Early 2021 Heisman Trophy Overview
The 2021 college football season is three and a half months away, so there is a lot of time to study up on Heisman Trophy contenders and see where they stand. What is an early read on how the Heisman race might unfold this coming autumn? Let’s look at the top five candidates on the board:
Spencer Rattler, Oklahoma: +400
The main reason Rattler, as Oklahoma’s quarterback, is the early favorite is that the Heisman often goes to the best player on the best team, or at least the team which is in a good position to make the national championship game. Oklahoma is viewed as a team which can go to the national title game this year. This is, according to experts, the Oklahoma team with the best chance of finally breaking through and winning a College Football Playoff semifinal, something the Sooners haven’t yet done. The 2017 team came very close, but it lost to Georgia in overtime in the Rose Bowl. The 2015, 2018, and 2019 Oklahoma teams were all decisively beaten in the playoff semifinals. This 2021 group has a chance to go beyond all of those OU teams. If the Sooners live up to the hype during the regular season, Rattler will definitely be at the forefront of the Heisman race. That seems relatively clear.
D.J. Uiagalelei, Clemson: +700
The man who filled in for Trevor Lawrence at Notre Dame last November gained a memorable experience as a young college quarterback. That moment for D.J. Uiagalelei could become extremely valuable this year. Being able to play a high-stakes game on the road (even with a small fan presence due to the pandemic) enabled Uiagalelei to understand what it takes to be a great college quarterback. He won’t be as surprised when he takes over the starting job this year. He will know what to expect, at least to a certain degree. Clemson has been able to reload at quarterback in recent years, with Lawrence taking the baton from Deshaun Watson. Uiagalelei will now try to build on what Lawrence achieved. If he comes anywhere close to the Trevor Lawrence standard, he will be in the mix for the Heisman.
Bryce Young, Alabama: +700
Everyone saw last year that despite the absence of Tua Tagovailoa, the Alabama offense and passing game were just fine – actually, much better than fine. Mac Jones led a roaring offense through the SEC, all the way to a national championship. Alabama has great receivers and a top-quality offensive line. Bryce Young can become the Mac Jones of 2021 and benefit from all the resources at his disposal. An Alabama player, DeVonta Smith, won the Heisman last year. An Alabama player should always be counted on to be a factor in this race.
J.T. Daniels, Georgia: +900
The Georgia passing game looked terrible last season, until coach Kirby Smart inserted Daniels into the lineup. Then the Bulldogs’ offense noticeably improved. The Peach Bowl performance against Cincinnati was not great, but Daniels did enough to win that game. He enters 2021 with a lot of confidence and much more familiarity with the SEC. If Georgia wins the SEC title, Daniels could overtake Rattler for the Heisman.
Sam Howell, North Carolina: +1200
The fact that Howell is an ACC quarterback, and that North Carolina is likely to not win the ACC championship due to the Clemson dynasty, puts Howell behind the other four players on this list. However, if he upsets Clemson in the ACC Championship Game, Howell could instantly vault to the head of the pack. That is what can make the difference: beating Clemson.