Heisman Watch 2021: Odds for Top Race Candidates Before Championship Games

Joe Tansey@JTansey90Featured ColumnistDecember 4, 2021

Heisman Watch 2021: Odds for Top Race Candidates Before Championship Games

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    Vasha Hunt/Associated Press

    The 2021 Heisman Trophy race does not have the same drama heading into conference championship weekend as it had in previous seasons.

    Alabama quarterback Bryce Young is the front-runner for the award after Ohio State quarterback C.J. Stroud failed to reach the Big Ten Championship Game.

    But Young is far from guaranteed to have a standout performance Saturday since he is going up against the top-rated Georgia defense. If he turns in a lackluster showing in a loss, like Stroud and Michigan State running back Kenneth Walker III did in November, the Heisman race could have more questions than answers.

    Michigan defensive end Aidan Hutchinson could fill the first-place spots on Heisman ballots if he plays well and Young struggles in the Big Ten Championship Game.

    The Heisman is not typically awarded to defensive players, but with no runaway favorite entering Saturday, it could be the perfect time to break the trend.

Bryce Young (-225)

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    Butch Dill/Associated Press

    Young has to be viewed as the Heisman favorite because of the opportunity in front of him.

    The Alabama quarterback has a chance to beat top-ranked Georgia and earn his team's spot in the College Football Playoff on Saturday. If Young plays well in a victory, the prize will belong to him.

    The Heisman has become an award that rewards the best players on the top teams in the FBS. If Bama wins, Young would be the only star quarterback on a playoff roster. Cincinnati's Desmond Ridder would be second in that conversation.

    Young produced his best Heisman moment yet last time out, when he led the Crimson Tide on a game-tying fourth-quarter drive against Auburn.

    He has 3,901 passing yards, 40 touchdowns and four interceptions this season and ranks sixth in passing yards and is tied for second in touchdown passes. Young certainly has the numbers of a Heisman winner, but he still needs to perform against Georgia to seal the award.

    Even if Young plays well in a loss, he could wrap up the Heisman because Stroud is not playing Saturday and Hutchinson's stats could be limited by the Iowa offensive line.

C.J. Stroud (+450)

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    Mike Mulholland/Getty Images

    Stroud was the Heisman favorite entering Rivalry Week, but he failed to deliver against Michigan.

    The Ohio State freshman had 394 passing yards and two touchdowns, but he did not create any special plays that would have pulled the Buckeyes back into the contest.

    Stroud thrust himself into the favorite role with 432 passing yards and six touchdowns against Michigan State on November 20. That performance is one of the best from a top quarterback this season, and it may help his Heisman case, especially if Young falters in Atlanta on Saturday.

    He finished his freshman season with 3,862 passing yards, 38 touchdowns and five interceptions. If Ohio State were playing in the Big Ten Championship Game, Stroud could have padded those numbers while sealing his Heisman win.

    Instead, Stroud will watch Young and Hutchinson from home Saturday. He will still receive Heisman votes, but whether they are first-, second- or third-place nods will be determined by how well the other potential finalists play.

Aidan Hutchinson (+1600)

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    Tony Ding/Associated Press

    Hutchinson needs to have another fantastic week on the interior to bolster his rising Heisman profile.

    The Michigan defensive end wreaked havoc on Stroud and the Ohio State offensive line with seven tackles and three sacks in Week 13. And he made many more plays that did not show up in the stat sheet.

    Hutchinson was not considered a Heisman finalist, let alone a potential winner, as recently as mid-November, but the lack of top offensive candidates saw him enter the discussion.

    He is third in the FBS with 13 sacks. Six of those take downs came against Ohio State and Penn State, two of Michigan's toughest opponents. He has the big game statistics going for him, and if Hutchinson thrives against Iowa, he could further his case to be a rare defensive Heisman winner.

    Hutchinson needs to root for the Georgia defense to make Young look pedestrian in Atlanta to set the stage for his potential Heisman showcase Saturday night in Indianapolis. He essentially needs to repeat his performance against Ohio State to show Heisman voters he can put up tremendous totals in another big game.

    If that happens, Hutchinson could find himself on top of a handful of Heisman ballots when the results are revealed Dec. 11.


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