Ranking the Heisman Favorites Heading into Week 2
Alabama quarterback Bryce Young tossed four touchdowns in his starting debut and rocketed atop B/R's early look at the 2021 Heisman Trophy race.
It's early. It's so early. The point of this ranking is not to crown a winner at this moment. Instead, this every-Tuesday list is meant to show the steady changes in the Heisman conversation.
And right now, Young is leading the pack.
This qualifier is essential: We're still focusing on players who entered the season as perceived top contenders. Michigan State running back Kenneth Walker III had a massive game, for example, but we're not expecting him to remain in the Heisman hunt.
Conversely, we're still highlighting Miami's D'Eriq King and North Carolina's Sam Howell despite a poor opener. If they have another bad showing in September, though, they'll be removed from the list until or unless proven otherwise later in the year.
The proper group of contenders will come into sharper focus as this season's sample size increases.
Slow Start for Preseason Candidates
D.J. Uiagalelei, QB, Clemson
D.J. Uiagalelei found himself under constant pressure in the 10-3 loss to Georgia. The successor to 2020 Heisman runner-up Trevor Lawrence, Uiagalelei hit 19 of 37 passes for 178 yards and threw one interception. The positive side is he won't see another defense as disruptive as Georgia's for the rest of the season.
JT Daniels, QB, Georgia
On the opposite side of that result, JT Daniels had a similarly tough night. He only managed 4.5 yards per attempt, ending the contest with 135 yards and one interception.
Breece Hall, RB, Iowa State
In a 16-10 win over Northern Iowa, Breece Hall averaged 3.0 yards per carry. If we first said he totaled 100 yards and a touchdown, that may seem decent. Considering he had 27 touches, though, Hall has plenty of room to improve.
D'Eriq King, QB, Miami
Miami lost to Alabama 44-13. Pretty much that simple for D'Eriq King. Although he completed 23 of 30 passes, King mustered just 6.0 yards per attempt and tossed two interceptions. It'll be an uphill climb to legitimately rejoin the conversation.
Sam Howell, QB, North Carolina
Likewise, it's a long journey back to Heisman contention for Sam Howell. During a 17-10 loss to Virginia Tech, he finished with 208 yards, one touchdown and three interceptions.
5. Kedon Slovis, QB, USC
To be perfectly blunt, Kedon Slovis is only mentioned because of his preseason hype. He routinely landed in the top eight to 10 choices on Heisman lists, including in the betting realm.
USC earned a 30-7 victory over San Jose State in the opener, but the offense stumbled for most of the contest. After scoring 10 points in the first eight minutes, the unit mustered only two field goals until Slovis' late score to Erik Krommenhoek. USC's other touchdown came on Greg Johnson's pick-six.
Slovis finished 24-of-36 for 256 yards (7.1 per attempt) with two scores and zero interceptions.
Yes, he put together a fine day statistically. But upcoming games against Pac-12 teams Stanford and Washington State will be a better gauge for Slovis' actual Heisman prospects.
4. Spencer Rattler, QB, Oklahoma
Spencer Rattler, the preseason Heisman Trophy favorite, didn't perform at that level against Tulane.
On his second pass, he threw an interception. He tossed another pick in the second half, and Oklahoma narrowly avoided a massive upset. He wrapped up the 40-35 victory with a 30-of-39 line for 304 yards and two total touchdowns.
But Rattler doesn't see any reason to panic.
"We just gotta be cleaner, gotta be sharper," he said, according to Austin Curtright of the Oklahoma Daily. "I gotta be better. Everybody's gotta be better."
If the 2020 season didn't exist, the statement might feel empty. But we're inclined to trust a quarterback who tallied 9.6 yards per pass attempt, totaled 3,191 yards, accounted for 34 touchdowns and led his team to a conference title last year in an offense that has produced two Heisman winners and a runner-up since 2017.
3. Bijan Robinson, RB, Texas
Welcome to the party, Bijan Robinson.
Texas secured a valuable 38-18 win over then-No. 23 Louisiana to open Steve Sarkisian's Longhorns tenure, and Robinson had a terrific day. He scampered for 103 yards and a touchdown on 20 carries, adding four receptions for 73 yards and another score.
Most importantly, the Longhorns truly used him as the featured back. Robinson repeatedly showed his explosiveness last season but never totaled more than 17 touches in a game.
Next up for Robinson is a trip to Arkansas, which limited Rice to 2.5 yards per non-sack rushing attempt in Week 1.
2. C.J. Stroud, QB, Ohio State
In the opening half of Ohio State's win over Minnesota, C.J. Stroud looked like a first-time starter. He had a tendency to drift out of the pocket, tossed some uncatchable passes, threw an interception and managed 58 yards on 14 attempts.
Ohio State coach Ryan Day kept it simple for Stroud after halftime, and the playmakers started to make his numbers look great.
Chris Olave found a vacant spot in Minnesota's zone defense for a 38-yard touchdown. Garrett Wilson burned the secondary on a 56-yard score. TreVeyon Henderson took a swing pass 70 yards to the house, and two superb blocks ultimately freed Olave for the last 40 yards of his 61-yard touchdown.
But that's the job, right? Find playmakers, let them shine.
Stroud ended his starting debut having completed 13 of 22 passes for 294 yards and four touchdowns. Next weekend, the competition rises dramatically with Pac-12 favorite Oregon coming to town.
1. Bryce Young, QB, Alabama
Based on the mix of preseason hype, Week 1 competition and game performance, Bryce Young is the only reasonable choice here.
The second-year quarterback shredded Miami, hitting 27 of 38 passes for 344 yards and four scores with zero interceptions. Young set an Alabama record for most touchdowns in a starting debut, surpassing the previous mark Joe Namath and Mac Jones shared.
"I thought Bryce did really, really well," Alabama coach Nick Saban said, per Paul Newberry of the Associated Press. "The poise he played with, the command he had. He kind of took what the defense gave him and really directed the offense in a positive way."
After the Crimson Tide host Mercer next weekend, Young will return to the spotlight when Alabama heads to Florida on Sept. 18.
And then, we'll see if he's still the very, very early Heisman favorite.