Archie Griffin is still the only player to win the Heisman Trophy twice, even all these decades later, and Bryce Young is starting to see why.

It’s hard enough winning the most prestigious award in college football once. Winning it again, or 2 years in a row like Griffin did, is almost like throwing a dart perfectly at the center of a dart board, then throwing another dart and hitting the same spot. Recreating that same magic is incredibly difficult, because there are so many variables in a college football season that challenge that magic from fully coming back.

For Young, right now at least, that magic isn’t quite there, even if the victories still are. The Crimson Tide lost their No. 1 ranking in both polls over the past 2 weeks to Georgia, but they are still No. 2 in the AP and coaches’ polls, they are still 3-0 going into their conference opener against Vanderbilt on Saturday night and they are still a national title contender, which is what really matters to someone like Young who already won his Heisman but came up short in the championship game a month later.

Making history by matching the ghost of Griffin is still there for the taking for Young if he can step on the gas pedal during conference season, especially in those upcoming showdown games that’ll have the full attention of all those Heisman voters. There are still 9 games left, or three-quarters of a season. The 2022 Heisman isn’t gone for Young — not yet. But he’s got to get going, and he’s got serious ground to make up.

Here are 3 big reasons his Heisman odds have slipped a bit:

1. Lack of explosive plays so far

Bryce was Bryce in this category in the season-opener against Utah State. He actually led the Tide in rushing with 100 yards on the nose, including a 63-yard dash. He added a 4-yard touchdown scamper early in the third quarter before being taken out of the blowout game. He was sensational in the first half, throwing 5 TD passes, and although none of those scoring strikes were of the long “explosive” variety, he was moving his team up and down the field at a frenetic pace.

He was being explosive. He was more of the 2021 Bryce Young, the Heisman Young who led the SEC with 18 passing plays of 40 yards or more. Who knows how many yards and touchdowns passing and running he might’ve piled up had he not been yanked so early in the second half. In a little more than a half, Young was responsible for almost 300 yards of total offense, with explosive plays everywhere, so do the math yourself. In other words, through 1 game Young was very much on a Heisman-winning pace.

Then came the past 2 games.

Bama struggled mightily in every facet during most of a 20-19 escape-act victory at Texas and while Young played “Houdini” — as Longhorns head coach Steve Sarkisian called him afterward — on multiple occasions just to will the Tide to victory, his final stats were predictably less than overwhelming. Young’s 38 yards rushing included a couple of those Houdini-type plays that turned certain defeat into victory, and that speaks to Young’s incredible poise and resilience as a leader.

But in a headline game where Fox and ESPN had their pregame shows staked out, 38 yards rushing to go with a little over 200 yards passing and just an 80.7 adjusted quarterback rating isn’t exactly going to move the needle. Young didn’t throw an interception and he did everything imaginable to lead his team to a gut-check win, and that’s all wonderful, but dreams of a second Heisman slipped a little from his grasp in Austin.

Last Saturday against Louisiana-Monroe, it slipped a little more. Yes, it was another blowout game and Young only threw it 18 times because he only had to throw it 18 times, and he managed to squeeze 3 TD passes in those 18 attempts. But he also threw 2 interceptions, his first 2 of the season, against a Sun Belt defense, and that’s not something that Heisman winners do. His adjusted quarterback rating was 81.7 on a day it could’ve and should’ve been much higher against an overmatched opponent.

Young could’ve run wild against the Warhawks, but he hardly ran it at all, finishing with a feeble 6 yards on 3 carries. And while one of those carries was a 7-yard scoring run, you get the point. You shouldn’t be able to lose the Heisman in mid-September against a Sun Belt team, and Young only ran it 3 times because everyone else was running it and running it effectively. But this was a day to pile up some massive stats and mix in some of those 2021 explosive moments, and Young didn’t do that.

The most glaring difference, so far, between 2021 Young and 2022 Young: In 2021, Young led the SEC with 18 completions covering at least 40 yards. He doesn’t have a single one thus far in 2022.

2. This isn’t 2021 anymore

It’s so much easier to win a Heisman and then graduate or go to the NFL. Because when a player wins a Heisman and then comes back the next season, he’s expected to be that exact same player and then some, considering he’s got that dazzling year under his belt and the wisdom that comes with it.

But that’s not always how it works. Sometimes the team a Heisman winner comes back to the following fall is different or far different from the one with which he won that Heisman. This is 1 of 100 reasons Griffin is still the only one who’s won it twice. Young has a wonderful array of weapons this season, like Bama does every season. But it’s not the same mix — not even close, and a lot of times it’s having just that right supporting cast that lifts a player into the Heisman stratosphere.

The Tide lost its top running back from 2021 in Brian Robinson Jr. and its top 3 pass catchers in John Metchie, Jameson Williams and Slade Bolden. That’s a lot to say goodbye to for a quarterback and a lot of brand new to get familiar with in a hurry. Three games into 2022 it’s clear Young is still not fully on the same page with his new cast that includes dynamic transfers Jahmyr Gibbs and Jermaine Burton.

Bama has only 1 100-yard rushing game so far in 2022, and it belongs to Young — barely — in that 100-yard rushing performance in the opener. No running back has gotten to the 100-yard mark in any of the first 3 games, though Gibbs and Jase McClellan have come close. And no Tide receivers have reached the 100-yard mark in any game this season, which has a little to do with 2 of the games being blowouts so playing time was somewhat limited.

But the point is that Young was probably more explosive in 2021 because there was more explosion around him. Bama doesn’t have a deep threat like Williams. Right now, there is massive potential but so far not nearly the same level of production. This all trickles down to Young, who had to basically will his team to victory at Texas by himself. Last year, Young fell into just the right mix of talent and experience level in his first season as a starter. This year things are far different and unless it all changes quickly, Griffin will remain the only 2-time Heisman winner for another season.

3. Others are coming for his crown

This is why winning back-to-back NBA titles or Stanley Cups or Super Bowls or World Series is so darn difficult. Or back-to-back national titles, a challenge Georgia — despite its early excellence — will have to deal with soon enough as the games get tougher and the pressure mounts. Young is the hunted in 2022. He did not have to deal with that pressure in 2021, when he exploded onto the scene, literally, and snatched the Heisman in his first season as a starter.

Things are more difficult now. Bama doesn’t have the best team anymore, not right now at least. That mantle belongs to Georgia and its own Heisman-chasing quarterback, Stetson Bennett. A very solid argument can be made right now that Young isn’t even the top QB in his own conference, that it’s Bennett instead. Bennett outplayed Young — the 2021 Heisman-winning Young — in last year’s national title game, especially in the second half when, without the injured Williams, Young threw both of his interceptions, including a late pick-6 that sealed Bama’s fate.

That moment was the start of a shift that’s continued into this season for Bennett, who hasn’t thrown an interception yet in 2022 and has an eye-popping passer rating of 183.5 that is soundly better than Young’s 162.1 clip. Bennett has 952 yards passing in just 3 games to Young’s pedestrian 644 total in his 3 contests. While Bennett only has 5 TD passes to Young’s 9, Bennett also hasn’t completed a pass in the 4th quarter of any game this season because he’s been on the bench during blowouts. Bennett’s 73.9 completion percentage also is solidly better than Young’s 68.2 mark.

If the Bulldogs continue to win and win big as the defending national champion and No. 1 team in the nation, and Bennett continues his flawless play as the quarterback of that machine, he will likely be a shoo-in to be a Heisman finalist, which could bump Young out of that picture alone. Young threw 47 TD passes during his magical 2021 season. This season he’s on pace for 36, which wouldn’t be bad but wouldn’t be 2021, either. Young also threw for 4,872 yards last year, and he’s on pace for just 2,576 this season, and that’s having played 2 games against vastly inferior opponents Utah State and Louisiana-Monroe.

Bennett’s hot pursuit would be reason alone to doubt Young’s repeat Heisman chances, but there are 2 other quarterbacks coming fast and furious in USC’s Caleb Williams and Ohio State’s CJ Stroud. Williams has 874 yards passing with 8 TD passes, 0 interceptions and a 190.5 passer rating in 3 games, while in his 3 games Stroud has piled up 941 yards passing with 11 TD passes, also 0 interceptions and a jaw-dropping 208.6 passer rating.

Bennett, Williams and Stroud just might have that magic in 2022 that Young no longer does, for a variety of reasons. It’s just that hard to pull it off 2 times, let alone 2 years in a row.

The ghost of Griffin is that real.