The 2021 Heisman Trophy watch is officially underway following a tremendous return of college football over the weekend. After Alabama’s DeVonta Smith took home the award last season, a quarterback looks primed to take home the hardware this time. But of course, as always, there will be wide receivers and running backs in the discussion at points during the season as well. With that in mind, let’s take a look at the top candidates and their performances in Week 1.
1. Bryce Young, Alabama
Of course, Alabama is going to have a Heisman candidate. Not only that, but with his performance in Week 1, Young is now the frontrunner on most sportsbooks. The Pasadena native had an outstanding performance against Miami, as he completed 27-of-38 passes for 344 yards and four touchdowns. His performance set a school record for passing touchdowns and yards in a debut as a starter. That is saying something knowing how fantastic the Alabama program is.
2. Spencer Rattler, Oklahoma
Oklahoma quarterbacks have a great track record with the Heisman, as Baker Mayfield (2018) and Kyler Murray (2017) were back-to-back winners, while Sam Bradford also won in 2008. Rattler looks to join them, as he came into the season as the favorite. His candidacy did not get off to a great start against Tulane, as he was picked off on his second pass attempt. But it’s not how your start, it’s how you finish. While the Phoenix, Arizona native also threw another interception in the game, he wound up completing 30-of-39 pass attempts for 304 yards, while passing and rushing for a touchdown.
3. C.J. Stroud, Ohio State
The redshirt freshman showed poise in the second half to hold off a Minnesota upset. Stepping in for Justin Fields is obviously not easy, but Stroud did a great job in the first game. After shaking off some rust that caused him to throw an interception on the Buckeye’s third drive and leading to a momentum shift, he bounced back to throw four touchdown passes in the second half. The California native finished throwing for 294 yards on 13-of-22 passing and the four touchdowns.
4. D.J. Uiagalelei, Clemson
It was a very rough first game for the sophomore quarterback and Clemson facing off against a tough Georgia defense. Uiagalelei finished with 19-of-37 passing for 178 yards and one interception while Clemson lost 10-3. The interception occurred following a very ill-advised throw that led to it being returning 74 yards for a pick-six. He was also sacked seven times. The offensive line is obviously a big concern there as well, but Uiagalelei still must be better. Especially to be in contention for the Heisman. It will be important to see how he bounces back against SC State next week.
5. Desmond Ridder, Cinncinati
Although a longshot for the award, Ridder impressed mightily in Week 1. In only the first half against Miami (OH), the senior quarterback was 14-of-16 passing for 229 yards and three touchdowns. He finished 20-of-25 for 295 yards and four touchdowns and one interception. Due to the conference he plays in, Ridder will have a tough time winning the award, but Cinncinati does have two non-conference matchups against Indiana and Notre dame later this season. Depending on how he performs, he may find himself in contention late.
Falls off: Sam Howell, North Carolina
It was a bad first week for one of the frontrunners coming in, as Howell threw three interceptions and just one touchdown while completing 17-for-32 passing. He will really needs to bounce back against Georgia State next week.
Yet to play: Matt Corral, Ole Miss
Ole Miss plays their first game tonight against Louisville, and by the time it is all said and done, Corral should be right in the mix for the Heisman as well. This will be updated following that game.
Keep tuning in each week, as I give you the updates on the Heisman race!
Follow Alex Kielar on Twitter @AlexKielar
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