The sport of college football is still trying to unravel the chaos caused by a cataclysmic week one of the 2021 season that featured several big performances and upsets. The chase for the Heisman Memorial Trophy became a lot more interesting with noticeable performances from several favorites and some that were under the radar.
Arguably, the number one player on most experts' radars for the Heisman during the preseason was Oklahoma Sooners quarterback Spencer Rattler. The Sooners had a fairly easy opponent early on Saturday as they hosted the Tulane Green Wave. However, it was anything but easy for the Sooners as they were put on upset alert throughout the entire game.
After leading the Green Wave 37-14 at halftime, the Sooners dropped their lead as they were inconsistent on both sides of the ball. The Sooners needed Rattler to step up and be a leader, but he failed to do so as Tulane was within five points with 2:18 left in the game and they recovered their onside kick.
Rattler threw for 304 yards, one touchdown, two interceptions, and 72.1 QBR on 30 completions (out of 39 passing attempts). The Sooners only scored three points in the second half. While Rattler remains high on a lot of analysts' lists of Heisman rankings, he has slipped significantly due to short passing plays, inconsistency on big plays and the current inability to lead.
One player that has risen significantly in the Heisman rankings is Michigan State Spartans running back Kenneth Walker III. The Spartans took down their fellow Big Ten Conference foe in the Northwestern Wildcats 38-21. In his first game after transferring from Wake Forest, Walker rushed for 264 yards and four touchdowns on 23 carries. Walker averaged 11.5 yards per carry as he powered through his way to a dominating performance over the Wildcats.
Another running back that is making his way further in the Heisman Trophy rankings is former Michigan Wolverine and current UCLA Bruins running back Zach Charbonnet. The Bruins were one of the few teams that played in week one and the week before for the kickoff season. UCLA is currently 2-0 after two impressive wins over the Fresno State Bulldogs and the #16 LSU Tigers. One of the biggest reasons is the performance of their new star running back.
Charbonnet rushed for 106 yards and three touchdowns on six carries in the 44-10 win over Fresno State on August 28. Against the Tigers, Charbonnet rushed for 117 yards and a key touchdown on 11 carries. The Bruins are having a surprising 2021 season. As long as the Bruins remain a threat in the race for the Pac-12 Conference title, Charbonnet's chances for the Heisman Trophy will increase.
As the #8 Cincinnati Bearcats continue to gain traction for the College Football Playoffs, so will the Heisman Trophy ranking of their star quarterback Desmond Ridder. The Bearcats defeated the Miami (OH) RedHawks at home this past Saturday with a 49-14 score. Riddler was nearly perfect as he threw for 295 yards, four touchdowns, one interception, and a QBR of 96.1 on 20 completions and only five incomplete passes. He also rushed for 31 yards and a touchdown on six carries. It is going to be harder for a player from a non-power five conference to win the Heisman Trophy. As long as Ridder remains perfect on the field, he will be in the running near the end of the season.
Of all the top performances of week one, Alabama Crimson Tide quarterback Bryce Young played exceptionally well. Young started his first-ever collegiate game as he took as the leader of an offense that was ranked second in the nation in points per game (48.5) and third in passing yards per game (358.2). Not only did Young take control of the Tide's offense efficiently, but was dominant against the defense of the #14 Miami Hurricanes.
Young passed for 344 yards, four touchdowns, and a 94.2 QBR on 27 completions (out of 38 passing attempts). Alabama's offense, led by Young, was able to score in their first five drives of the game against the Hurricanes. Young was highly efficient in reading the coverage schemes of the defensive backs of Miami, consistently avoided pressure, and remained calm and poised in the pocket while passing the ball. He also didn't force the ball to his receivers. His biggest play was a 94-yard touchdown pass off a broken coverage to wide receiver Jameson Williams early in the third quarter.
According to Vegas Insider, Young has become the betting favorite to win the Heisman Trophy at +400 followed by Oklahoma's Spencer Rattler at +800. Rattler was the favorite heading into week one. A lot can change in one week, but so far, Young looks to be the leader of the Heisman race and bring Alabama their second Heisman Trophy winner for the second year in a row.
Michael Hanich’s Top Five Heisman picks of the Week
QB Bryce Young (Alabama)
RB Kenneth Walker III (Michigan State)
RB Zach Charbonnet (UCLA)
QB Desmond Ridder (Cincinnati)
QB Spencer Rattler (Oklahoma)