• Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.

Heisman Watch: Could this be the year a defensive player wins?

·4 min read
In this article:
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Bryce Young
    American football quarterback
  • Chase Young
    Chase Young
    LiveTodayTomorrowvs--|

The college football regular season has come and gone without a clear-cut Heisman Trophy favorite emerging from the pack.

Ballots were distributed to the Heisman’s 928 voters on Monday with just the conference championship games left to play before votes are due and the finalists are unveiled next Monday night. The voters consist of 870 media members (including yours truly), 57 living Heisman winners and one fan vote.

With the field so wide open, we could be in store for one of the most unpredictable Heisman votes in recent years.

Alabama quarterback Bryce Young is the betting favorite for the award at BetMGM. He is listed at -200 and is back in front of Ohio State quarterback CJ Stroud (+450) following OSU’s loss to Michigan over the weekend.

Young led Alabama to a dramatic, come-from-behind 4OT victory over Auburn on Saturday. It was an ugly performance by the Tide, but Young led a game-tying 97-yard touchdown drive in the final minutes to send the game to overtime.

The Heisman typically skews toward quarterbacks. With Alabama now in the SEC title game against Georgia, it’d be hard to handicap anyone other than Young winning the award if he puts the team on his back and leads Alabama past the undefeated Bulldogs and into the College Football Playoff.

But if Georgia stymies Young like it has everyone else on its schedule, things get really interesting. And that could open the door for a defensive player.

Could Aidan Hutchinson or Will Anderson win Heisman?

Only one defensive player has ever won the Heisman. That was Michigan cornerback Charles Woodson back in 1997. Another Michigan defender, defensive end Aidan Hutchinson, is rapidly rising up the Heisman odds.

Hutchinson, now listed at +1600 at BetMGM, had three sacks and 15 quarterback pressures in Saturday’s resounding victory over Ohio State. His constant disruption of the Ohio State offense was one of the keys to Michigan’s win — a win that launched the Wolverines into the Big Ten championship game and on the verge of their first-ever CFP berth.

That effort puts Hutchinson at 51 tackles, 14.5 tackles for loss and 13 sacks for the season. But Hutchinson isn’t the only defensive player that should be considered. 

Alabama’s Will Anderson has been a one-man wrecking crew off the edge in the SEC this season. Anderson leads the nation with 30.5 tackles for loss and 14.5 sacks this season. He is also second on Alabama with 86 total tackles.

Anderson has especially been on a tear as of late, totaling 19.5 tackles for loss and 11.5 sacks over Alabama’s last six games. Nonetheless, he is listed at +5000 to win the Heisman at BetMGM.

Alabama linebacker Will Anderson Jr. (31) sacks Auburn quarterback TJ Finley (1) during the first half of an NCAA college football game Saturday, Nov. 27, 2021, in Auburn, Ala. (AP Photo/Butch Dill)
Alabama linebacker Will Anderson Jr. (31) sacks Auburn quarterback TJ Finley (1) during the first half of an NCAA college football game Saturday, Nov. 27, 2021, in Auburn, Ala. (AP Photo/Butch Dill)

Another defender listed at +5000 is Georgia nose tackle Jordan Davis. He is the best player on the best defense in the country, but doesn’t play a position that accumulates stats. He's got 24 tackles, 3.5 tackles for loss and two sacks this season, but those numbers don't wholly reflect his impact on a down-to-down basis. 

​​Plenty of defensive players have received Heisman votes, but they usually finish closer to 10th than they do first. Over the past 50 seasons, only 13 defensive players have finished in the top five of the Heisman voting. The most recent was Ohio State defensive end Chase Young in 2019. Young was invited to the ceremony in New York City, but finished fourth.

Maybe 2021 is the year that bucks the trend.

Full Heisman Trophy odds via BetMGM

  • Alabama QB Bryce Young: -200

  • Ohio State QB C.J. Stroud: +450

  • Michigan DE Aidan Hutchinson: +1600

  • Pittsburgh QB Kenny Pickett: +1800

  • Ole Miss QB Matt Corral: +2000

  • Michigan State RB Kenneth Walker III: +2000

  • Georgia DL Jordan Davis: +5000

  • Alabama LB Will Anderson: +5000

  • Cincinnati QB Desmond Ridder: +8000

  • Michigan QB Cade McNamara: +8000

  • Wake Forest QB Sam Hartman: +8000

  • Oklahoma State QB Spencer Sanders: +15000

  • Georgia QB Stetson Bennett: +15000

  • Notre Dame QB Jack Coan: +20000

  • Ohio State RB TreVeyon Henderson: +20000

  • Alabama RB Brian Robinson: +25000

  • Oklahoma QB Caleb Williams: +25000

  • Notre Dame RB Kyren Williams: +25000

Our goal is to create a safe and engaging place for users to connect over interests and passions. In order to improve our community experience, we are temporarily suspending article commenting