank the Buckeyes' College Football Playoff hopes, and it almost certainly derailed C.J. Stroud's Heisman campaign.

Stroud had big numbers (34-of-49, 394 yards, two touchdowns) in Ann Arbor, Michigan, but his impact felt more muted because of how much Michigan's front seven bullied OSU's offensive line. 

Stroud has a slight statistical edge on Young:

  • C.J. Stroud: 351.1 yards per game, 9.8 yards per attempt 70.9 percent completion rate, 182.2 passer rating 
  • Bryce Young: 332.5 yards per game, 9.3 yards per attempt, 68.0 percent completion rate, 175.4 pass rating

But Alabama winning the Iron Bowl and Ohio State losing to Michigan was the biggest delineator between the two for Heisman voters.

Although Pickett is a major long shot, finishing high enough on the ballot to be a finalist is a massive accomplishment for the Pittsburgh quarterback.

The New Jersey native made the most of his final college season, throwing for 4,319 yards and 42 touchdowns en route to the Panthers claiming their first ACC title—and their first conference title of any kind since 2010.