Most years there are clear frontrunners for the Heisman Trophy, but they don’t always win the award. In 2019, Joe Burrow came out of nowhere to take home the trophy and last year DeVonta Smith did the same. It may just happen again in 2021. Here are the darkhorse contenders for the 2020 Heisman Trophy.
Note: Odds found here. All players have 20/1 (or +2,000) odds or higher.
Matt Corral, QB, Ole Miss Rebels (+2000)
Corral has been around for the last three seasons and has generated some buzz. He played sparingly over his first two seasons and had mixed results. In 2020, Lane Kiffin made him his starter. Corral played well and ended the season with 3,337 passing yards, 29 touchdowns and 14 interceptions on 70.9 completion in 10 games played. Because of his numbers and his strong arm, he is creating some hype for himself and his team.
Ole Miss finished 5-5 in Kiffin’s first season at the helm. With eight starters back, Ole Miss should be able to win more games in 2021, which helps Corral’s Heisman case. He’ll have big games against Alabama, LSU and Texas A&M to help prove his case. Corral will likely have the numbers to win the Heisman, but he will need to cut down on his interceptions to win the award.
Jayden Daniels, QB, Arizona State Sun Devils
Through two seasons as the starting quarterback for the Sun Devils, Daniels has played well. In his 16 career games, he has passed for 3,644 yards, 22 touchdowns and three interceptions on 60.2 percent completion. The Sun Devils were only able to play in four games last season and went 2-2 in those contests.
The Sun Devils have a chance to really improve this season. They return 20 starters, with nine coming back on the offensive side of the ball. Daniels will have talent to utilize around him and will have chemistry with those players. The problem for him might lie in the Sun Devils’ schedule. There are games against USC and Stanford, but Arizona State won’t have many notable games and may not be able to start the Heisman hype for him until it is too late. It is much harder for a player who isn’t at an elite program to win the award as well.
Emory Jones, QB, Florida Gators (+3300)
Jones has only played a little bit so far, but is set to take over as the starter for the Gators this season. He has 613 passing yards, 514 rushing yards and 13 total touchdowns so far in his Florida career. Not only are big things expected of Jones, but Florida is expected to be among the best teams in the country.
There will be only four starters returning for Jones to work with in 2021. The good news is three return on the offensive line. Jones will be able to use his dual-threat abilities well. If he can take a jump just like Kyle Trask did under Dan Mullen, the numbers will be there for him. He’ll just need to play big in their games against Alabama and Georgia to have a Heisman moment.
Brock Purdy, QB, Iowa State Cyclones (+3300)
Iowa State is a program that has really improved over the last few years and a lot of credit has to go to Purdy. He has passed for 8,982 yards, 62 touchdowns and 25 interceptions on 66.1 percent completion. His numbers declined last season, but overall Purdy has played pretty well throughout his college career.
The main factor making Purdy a darkhorse Heisman candidate is that Iowa State figures to be very good in 2021. The Cyclones are coming off of a 9-3 season and return 18 starters. Purdy will have enough help to win a lot of games and put up some good stats. The most important games for Purdy to show up in are the ones against Oklahoma, Texas and Oklahoma State. If he can do that, there is a chance he can crash the Heisman party.
C.J. Stroud, QB, Ohio State Buckeyes (+3300)
Stroud has not taken a snap for the Buckeyes yet, but there are some lofty expectations for anyone playing at Ohio State. Dwayne Haskins and Justin Fields have come close to winning the Heisman, but it may be Stroud who ends up coming home with the trophy, even if it isn’t this year.
Ohio State will give Stroud a lot of support, specifically at the wide receiver position. Both Garrett Wilson and Chris Olave are back after having great 2020 seasons. On top of that, Ohio State will be one of the most visible teams in the country once again with games against: Oregon, Penn State and Michigan. Stroud is just a freshman, but he is on a team that usually has good offenses and is very competitive, which helps his case.
Make sure to check out our college football page for more content like Darkhorse Contenders for the 2021 Heisman Trophy!