The most prestigious award in college football is the Heisman Trophy. A crazy shakeup to the norm happened last season when DeVonta Smith, a wide receiver, won the award. With that said, here are the top 5 contenders for the 2021 Heisman Trophy.
Note: Odds found here.
5. Sam Howell, QB, North Carolina Tar Heels (+800)
Howell is now a junior who has two years of starting experience under his belt. As a freshman, he passed for 3,641 yards, 38 touchdowns and seven interceptions on 61.4 percent completion. His play helped North Carolina go 7-6 after going 2-9 the previous year. In 12 games during the 2020 season, Howell passed for 3,586 yards, 30 touchdowns and seven interceptions on 68.1 percent completion. North Carolina won eight games, but lost the Orange Bowl to Texas A&M to finish the season.
While he lost two of his top receivers and running backs from last year, Howell has a lot of returning experience in front of him on the offensive line. So Howell should be able to have a good year and the team should too, as they are projected to finish right behind Clemson in the ACC. He’ll have an opportunity to draw the eyes of the nation when the Tar Heels play Notre Dame on October 30. If the team performs well and an make the ACC Championship Game, Howell could even have some nice Heisman moments against Clemson.
4. D.J. Uiagalelei, QB, Clemson Tigers (+800)
Uiagalelei was a highly-touted recruit who had to wait his turn behind Trevor Lawrence at Clemson. When Lawrence was unable to play in a few games due to COVID protocols, Uiagalelei played well for the Tigers. He threw for over 400 yards against Notre Dame. In total, Uiagalelei threw for 914 yards, five touchdowns and no interceptions on 66.7 percent completion.
Clemson is once again expected to be one of the best teams in the country in 2021, which helps Uiagalelei’s case. He will have to help break in a lot of new players on offense, which could be hard considering his relative lack of experience. The Tigers will have the national stage on the opening weekend against Georgia. A big game in that one and Uiagalelei can take an early lead in the Heisman race, but the schedule after that point doesn’t allow for many expected big games.
3. JT Daniels, QB, Georgia Bulldogs (+700)
Daniels started his career at USC and went into their program as a very valued recruit. In 11 games as a freshman, he passed for 2,672 yards, 14 touchdowns and 10 interceptions on 59.5 percent completion. The Trojans were 8-5 on the season. Early in the 2019 season, Daniels tore his ACL and missed the rest of his sophomore season. Following the season, Daniels transferred to Georgia. Although he wasn’t ready for the start of the season, Daniels passed for 1,231 yards, 10 touchdowns and two interceptions on 67.2 percent completion in four games played. The Bulldogs were able to win all four games Daniels played in, including their Peach Bowl win over undefeated Cincinnati.
While Daniels has not put up amazing numbers in his career, other than the last four games of 2020, there is reason to believe he could win the award. Georgia is projected to be one of the best teams in the country. They may have lost some starters on the defensive side of the ball and wide receiver George Pickens due to injury, but they usually reload in recruiting. Daniels will have a chance to play in big games this season with Georgia having matchups against Clemson and Florida. It will take a lot of consistency, but Daniels could walk away from the 2021 season with the Heisman Trophy.
2. Bryce Young, QB, Alabama Crimson Tide (+550)
Alabama has had several good quarterbacks come through their doors in the last few seasons and Young might be the most electric. The dual-threat quarterback played in mop up duty last year behind Mac Jones. He passed for 156 yards, one touchdown and no interceptions on 59.1 percent completion.
After getting limited playing time in 2020, Young is the man behind center for the Crimson Tide. He will have to overcome not having much experience coming back on Alabama’s offense, as well as his own lack of experience. The good news for Young is that Alabama is one of the favorites to make the College Football Playoff again. If he can put up stats, he will have a chance to play in big games. They play Miami, Florida, Texas A&M, LSU and at Auburn, which is one of the toughest schedules in the country.
1. Spencer Rattler, QB, Oklahoma Sooners (+300)
Rattler spent his freshman season backing up Jalen Hurts, but took over the offense in 2020. Although he had a shaky start, Rattler settled down and performed beautifully. He finished the season with 3,031 passing yards, 28 touchdowns and seven interceptions on 67.5 percent completion. His play helped Oklahoma win their last eight games of the season, as they capped off the season with wins in the Big 12 Championship Game and in the Cotton Bowl over Florida.
Oklahoma has 17 returning starters and is projected to be one of the best teams in the country. The offense is designed for quarterbacks to put up big numbers, like the last several players at the position have done for the Sooners. Oklahoma doesn’t have a lot of marquee games early in the season, but Rattler can rack up stats until the end of the season. Their last two games come against Iowa State and at Oklahoma State, which figure to be their biggest tests of the season. A few big performances in these games (and in the Red River Rivalry against Texas) and Rattler will stay in the Heisman race. If Oklahoma makes the College Football Playoff and he plays well, Rattler could be walking home with a lot of hardware, including the Heisman Trophy.
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