The Heisman Trophy finalists were named on Monday: Alabama quarterback Bryce Young, Michigan defensive end Aidan Hutchinson, Pittsburgh quarterback Kenny Pickett, and Ohio State quarterback C.J. Stroud.
Three quarterbacks led the nominees during a 2021 season in which there was no apparent front-runner until November and which was marked by outstanding defensive performances.
Quarterbacks have dominated the award in recent years, winning 17 times since 2000 and four of the previous five. DeVonta Smith of Alabama was the first wide receiver to win the Heisman Trophy since Desmond Howard in 1991.
Young, a sophomore, was a preseason favourite, but it was defensive players like his teammate linebacker Will Anderson Jr., Georgia defensive lineman Jordan Davis, and Hutchinson who shone out as the season progressed.
Young, who is in his first season as a starter, is now the clear favourite to win the award after throwing for 421 yards and three touchdowns in a 41-24 win against the then-top-ranked Bulldogs in the SEC championship game on Saturday.
At Caesars Sportsbook, he has odds of -4000, while Hutchinson has odds of 20-1. Both Stroud and Pickett are 30-1.
Young, who spent his rookie year as a backup to Mac Jones, concluded the regular season with 4,322 yards passing, 46 touchdowns (three on the ground), and only four interceptions while completing 68 percent of his throws.
Young has a chance to become Alabama’s fourth Heisman Trophy winner, the second in a row, but the first for a quarterback. Alabama would also become the sixth school to have two Heisman Trophy winners in a row.
Hutchinson, the Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year, has been the defensive anchor and hammer for Michigan’s stalwart defence. He has 58 tackles and 14 sacks (a single-season Michigan record and second in FBS), and he made national headlines with his performance against Ohio State. Hutchinson had a season-high seven tackles and three sacks against the Buckeyes in a contest that would eventually lead the Wolverines to the Big Ten championship game and the College Football Playoff.
Todd McShay’s newest draught rankings for 2022 had Hutchinson as the top overall player.
Though offensive players have won the Heisman most of the time, Michigan has had some success with defensive players. The only defensive player to win the Heisman Trophy is Charles Woodson, who won it in 1997, and Jabrill Peppers, the last Wolverine to be nominated, was also a defender.
Pickett’s storey stands out among the four finalists since he is the oldest. He joined the Panthers in 2017, became their full-time starter in 2018, and suffered through a few lacklustre seasons until receiving an extra year of eligibility due to the pandemic-shortened 2020 season.
The 23-year-old broke out in his fifth season at Pitt, setting the ACC record for most touchdown passes with 43, surpassing Jameis Winston and Deshaun Watson. He also contributed 4,319 throwing yards and a 67.2 completion %, as well as the ACC title for the programme.
Stroud is the youngest of the group, but he topped the country in QBR and threw for 3,862 yards and 38 touchdowns, both of which were tops in the Big Ten. The Southern California native was selected Big Ten Freshman of the Year and Offensive Player of the Year, among other honours. Stroud would join Johnny Manziel and Winston as the only freshmen to win the Heisman Trophy if he were to win it.
The Heisman Trophy will be awarded in New York on Saturday (8 p.m. ET on ESPN), returning to its regular schedule and date after being forced to postpone and go virtual due to the epidemic last year.