Heisman Watch 2021: Latest Race Predictions Entering Week 14

Joe Tansey@JTansey90Featured ColumnistDecember 2, 2021

Heisman Watch 2021: Latest Race Predictions Entering Week 14

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    Butch Dill/Associated Press

    The Heisman Trophy race is a mess.

    No clear-cut favorite has emerged from the pack of contenders with one Saturday of games left to play before the award is handed out.

    Michigan State running back Kenneth Walker III and Ohio State quarterback C.J. Stroud were among the front-runners in November, but neither player is participating in conference championship weekend.

    Alabama quarterback Bryce Young might be the Heisman favorite by default. If he turns in a decent game against Georgia on Saturday, he may wrap up the award.

    There is also a growing case for a defensive player to win the Heisman for the first time since Charles Woodson in 1997.

    Michigan defensive end Aidan Hutchinson surged on to the Heisman radar in Week 13, and he can further his case with a strong outing in the Big Ten Championship Game.

1. Bryce Young, QB, Alabama

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    Butch Dill/Associated Press

    Bryce Young has done enough to be considered the Heisman front-runner in a lackluster year for the award.

    Young kept his Heisman hopes alive by leading Alabama back from a seven-point deficit in the fourth quarter against Auburn. His best Heisman moment came when he led the Crimson Tide on a 97-yard game-tying drive. Alabama eventually won the game in four overtimes.

    The Alabama quarterback's 3,901 passing yards, 40 touchdowns and four interceptions are Heisman-worthy numbers.

    The argument against Young is that he had to wait until the fourth quarter to show up against Auburn when he could have produced more scoring plays earlier in the contest. That discussion can be put to rest if the Crimson Tide signal-caller thrives against Georgia in the SEC Championship Game.

    If Young plays well enough to keep Alabama close, or to even lead the Crimson Tide to a victory, he should receive a good amount of first-place Heisman votes.

    If not, the Heisman race becomes an even bigger question than it already is.

2. C.J. Stroud, QB, Ohio State

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    Tony Ding/Associated Press

    C.J. Stroud could have been considered the Heisman front-runner up until Ohio State's loss to Michigan.

    Stroud produced 3,862 passing yards, 38 touchdowns and five interceptions this season and created separation between himself and Young by having a Heisman-caliber performance against Michigan State. He threw for 432 yards and six touchdowns in the Buckeyes' 56-7 demolition of the Spartans inside Ohio Stadium on November 20.

    The freshman's Heisman hopes took a hit, however, when Ohio State lost to Michigan on Saturday. Stroud still threw for 394 yards and two scores, but he was not the best player on the field in that game.

    Stroud does not have another game left to impress Heisman voters, which could be a disadvantage to his case.

    Young, Hutchinson, Pittsburgh quarterback Kenny Pickett and a few defensive players have a chance to prove their value during conference championship weekend.

    Stroud should still appear on Heisman ballots, but it is unlikely that he has a No. 1 placed next to his name.

3. Aidan Hutchinson, DE, Michigan

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    Julio Cortez/Associated Press

    There could be a late push to award the Heisman to a defensive player for the first time in two decades.

    Aidan Hutchinson turned that pipe dream into a possibility with his dominant showing against Ohio State. The senior defensive end had three sacks, seven tackles and disrupted countless other plays during Michigan's home victory.

    Hutchinson has 13 sacks this season, and six of them have come against high-quality opposition. He had three takedowns against Penn State on November 13. If he turns in a similar performance against Iowa in the Big Ten Championship Game, a stronger case could be made for him to win the Heisman.

    Young and the history of the award are standing in Hutchinson's way. Nine quarterbacks have won the Heisman since 2010. The only other winners were running back Derrick Henry and wide receiver DeVonta Smith.

    If Alabama struggles against Georgia's top-rated defense, the door will be open for Hutchinson to earn first-place votes. Were that scenario to play out, Hutchinson could finish with the most Heisman votes of any player participating in the College Football Playoff.