It has not been too hard to guess where the top Heisman candidates were going to come from in recent years. Nine of the last 12 winners played on teams that made it to the College Football Playoffs, so pick the quarterback or running back for one of those teams, and you have a good shot.
The opening odds for the 2021 Heisman certainly reflected that. Bryce Young was one of the favorites before he was even named Alabama’s starter. Clemson has been producing top-notch quarterbacks in recent years. So surely, DJ Uiagalelei is a superstar just waiting to take a snap. But the reality of this season is not quite what was expected.
Okay—so, Bryce Young is playing great football so far. But Spencer Rattler is not and neither is DJ Uiagalelei. However, several players are playing like they want to get an invite to New York in December—many not from schools accustomed to having someone in Heisman conversations:
|Heisman Trophy Odds for 2021-22 CFB Season||Caesars||BetMGM||DraftKings|
|Kenneth Walker III||+4000||+4000||+4000|
|Brian Robinson Jr||+5000||+10000||+6000|
This table is not complete, though. Additional players with longer odds can be found at sports betting apps. Of course, the season is still very young, and a lot could happen. With conference play about to get underway, it is not whether things will change but how much.
Bryce Young vs. Matt Corral?
If recent history is any indication, it might not be a bad idea to go ahead and bet on one of the favorites. For the last five years, the eventual winner was either the odds on favorite or one of the top candidates in Week 5 of their respective season. That means there is a strong likelihood that either Bryce Young or Matt Corral will win the Heisman this season.
But none of the contenders have looked unbeatable this season. One loss may be all it will take for someone to emerge and become the new favorite.
Take current favorite, Ole Miss quarterback Matt Corral. If he is to remain at the top of the leaderboard, he will need to lead the Rebels to a win this weekend over Alabama. If he plays well enough, he may still be a contender afterward. But then he will need a great game against Arkansas the following week.
If Corral does win, he will become the first Heisman winner from Ole Miss.
Bryce Young is in a position similar to Corral. The Alabama quarterback has played like someone who deserves to be at the forefront of Heisman conversations. As well as he has played, a loss to Ole Miss this weekend will not kill his shot. But Alabama has several challenging games on the schedule in the weeks ahead, including three ranked opponents (Texas A&M, Arkansas, Auburn).
LSU and Tennessee will not be pushovers, either— and the Tide did look vulnerable against Florida.
Other Heisman Contenders To Watch
Things are certainly not looking good for preseason favorite Spencer Rattler. He and the Sooners have not looked good this season despite their 4-0 record. But if he gets things together and Corral and Young falter, he may still have a shot. The same can be said for Ohio State’s CJ Stroud. At this point, everyone not named Matt Coral or Bryce Young are dark horse candidates. A few have fantastic stories, the kind that Heisman voters love to vote for as long as they play for winners.
When opening odds got posted, Cincinnati’s Desmond Riddler was nowhere near the Heisman conversation (odds were north of +7000). He is probably one of the most talented quarterbacks in the game—but since he plays for a Group of Five school, he will not get nearly as much respect as anyone playing for a Power Five program.
But with a game this week against Notre Dame, he has the opportunity to make voters see him.
A lot would have to happen for Oregon defensive standout TreVeyon Henderson to become a serious candidate. But his odds have dropped from around +14000 a couple of weeks ago to about +3500. He will need an incredible season to overcome the Heisman’s quarterback bias—but if voters decide to be different this season…
SMU’s Tanner Mordecai is averaging five touchdowns a game. He will need to keep that pace up just to qualify as a finalist. But even if he does and the Mustangs go undefeated, SMU’s schedule will make it hard for many voters to take him seriously.
However, the best potential dark horse is Arkansas quarterback KJ Jefferson. While his stats are not gaudy, but his story works in his favor. The Razorbacks are a perennial loser that are undefeated (4-0) and just took down a top-ten team, face No. 2 Georgia this weekend, followed by No. 12 Ole Miss and No. 22 Auburn.
If the Razorbacks survive that gauntlet, his odds will get a lot shorter. A good showing against Alabama later in the year could turn him into the favorite.
Bryce Young and Matt Corral are both good bets. If you want to play it safe, then put your money on one of those two quarterbacks. But at this point in the season, it makes more sense to place small wagers on dark horse candidates.
Riddler has made an excellent case for himself and can make it even better with a win over Notre Dame. The only problem is the rest of Cincinnati’s schedule—it is unimpressive. But the schedule for Arkansas and KJ Jefferson will force voters to take notice. That is, if they can keep winning.
Riddler is the better quarterback of the two, but Jefferson has a better shot. If you bet on him now, all it takes to win $1000 is a $10 wager.