Heisman Trophy 2021: Favourites & Outsiders

Heisman Trophy 2021: Favourites & Outsiders
Reading Time: 7 minutes.

When it comes to College Football the Heisman Trophy is never far away from the conversation. 

This season’s Heisman Trophy race is wide open with no run away favourite for the trophy. 

The Heisman Trophy is an award issued annually to the best player in college football. It is named after John W Heisman who is one of the pioneers of the game. 

Last season DeVonta Smith won the award, becoming the first receiver to win since Desmond Howard in 1991. He was also the first winner to not be a quarterback since Derrick Henry won it back in 2015. Most would not have had Smith down as a potential winner in the preseason, just showing how unpredictable the Heisman race can be. 

History tells us that the winner will almost always be an offensive player. There has in fact only ever been one defensive player to win the Heisman; that was Charles Woodson back in 1997. Even then he played both sides of the ball.

Image Credit:toledoblade.com

This is because the voting committee is almost always drawn to quarterbacks. They demand the most attention and are the face of their teams. It means almost all of the early favorites from the bookies for this year’s winner are signal callers. 

There is a good reason as to why the bookmakers see it this way. Since the turn of the century there has only been 3 years where the winner was not a quarterback. Get this, all 3 of them went to Alabama! Just showing the dominance they have held over the college football landscape. They were Mark Ingram in 2009, Derrick Henry in 2015 & DeVonta Smith in 2020.  

Saying that, let’s take a look at the favourites and some of the potential outsiders to lift the trophy at the end of the season. 

HEISMAN TROPHY FAVOURITES 

SPENCER RATTLER – QB – OKLAHOMA

Spencer Rattler - Heisman Trophy Favourite.
Image Credit: Joshua R. Gateley/SoonerSports

We started off by saying when it comes to college football the Heisman is not far off people’s lips. Well, neither is Spencer Rattler. The early favourite to be QB1 in the 2022 NFL Draft, it is no surprise the bookies have Rattler slatted at the top of their odds. 

In the last 13 years, 3 of the winners have been Oklahoma QBs. That includes back to back winners in 2017/2018 with Baker Mayfield and Kyler Murray winning respectfully. The other being Sam Bradford in 2009.

Lincoln Riley has proven that he is a QB charmer and if Rattler can take steps forward in his second year under center he will certainly be a contender come the end of the season. 

BRYCE YOUNG – QB – ALABAMA 

Despite 2021 being Bryce Young’s first year as a starter he still finds himself as an early favourite in the Heisman Trophy race. 

There is of course a good precedent for Alabama players in the Heisman Ballot. Alabama players finished 1st, 3rd and 5th in last year’s voting. 

This season should be a year of change at Alabama. With numerous players leaving for the NFL again and Steve Sarkisian leaving his role as OC to take up a head coaching role at Texas. But, If there is one thing we know, Alabama don’t lose talent. They just reload.

Young is a former 5 star recruit and Alabama are still top of the AP Top 25 poll. Expect Young to make a name for himself this season.

D.J. UIAGALELEI – QB – CLEMSON 

Heisman Trophy - D.J. Uiagalelei
Image Credit:  Clemson Athletics: David Platt

Taking over from Trevor Lawrence is almost an impossible task. But, Clemson continues to churn out quality QB prospects. 

One upside is that neither D.J. Uiagalelei nor Clemson go into 2021 blind. The promising QB had to step up in important games in 2020 when Lawrence was out due to Coronavirus protocols. The most important thing is that he didn’t just cope, he thrived! 

Of course Clemson have lost a lot of talent to the NFL, but their successors are not as strong as those that have departed. How those around Uiagalelei perform in 2021 will have a huge bearing as to where he ends up in the Heisman ballot.

JT DANIELS – QB – GEORGIA 

It is fair to say that Georgia’s decisions at the quarterback position have been questionable since the hiring of Kirby Smart. But, it seems Georgia have settled on a QB who has legitimate NFL upside. 

The Georgia fans only saw JT Daniels in a limited number of games since his transfer over from USC. but what they did see was a marked improvement to the Bulldogs’ offence. 

The loss of George Pickens, likely for the season, will damage Daniels’s Heisman credentials, but many expect Georgia to be National Championship contenders this year and JT Daniels will be a big reason why they should be so competitive. 

SAM HOWELL – QB – NORTH CAROLINA 

Sam Howell - Football - University of North Carolina Athletics
Image Credit: Goheels.com

Howell is another 2022 Draft eligible QB who is expected to go early in next year’s draft. 

One thing is certain, if Howell is going to be a Heisman Trophy contender, he will have to play better than he ever has before. That isn’t because Howell has played badly. Far from it – He was one of the top QBs in the nation last season. UNC lost so many of their 2020 starters to the NFL that replacing them has to be concerning. 

Howell may be a long shot, but if he can show another year of progression don’t write him off.

C.J. STROUD – QB – OHIO STATE 

This feels a little like usual suspects doesn’t it? We have already had the starting QBs from Oklahoma, Clemson, Alabama, the list would not be complete without the starting QB from the Ohio State.

C.J. Stroud is taking over from Justin Fields, but the offence will remain relatively familiar. The opposite to Howell, OSU have brought back a lot of their starters. A quality TE in Ruckert and 2 first round calibre receivers in Olave and Garrett. 

Stroud will fancy his chances at a quality first season and with the team and weapons he has around him – it is difficult to bet against it. 

MATT CORRAL – QB – OLE MISS

Matt Corral - Heisman Trophy
Image Credit: 247Sports

Corral could not be in a better position to put up big numbers than in the Ole Miss pass heavy, air raid system. It is why his odds of winning are shooting up all the time. 

Corral showed in 2020 his ability to make big time plays, but he needs to become more consistent and smarter if he is to trouble the Heisman ballot. Many think Corral could be an NFL Draft riser in 2021 and with a big year he certainly has the potential to be a candidate.

Ole Miss have never had a Heisman winner – Can Corral be their first?

HEISMAN TROPHY OUTSIDERS

MALIK WILLIS – QB – LIBERTY

The Heisman Trophy loves to throw up a surprise. According to Foxsports 10 of the past 12 winners had odds larger than 20/1!

Malik Willis is a rank outsider. But, he shouldn’t be. You will get huge odds on his chances just due to the team he plays for. The Heisman ballot doesn’t favour teams who don’t trouble the powerhouses. 

But ignore that! Willis is an NFL Draft favourite and with another season of displaying his explosive and dynamic playmaking ability he should be in contention. 

Willis had a huge breakout year in 2020 and as a duel threat QB, he put up huge numbers. He is more than capable of improving again in 2021. Willis should be in the mix to win the Heisman trophy – whether the voting turns out that way is the other question.

BIJAN ROBINSON – RB – TEXAS

Bijan Robinson - Heisman Trophy
Image Credit: Longhornswire USAToday

Some will claim that Bijan Robinson is the top running back in the country. Myself? Of course wouldn’t make such a rash claim! You’re forcing me? Then sure, go on then, I’d stick my neck on the line! Just don’t screenshot this and bring it up in 2 years time!

Robinson is a special player and a stud of a running back. If Texas are to have success this season Robinson will be at the heart of it. Steve Sarkisian comes over from Alabama as head coach and he absolutely could take Robinson to the next level.

Robinson is a long shot to win the Heisman Trophy. But, running backs tend to do well so don’t count him out just yet.

BREECE HALL – RB – IOWA STATE

Robinson, the top RB in the nation?! Breece Hall may have something to say about that. 

Hall finished 6th in the Heisman vote just a year ago and is the only returning player who finished in the top 10. 

In 2020 Hall was the lead runner with 1572 yards and 21 touchdowns. A great stat is that he was the first player since LaDanian Tomlinson, 2 decades ago, to have at least 75 ground yards and at least 1 TD in every game!

Hall has all the history and numbers to make a Heisman Trophy challenge. Whether he can win may come down to the performance of others ahead of him in the odds.

Who is your Heisman Trophy Favourite? Let us know over on Twitter @NinetynineYards and @Owain_Jones_ 

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