There were no thoughts about winning the Heisman Trophy when Alabama Crimson Tide quarterback Bryce Young and Ohio State Buckeyes quarterback C.J. Stroud stepped onto the football field about 600 miles apart for their final home games of rather remarkable seasons.
Alabama and Ohio State were both playing nationally ranked opponents in games that their teams needed to win to stay in position to compete for a national championship.
After tossing 11 touchdown passes and no interceptions between them, it seems fair to proclaim the Heisman Trophy race as a showdown between a pair of gunslingers from California according to the college football odds.
Here is the latest breakdown of how the Heisman Trophy race is shaking out.
Front-runners Get Passing Grades
C.J. Stroud, Ohio State Quarterback
Heisman Odds: -250
When Stroud threw for only 185 yards against Tulsa and had an interception for the third straight game, his Heisman candidacy didn’t look promising. Then he missed a late September game against Akron and it appeared as if Stroud’s time as a legitimate Heisman candidate would have to wait.
However, the passing yards and touchdowns began piling up. Stroud would not throw an interception in six of the next seven games. Facing a Michigan State team that had already defeated Michigan was going to be a huge test. Stroud attempted 35 passes and completed 32. He had his fourth 400-yard passing game of the season as Ohio State rolled to a 56-7 win over the Spartans on Saturday. He is the only FBS quarterback to complete more than 70 percent of his passes, average at least 10 yards per passing attempt and throw more than 30 touchdown passes.
He moved to the top of the list of Heisman contenders on the latest odds.
Bryce Young, Alabama Quarterback
Heisman Odds: +155
Young shattered one of the Crimson Tide’s longest-standing individual records when he lit up the Arkansas defense for 559 passing yards in a 42-37 win. The Alabama single-game record of 484 yards was set by Scott Hunter against Auburn in 1969. He also broke the single-game total offense mark, even though he was credited with minus-11 rushing yards. Young can join Mac Jones and Tua Tagovailoa as the only Alabama players with more than 4,000 yards of total offense in a season.
The most important part of the win over Arkansas was that it clinched a spot in the Southeastern Conference Championship Game against No. 1 Georgia on Dec. 4. First, however, Young and the Crimson Tide will attempt to win at Auburn for the first time since 2015. Alabama is listed as a 19½-point favorite according to the college football spreads.
Running Out of Time
Kenneth Walker, Michigan State Running Back
Heisman Odds: +2500
With the way Ohio State was playing on Saturday, it would have been hard for any running back in the country to get much done. It was certainly a tough day for Walker, who finished with season lows of six rushing attempts and 25 rushing yards. Central Michigan’s Lew Nichols moved ahead of Walker in the national rushing race. It won’t get much easier for Walker when Penn State comes to East Lansing.
In four games against ranked opponents this season, the Nittany Lions have allowed less than 1500 rushing yards per game and only 3.3 yards per carry.
Declaring Walker’s Heisman hopes over is a bit premature, but he’s going to have to do something pretty special to make up the ground on Stroud and Young after the scores and odds had his chances to win the Heisman take a significant dip this week.
Matt Corral, Ole Miss Quarterback
Heisman Odds: +2300
Corral is back into the top three in the Heisman odds lists by the sportsbook, although he is well behind the two quarterbacks ahead of him.
Corral is part of an offense that leads the SEC in rushing so he doesn’t get to the air as often as some other top quarterbacks, but he has still thrown for 3,100 yards with 19 touchdown passes and only three interceptions.
Corral ran for more than 50 yards in three of the Rebels’ first six games. He has been hobbled a bit in the second half of the season and isn’t tucking the ball away and running.
Probably Deserve Better
Kenny Pickett, Pittsburgh Quarterback
Heisman Odds: +4500
All Pickett has done has broken some of Dan Marino’s passing records at Pittsburgh while leading the Panthers to their first Atlantic Coast Conference championship game.
Pickett has thrown five of his six interceptions in the last four games and his best passing yardage came in a loss to Miami but still, Pickett is on the verge of surpassing 4000 passing yards. He has 36 touchdowns and just six interceptions and has also thrown for four touchdowns.
Jordan Davis, Georgia DL, Will Anderson, Alabama LB
Davis’ Heisman Odds: +7000
Anderson’s Heisman Odds: +8500
Davis and Anderson couldn’t be much more different in how they are utilized.
Davis is an absolute wrecking ball up front. Teams can’t move him and although he doesn’t put up gaudy individual statistics, there is no way the Bulldogs’ defense would be terrifying as it is without the 340-pound Davis occupying multiple blockers on almost every play.
The 245-pound Anderson is tied for the national lead with 13.5 sacks and leads the country with 26.5 tackles for loss. Anderson has at least two tackles for loss in each of his last five games. He has a chance to become the first FBS player with at least 30 tackles for loss since 2011.
Davis and Anderson are two of the three finalists for the Bronko Nagurski Trophy presented annually to the nation’s top defensive player.
Defensive standouts from three @CFBPlayoff contenders – @AlabamaFTBL, @GeorgiaFootball and @OregonFootball – are named finalists by @TheFWAA and @CTouchdownClub for the 2021 Bronko Nagurski Trophy as the national defensive player of the year. https://t.co/xN8u4szQMn pic.twitter.com/jBDqVVaLMH
— Nagurski Trophy (@NagurskiTrophy) November 17, 2021
Georgia and Alabama, who will meet in the Southeastern Conference title game, are high-profile programs playing quality opponents so why aren’t Davis and Anderson getting more buzz? The simple answer is they play on the wrong side of the ball. They should certainly be in any Heisman conversation, but the reality is that is not the case and defensive players get overlooked and under-voted every year.
Wait Until Next Year
Caleb Williams, Oklahoma Quarterback
Heisman Odds: +10000
There were a few weeks where the true freshman, who didn’t start the season as Oklahoma’s starting quarterback, was soaring up the list of Heisman Trophy candidates according to the sportsbook.
That all changed when Williams threw two interceptions and was pulled in a loss to Baylor. He came back and led Oklahoma to a win over Iowa State as the Sooners remained in contention for the Big 12 title. Williams wasn’t asked to win the game with his arm as he completed 8 of 18 passes for 87 yards in the 28-21 win.
Williams added 67 rushing yards. He ran for one score and threw for another to set it up for the Big 12 regular-season title going to the winner of this week’s Oklahoma/Oklahoma State game.
Williams should be in contention for the Heisman Trophy again but it is not going to happen this year.
Matchup of the Week
Ohio State at Michigan
Stroud moved to the top of the list of Heisman contenders after the Buckeyes crushed a very good Michigan State team. Now comes an even bigger test as he gets to play at the “Big House” for the first time.
Stroud will face a Michigan Wolverines’ defense that is second in the Big Ten in passing defense, allowing 178.4 yards per game. Michigan has allowed just 11 touchdown passes and only eight in conference play.
Michigan’s Aidan Hutchinson and David Ojabo are tied for the Big Ten lead with 10 sacks.
Other than helping or hurting his Heisman Trophy odds, Stroud can put the Buckeyes into the Big Ten Championship Game with a win.