Five weeks into the 2021 College Football season and we see some familiar patterns as the Heisman race shapes up as well as a bevy of unbeaten QBs who could all rise to prominence depending on how the season unfolds.
Bleacher Report released its top 5 Heisman contenders with four QBs in the mix, led by Alabama freshman Bryce Young, who out-dueled Mississippi’s Matt Corral, 42-21, in their match-up last week. Corral was still second on BR’s list.
But the star of the Alabama-Ole Miss content was Crimson Tide RB Brian Robinson Jr., who rushed for 171 yards and four scores on 36 carries, firmly putting his name into the Heisman conversation.
Third with a bullet on BR’s list was Cincinnati QB Desmond Ridder, who orchestrated the Bearcats 24-13 win at Notre Dame, one of the biggest in program history, throwing for 297 yards and two TDs while rushing for another. He now has 1,045 yards passing with nine TDs and three scores on the ground.
CBS Sports’s Dennis Dodd put unbeaten junior SMU QB Tanner Mordecai atop his latest Heisman list. Mordecai is seventh in the country with 1,569 yards passing and an eye-popping national-best 24 TDs to go with 6 INTs while also rushing for 149 yards.
ESPN’s Robert Griffin III has Texas RB Bijan Robinson topping his current Heisman list with Young second, Georgia DL Jordan Davis third, Ridder fourth and Pitt QB Kenny Pickett 5th. Pickett was second on Dodd’s list.
Pickett, gaining steam, is fourth nationally with 1,731 passing yards and second to Mordecai with 19 TD passes. Robinson has 891 yards rushing and nine TDs for the 4-1 Longhorns.
Said Pitt coach Pat Narduzzi on his QB: “He should be a Heisman candidate. It’s what he is right now. The guy is so smooth, he’s so calm. … He’s a smart football player, and it takes time to get that where you want it to be. He’s put the work in and he deserves what he’s getting right now.”
The Athletic released its first Heisman Straw Poll for 2021 and Young was No. 1 on the list by a strong margin with Texas’ Robinson second and Ridder third. (Interestingly, the poll had not one but two Georgia defensive linemen on the list, Davis and Devonte Wyatt).
Michigan State’s Kenneth Walker III was fourth. Walker III is averaging 6.8 yards on 100 carries with eight TDs for the 5-0 Spartans, including a 264-yard game, the second-most in the country this year. (Walker III, by the way, talked of his Heisman goals here).
The most rushing yards in one game this year? That belongs to Walker’s Big Ten rival TreVeyon Henderson of Ohio State, whose 277-yard ground outburst vs. Tulsa tops the country. Henderson is averaging a ridiculous 9.4 yards per carry.
ESPN’s Adam Rittenberg wrote on Henderson and QB teammate C.J. Stroud reemerging in the Heisman talk.
USA Today listed all QBS in its Heisman top 10 with Young and Corral going 1-2, Ridder-Pickett-Stround at 3-4-5 and North Carolina’s Sam Howell sixth despite two losses.
How about some dark horses ?
Junior QB Spencer Petras has Iowa ranked No. 5. He’s thrown for 943 yards on 62.0% passing with 7 TDs and just one interception. Likewise, senior Sean Clifford has Penn State unbeaten and in the top 5, hitting on 67.3% of his passes for 1,336 yards with 11 TDs and three interceptions.
Those are similar numbers to OU QB Spencer Rattler’s, who has guided the Sooners with 1,260 yards on 76.3% passing with 10 TDs and four interceptions while also scoring twice on the ground.
Kentucky is off to a surprising 6-0 start and their stalwart on offense has been RB Chris Rodriguez Jr., who is has 612 yards while averaging 5.9 yards per carry with four TD runs.
Coastal Carolina QB Grayson McCall has the Chanticleers still perfect ahead of their Thursday night game this week, throwing for 1,113 yards and 10 TDs with just one pick.
Wake Forest QB Sam Hartman has 11 TDs and two picks while throwing for 1,285 yards, completing 63.8% of his passes for the 5-0 Demon Deacons.
Let’s add Auburn QB Bo Nix to the list, deservedly so just on the merit of this play at the very least.
Among Heismans in the pros, Kyler Murray is currently quarterbacking the NFL’s only unbeaten team, leading Arizona to a 4-0 start. He is third in the NFL in passing yards (1,273).
Derrick Henry leads the league in rushing with 510 yards and four TDs. Henry is trying to become just the second Heisman winner to lead the NFL in rushing three straight times. The other is, of course, Earl Campbell (1978-80).
Lamar Jackson is ninth in the NFL in rushing with 279 yards but his arm is doing more of the talking. He threw for 316 yards in the Ravens win over Denver, the third-most of his career (including playoffs).
Joe Burrow, meanwhile, was just tabbed as the AFC offensive player of the week after leading the Bengals to a come-from-behind win over Jacksonville. He has the Bengals 3-1, the same record Baker Mayfield has led the Browns to and the same as Jackson’s Ravens. This SI article argues Burrow is playing the best of the trio.
Rookie DeVonta Smith had 122 yards receiving on seven grabs against Kansas City, becoming Philadelphia’s first rookie to go over the century mark since 2014.
In other former Heisman news, Desmond Howard was part of Green Bay’s celebration of their Super Bowl XXXI title last week.
Jim Plunkett was honored at Stanford last week for their 1970 and 1971 teams.