Why Bryce Young is a lock to win the Heisman Trophy
There is absolutely no way that Bryce Young should be denied the Heisman Trophy when the voting is revealed on Saturday. It’s nearly impossible to make a strong case for the other finalists to win the award when they’re stacked up against what Young has done this season.
Let’s recap. Young began his sophomore season in 2021 as a first-year starter who had to replace national championship-winning quarterback Mac Jones. All Jones did in 2020 was become the first Alabama QB to throw for 4,000 yards in a season and the second to top 40 TD throws in a season.
Replacing Jones is plenty of pressure but there’s more.
Young had to succeed without the weapons that Jones had at his disposal. After last season, Alabama bid farewell to running back Najee Harris and receivers DeVonta Smith and Jaylen Waddle. They were all first-round selections in the NFL Draft along with Jones. Smith won the Heisman Trophy last season. That’s a lot of production to replace. Young didn’t flinch.
Young began the season with a dominating win over Miami. That was proof that he made sure he was ready for his new job as Bama’s starter before the season. Young then continued to grow into the best quarterback in the nation. Young became more comfortable running the ball when he needed to. He turned in one highlight play after another throughout the season. The jaw-dropping plays seemed to come in a bundle during the SEC Championship Game when Alabama beat Georgia 41-24 in impressive fashion. Young was never better this season than he was against the Bulldogs, who were a strong favorite to beat the Crimson Tide among analysts and oddsmakers. Therein lies some problems.
Young was expected to succumb against Georgia, especially with Bama’s rebuilt offensive line struggling for most of the season to protect him. Alabama’s offensive line was up to the occasion against Georgia and Young took advantage. However, it’s possible that many Heisman votes were cast before to the SEC Championship game. It’s unfortunate, but too many Heisman voters don’t do research and quickly come up with their top 3 — sometimes in early November. Young could have thrown 10 touchdowns or 10 interceptions in the SEC Championship Game and it wouldn’t have mattered to many because their votes had already been cast.
Young had preseason hype — he had the 3rd-best preseason odds according to DraftKings — but he also has had to battle Alabama fatigue. He is the 3rd consecutive Alabama QB to throw for more than 40 TD passes in a season and the 2nd consecutive to top 4,000 yards.
Regardless, Young has 43 TD passes, which equals Tua Tagovailoa’s school record. He’s thrown for 4,322 yards, which is just 178 shy of Mac Jones’ record. The Heisman votes are in, but it’s possible Young breaks both records in the first half of Alabama’s semifinal Playoff game against Cincinnati.
The last factor that works against Young is just plain silly and, hopefully, outdated. Underclassmen aren’t typically deemed worthy of the award by too many voters. That slowly has changed. Tim Tebow won the Heisman as a sophomore in 2007. Johnny Manziel (2012) and Jameis Winston (2013) won as redshirt freshmen. Lamar Jackson (2016) was a sophomore. Therefore it can be done. However, Young doesn’t have the mind-bending plays on his résumé like Jackson had and didn’t have the preseason hype that Tebow carried since he was in Pop Warner.
It takes a decent track record of watching Young to realize just how good he’s been this season. Aside from the SEC Championship, he didn’t have a truckload of plays that stand out on highlights. He’s just a fantastically accurate passer who puts his receivers in position to make a catch and extend the play. With quarterbacks showing more running ability than ever before, Young is a bit boring — even though he’s actually an elite player.
Aside from the SEC Championship Game, Young was most often running for his life behind a porous, rebuilt offensive line. It was the culmination of a season’s worth of plays that should make Young a Heisman winner. Young also deserves credit for the plays that he didn’t make. Despite constant pressure, Young didn’t have any significant issues with turnovers this season. He only threw 4 interceptions. That’s impressive considering how often he was under duress.
Along with Young, quarterback Kenny Pickett from Pittsburgh is 1 of 4 Heisman finalists vying for the award. Ohio State QB CJ Stroud and Michigan defensive end Aiden Hutchinson round out the quartet.
Do they have a chance to upset Young?
Let’s start with Pickett, who threw for 4,312 yards and 42 TDs.
There is no denying that Pickett is a special player. Pickett led Pitt to an ACC title and broke former Panther quarterback Dan Marino’s record of 79 career touchdown passes. However, if a voter is going to give Pickett credit for his conference championship, then he has to take some blame for a loss to Central Michigan at home and a later loss to Miami, which Young and Bama handled quite easily in that season opener. Wins should not be a huge determining factor when voting for an individual award, even quarterback. However, if the ACC championship helps Pickett’s standing, then the head-scratching losses should work against him as well. Moreover, winning the SEC should only help Young.
Pickett seems like a default winner who turns a career of achievement into a single-season award. That’s not what the Heisman Trophy is supposed to be. While there hasn’t been a clear-cut winner this season, Pickett shouldn’t just pick up the award as a parting gift for having a solid career. However, some voters might think that way, which means he is probably Young’s strongest opponent.
I had every expectation of seeing Alabama edge Will Anderson Jr. on the list of Heisman finalists. Surprisingly, he wasn’t. It’s nice that Heisman voters opened their minds a bit to include a defensive player. It’s a shame they chose the wrong one.
That’s not a slight at Hutchinson. He was terrific and he just won the Lombardi Award, given to the nation’s best lineman.
But his Heisman inclusion was a bit puzzling. Anderson had 31.5 tackles for a loss this season. Hutchinson had 15.5 tackles for a loss this season. Anderson had 15.5 sacks this season. Hutchinson had 14.
Hutchinson dominated Ohio State and Iowa in Michigan’s 2 most important wins of the season, however. So, he got the nod over Anderson, but it won’t be enough to top Young.
Finally, Ohio State QB CJ Stroud had an outstanding season. He led the Big Ten in passing yards (3,862) and TD passes (38). He wasn’t the reason Ohio State lost to Michigan on a snowy day in Ann Arbor, but that defeat all but ended the Buckeyes’ Playoff bid, as well as Stroud’s Heisman hopes.
I can’t tell you who I voted for on my Heisman ballot. However, you probably have a strong idea. The choice seems incredibly clear.