Heisman Watch: With marquee games ahead, Michigan State RB Kenneth Walker III is big factor in race

·4 min read

For the rest of the college football season, Yahoo Sports will highlight the leading candidates for the Heisman Trophy on a weekly basis. All odds are via BetMGM.

His addition fell a bit under the radar during the offseason, but it didn’t take long for Kenneth Walker III to make his presence felt in the Big Ten.

After two solid seasons at Wake Forest, Walker has emerged as a star at Michigan State. His first touch in an MSU uniform went for 75 yards and a touchdown. He hasn’t looked back since then.

Walker combined for 1,158 yards in two years at Wake Forest. So far in 2021, Walker has rushed for 913 yards and nine touchdowns while averaging 7.1 yards per carry. In Saturday’s 31-13 win over Rutgers, Walker rushed for 232 yards and had a 94-yard touchdown run.

On his way to the end zone in Piscataway, Walker showcased his vision, speed, elusiveness and flair. He waved goodbye to the Rutgers defense as he passed midfield and even shook hands with a teammate at the 10-yard line.

It’s moments like that run that have transformed Walker from a relative unknown to a legitimate Heisman Trophy candidate in just six games. The race is wide open, and Walker will have plenty of marquee games to keep himself toward the top of the conversation for college football’s most prestigious award.

(Below are the current betting favorites to win the Heisman Trophy. Odds courtesy of BetMGM.)

Alabama QB Bryce Young (+200)

Despite Alabama’s loss to Texas A&M, Young remains a betting favorite. He didn’t have his best game on Saturday, completing just 58% of his passes and tossing an interception in the loss. Nonetheless, he posted a career-high 369 passing yards along with three touchdowns. If Alabama gets back to its winning ways with Young as one of the centerpieces, he will remain in contention for the Heisman.

Ole Miss QB Matt Corral (+200)

Briefly the betting favorite for the Heisman, Corral fell back behind Young following Ole Miss’ loss to Alabama on Oct. 2. Ole Miss dropped down to No. 17 after the Alabama loss but jumped back up to No. 13 following a wild 52-51 win over Arkansas on Saturday. In the win, Corral threw for 287 yards, rushed for 94 yards and accounted for four total touchdowns. Corral threw 14 interceptions in 2020 but has not thrown a single INT to this point in the season. If he keeps that level of play up and Ole Miss stays in the national conversation, Corral’s going to have a chance.

Ohio State QB CJ Stroud (+800)

Ohio State has rebounded excellently from its Week 2 loss to Oregon and Stroud has been playing very well since he sat out the Akron game due to shoulder soreness. In wins over Rutgers and Maryland, Stroud has thrown for 736 yards and 10 touchdowns without an interception. With big games vs. Penn State, Michigan State and Michigan still on the schedule, Stroud could vault up the Heisman odds if he leads OSU back to the College Football Playoff.

Michigan State RB Kenneth Walker III (+1600)

Like with Stroud, Walker is going to have several showcase games for the surprising Spartans. Nobody expected Michigan State to start the year 6-0. Their preseason win total at BetMGM was just five wins, so they’ve already surpassed the oddsmakers’ expectations. The emergence of Walker, who leads the nation in rushing yards, has been a big part of that. As long as MSU continues winning and climbing the rankings, Walker is going to have a say in this race.

Michigan State running back Kenneth Walker III (9) runs on his way to scoring a 94-yard touchdown against Rutgers during the second half of an NCAA college football game Saturday, Oct. 9, 2021, in Piscataway, N.J. Michigan State won 31-13. (AP Photo/Adam Hunger)
Michigan State running back Kenneth Walker III (9) runs on his way to scoring a 94-yard touchdown against Rutgers during the second half of an NCAA college football game Saturday, Oct. 9, 2021, in Piscataway, N.J. Michigan State won 31-13. (AP Photo/Adam Hunger)

Texas RB Bijan Robinson (+2000)

There’s no doubt Robinson, who is third in the nation with 789 rushing yards, is one of the best players in the country, but his Heisman chances took a hit when Texas blew that big lead against Oklahoma over the weekend. Texas has two losses, so their CFP chances are not good. Still, UT is going to have a chance to get a rematch with the Sooners in the Big 12 title. That starts with Saturday’s game against Oklahoma State, the other Big 12 unbeaten.

Cincinnati QB Desmond Ridder (+2000)

Ridder made several clutch plays down the stretch against Notre Dame, but Cincinnati’s lackluster AAC schedule could hold him back in the perspective of the Heisman voters. The Bearcats are currently No. 3 in the AP Poll and Ridder will stay relevant from a Heisman perspective as long as UC keeps winning.

Others on the radar

  • Ohio State RB TreVeyon Henderson (+3500)

  • Pittsburgh QB Kenny Pickett (+3500)

  • Michigan RB Blake Corum (+5000)

  • Oregon QB Anthony Brown (+6600)

  • Alabama RB Brian Robinson (+8000)

  • Georgia QB JT Daniels (+8000)

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