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Heisman Moment Elusive for Top Two

Alabama's Young, Ohio State's Stroud Continue to Lead Field

The final week of the regular season was the perfect time for Heisman Trophy front-runners Bryce Young of the Alabama Crimson Tide and C.J. Stroud of the Ohio State Buckeyes to have that “Heisman moment.”

We’re still waiting. Stroud did throw for nearly 400 yards but the Buckeyes were knocked out of contention for the Big Ten Championship Game with a loss to rival Michigan. Young struggled as much as he has all season as Alabama escaped the Iron Bowl with an overtime win.

Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images/AFP

Young has either the advantage or disadvantage of facing the ferocious Georgia Bulldogs’ defense in the SEC Championship to give Heisman voters one more chance to see the talented quarterback in action.

Here is the latest breakdown with the college football odds of how the Heisman Trophy race is shaking out.

Still Looks Like Two-Man Race

Bryce Young, Alabama Quarterback

Heisman Odds: -225

For more than 59 minutes, Young was on the verge of being held without a touchdown pass for the first time all season. With Alabama needing a touchdown to force overtime against host Auburn, Young missed on six of his 10 passes but had completions of 22, 21, 14 and 28 yards. The final throw to Ja’Corey Brooks with 24 seconds left kept Alabama from losing its second SEC game of the season.

Young had another TD pass in overtime as Alabama escaped with a 24-22 win in four overtimes.

Young failed to complete at least 50 percent of his passes for the first time all season. He was sacked seven times and under constant duress. He certainly has had better performances.

Now he will play against a Georgia team that leads the country in scoring defense and total defense, so he will have a chance to show what he can do against the top defense in the country.

No team has allowed fewer passing plays of at least 10 yards than the 60 the Bulldogs have given up so if he gets it going against Georgia, he could help Alabama join Yale. Army, USC and Oklahoma as the only schools to have different players win the Heisman Trophy in back-to-back years after receiver DeVonta Smith was last year’s winner.

C.J. Stroud, Ohio State Quarterback

Heisman Odds: +400

The numbers looked pretty good when the Ohio State Buckeyes squared off with rival Michigan. Stroud fell six yards shy of his fifth 400-yard passing game of the season. He didn’t throw an interception for the seventh time in the last eight games but Ohio State was held under 30 points for the third time. Two of the Buckeyes’ losses came when they were held under 30 points.

Stroud averaged more than 10 yards per attempt coming into the regular-season finale but he managed only eight yards per attempt in the 42-27 loss to Michigan.

Unlike fellow front-runner Young of Alabama, Stroud won’t have a conference championship game to add to his already list of accomplishments this season.

Stroud didn’t play poorly against Michigan but also didn’t have that “Heisman moment.”

Looking for Trip to New York

It seems unlikely that anybody other than Young or Stroud will win the Heisman Trophy but here are some of the other offensive players who could earn an invitation to New York as a Heisman finalist.

Kenneth Walker, Michigan State Running Back

Heisman Odds: +1800

A running back hasn’t finished in the top three in the Heisman Trophy voting since Stanford’s Bryce Love was the runner-up to Oklahoma quarterback Baker Mayfield in 2017. That streak could come to an end as Walker has been listed by the scores and odds among the top Heisman candidates for much of the season.

After running for only 25 yards on six carries in Michigan State’s loss to Ohio State, Walker had a solid bounce-back game with 138 rushing yards in a 30-27 win over Penn State.

Walker is second among FBS players with 1,636 rushing yards and is tied for fifth with 18 touchdown runs. Walker’s performance against Michigan, when he ran for 197 yards and five touchdowns in a 37-33 Michigan State win, could be enough for Walker to crack the top three.

Kenny Pickett, Pittsburgh Quarterback

Heisman Odds: +1400

Pickett joins Western Kentucky’s Bailey Zappe as the only FBS quarterbacks with at least 4,000 passing yards and 40 touchdown passes. He is tied for second nationally with 40 passing touchdowns, fifth with 4,066 passing yards and eighth in passer rating (166.7). Many of the people ahead of him in those categories won’t be playing this weekend.

Pickett’s greatest accomplishment is leading Pittsburgh to the ACC Championship Game. He is facing a Wake Forest team that has allowed more than 400 passing yards twice this season so there will be a chance for him to put up some numbers in the ACC title game.

Dee-fense, Dee-fense, Dee-fense

If running backs have been after-thoughts in recent Heisman Trophy balloting, what about defensive players? Since 2013, the only defensive players to finish in the top five in the Heisman voting are Ohio State defensive end Chase Young, who finished fourth in the voting in 2019, and Michigan defensive back Jabrill Peppers, who was fifth in 2016. There haven’t been three defensive players in the top 10 since 2012 and that could certainly change when the votes are tabulated next month.

Will Anderson, Alabama Linebacker

Heisman Odds: +5500

Anderson is currently leading all FBS players with 29½ tackles for loss and 14½ sacks. He would be the first player since Sutton Smith of Northern Illinois to lead the nation in both categories during the same season.

During Alabama’s current six-game winning streak, Anderson has 18½ tackles for loss and 11½ sacks. He is on the verge of joining Derrick Thomas as the only Alabama player with at least 30 tackles for loss in a season. Thomas is the only Crimson Tide player with more sacks in a season than Anderson.

Jordan Davis, Georgia Defensive Lineman

Heisman Odds: +3300

The stat-crazy voters might be reluctant to include Davis on their ballots since he is 13th on the Bulldogs with 24 tackles, 10th with 3½tackles for loss and tied for eighth with two sacks, but anybody who has watched this dominant Georgia defense knows how important the 6-foot-6, 340-pound Davis is to the Bulldogs.

Since 2000, no FBS defense has allowed fewer points per game than the 6½ being given up by Georgia and the 229.7 yards per game allowed is the seventh-fewest surrendered during that span. Davis is a major reason for the stifling success of the Georgia defense.

Aidan Hutchinson, Michigan Defensive End

Heisman Odds: N/A

Speaking of passing the eye test, Hutchinson seemed to be in the backfield almost as much as the Ohio State running backs on Saturday.

Hutchinson had three sacks to give him a Michigan single-season record of 13, breaking the program record shared by David Bowens and LaMarr Woodley.

After an impressive 2019, Hutchinson was limited to three games a season ago. As a result, he wasn’t exactly getting much in the way Heisman hype when the 2021 season began. That has certainly changed thanks to his impressive campaign. He’ll get to add to what has already been a season to remember when Michigan, listed by the college football spreads as an 11-point favorite, plays Iowa in the Big Ten Championship Game.

Matchup of the Week

Alabama Crimson Tide vs. Georgia Bulldogs

What game were you expecting?

Alabama’s Young could make a major statement if he puts up some nice numbers against the best defense in the country. There will be plenty of eyes watching defensive stalwarts Jordan Davis of No. 1 Georgia and Will Anderson of Alabama when the Bulldogs and Crimson Tide meet up in the SEC Championship Game.

Georgia comes into the game as a 6½-point favorite according to the sportsbook.

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