Heisman candidates: Who’s who?

Jake Blancher, Associate Sports Editor

heisman trophy
Bryce Young is the current favorite to win this prestigious award. (Matthew Tate)

With the conclusion of the 2021 college football regular season, the focus now turns to bowl games and award presentations, especially the most prestigious of them all: the Heisman Trophy. 

The four finalists were announced on Monday, Dec. 6th and are as follows: 

Bryce Young, quarterback, University of Alabama

Young is currently the heavy favorite, at 30/1 odds, to take home the award. He is the latest phenom to emerge from an impressive recent lineage of incredible Alabama quarterbacks, with the three before him all currently starting in the NFL: Mac Jones, Tua Tagovailoa and Jalen Hurts

The Californian sophomore has had an electric season, accruing 4,322 yards and an unworldly 43-to-four touchdown to interception ratio. Further cementing himself as the Heisman favorite in the SEC championship game, Young commanded the Crimson Tide to an upset victory over the former undefeated and top ranked team in the nation, the University of Georgia Bulldogs. Young’s 461 yards and four touchdowns from scrimmage not only secured Alabama the SEC title, but also a spot in the College Football Playoffs and the number one seed in the country. 

Young will likely become the second consecutive and fourth Alabama player in the past dozen years, to secure the Heisman, after wide receiver Devonta Smith took home the award last season.

Aidan Hutchinson, defensive end, University of Michigan

Hutchinson has been nothing short of dominant this season. Averaging over a sack a game, he led the Michigan to a 12-1 record, their best since 1997, en route to a Big Ten championship, their first college football berth and perhaps the biggest deal to the Blue fandom — a win over Ohio State University

Leveraging a powerful 6-foot-six-inch, 265-pound frame and uncanny ability to bend around the edge, the Plymouth, Massachusetts native fights with his hands, unleashing a variety of pass rush moves, making him the most feared defensive player in college football this season. 

If he were to win the Heisman, a longshot at 1/20, he would be the first defensive player to take home the award since fellow Wolverine Charles Woodson in the aforementioned 1997 season. Expect to hear Hutchinson’s name called very early in Las Vegas this April, perhaps even first overall.

Kenny Pickett, quarterback, University of Pittsburgh

Pickett burst onto the scene in 2021, earning the Pittsburgh Panthers their first Atlantic Coastal Conference title since joining the conference in 2011, despite having just 1/33 odds to start the season. Due in large part to Pickett’s masterful play, including a fake slide turned 58-yard touchdown run in the championship game, Pittsburgh was ranked as high as 12 in the most recent poll, their highest position in over a decade. 

Pickett is unlikely to bring the trophy back to Heinz Field, 25/1 odds, but has performed well enough to potentially be the first quarterback selected in the upcoming draft.

C.J. Stroud, quarterback, Ohio State University

Ohio State is one of the premiere college football powerhouses, so anything short of a national title is a failed season. Considering the Buckeyes were left out of the playoffs, finishing the season ranked number six, many considered this a disappointing campaign, but none of the blame could be placed on the redshirt freshman signal caller, C.J. Stroud. 

Much like Bryce Young, he spent his first season backing up eventual first round pick, this time Justin Fields, and rapidly ascended onto the college football scene with a similar trajectory. Finishing the season with 3862 yards, 38 touchdowns and just 5 interceptions, Stroud positioned himself in the Heisman running. 

Although unlikely to actually take home the award due to Young’s historic season, he undoubtedly will give the fans at “the Shoe” much to cheer for in the upcoming 2022 season.

Be sure to tune in to ESPN on the night of Dec. 11 to see whose name is jotted down in the record book and become legendary on campus.