Skip to main content

Pickett, Stroud, Hutchinson or Young? Making the Case for Each Heisman Candidate

It's nearly time for the Heisman Trophy to be awarded, and all four players have a compelling case to give a tear-jerking speech at the end of the night.

The time for talk is nearly over. 

Saturday night, the Heisman Trophy will be awarded for a 87th time, with plenty of history to be made between the four finalists. 

A win for Alabama quarterback Bryce Young would make Alabama the third school since 2000 to see back-to-back winners of the trophy following receiver DeVonta Smith's successful campaign in 2020, following in the footsteps of USC (Matt Leinart 2004-Reggie Bush 2005) and Oklahoma (Baker Mayfield 2017-Kyler Murray 2018). 

Quarterback Kenny Pickett could give Pittsburgh its first Heisman winner since running back Tony Dorsett won the award in 1976, while also giving the ACC its third winner since 2013, all coming at the quarterback position (Jameis Winston 2013, Lamar Jackson 2016).

Could Ohio State quarterback C.J. Stroud give the Buckeyes a record eighth winner of the trophy? He would become the first player from the Big Ten to hold the honor since former Buckeyes quarterback Troy Smith won in 2006. 

Or could history really be made with Michigan edge defender Aidan Hutchinson, who would become the first defensive player to win the Heisman since former Wolverines defensive back Charles Woodson accomplished the feat in 1997.

There's arguments to be made in each corner, as all four players are undoubtedly deserving to be in this position. 

Yet there can only be one winner, and as time draws closer to the opening of that special envelope, discussion surrounding the four candidates will be feverish. 

Rather than write about who will actually win the trophy, I've assembled opinions from team-specific writers who likely know the candidates more than the average college football fan). They had one task: Make the case for your respective player. 

You'll see that each writer did a superb job in capturing how outstanding their designated player was this season:

Bryce YOung

The Case for Alabama QB Bryce Young

This was contributed from Bama Central Publisher Christopher Walsh. For more updates on everything Alabama, visit and follow them on Twitter @BamaCentral.

"Bryce Young had the biggest performance, on the biggest stage, when he threw for 421 yards against the nation's top defense and dislodged Georgia atop the rankings. The Bulldogs defense had given up seven touchdowns all season and he scored four (three passing, one rushing).

"But Young was the front-runner even before the SEC Championship Game. He had the Heisman moment, the last-second touchdown against Auburn. He tied the Crimson Tide record for passing touchdowns in a single season, and should easily top the yardage record with his next start.

"The scary thing is his numbers should actually be even better. Leading a revamped offense that has a new offensive coordinator and lost five All-Americans (DeVonta Smith, Najee Harris, Landon Dickerson, Alex Leatherwood and Mac Jones), plus the player who went before them all in the draft (Jaylen Waddle), opponents notched 35 sacks compared to 19 a year ago, and the receivers had a lot of dropped passes. 

"My favorite statistic about Young is his completion percentage actually goes up on third and fourth downs. He's 68.5 percent on first downs, 65.0 percent on second, 71.7 on third and 75.0 on fourth. He has tremendous poise, especially for a sophomore."

Kenny Pickett

The Case for Pitt QB Kenny Pickett

This was contributed by Pittsburgh Sports Now's Karl Ludwig, who wrote an even more in-depth piece on why Pickett should be the front-runner, which you can read here. For more updates on everything Pitt, follow Karl on Twitter @LudwigKarl8

"With the least amount of talent surrounding him — when looking at opposing contenders — by far, Pickett has led Pitt to its best season in four decades. And it’s not as if Pickett has simply done enough to win, he’s rewritten the record books for an ACC quarterback along the way.

"Without Pickett, Pitt — and this still isn’t an insult — would be a middle of the pack team in the ACC. With Pickett, Pitt boasts a top-five offense and a chance to match the best season in program history. 

"With an 11-2 record, yes, Pitt has lost games against Western Michigan and Miami, but in those two games, Pickett threw for 902 yards and nine touchdowns (with just three interceptions) on 62-of-86 pass attempts.

With 4,319 yards and 42 touchdowns (on 334-of-497 pass attempts), Pickett has reached levels previously unmatched by ACC quarterbacks this season. And for those efforts, he was named the ACC Player of the Year

"In Pitt’s most important game in decades, his passing prowess (20-of-33 for 253 yards and two touchdowns) led Pitt to the title, but it was his legs that earned the signature — Heisman — moment.

"He’s truly been a revelation for Pitt football, bringing hope to the program for the first time in a long, long time. He has the look, he has the personality that could win over West Virginia fans (OK . . . maybe anyone else) and his gritty, hard-working play on the field inspires the kind of hope that only comes with years and years of hard work and dedication paying off with one shining moment.

"That one shining moment may have come in Charlotte, N.C. Saturday night, bleeding into Sunday morning, but if there’s any justice in college football, that one shining moment will come twice for Pitt and Kenny Pickett."

Aidan Hutchinson

The Case for Michigan Edge Rusher Aidan Hutchinson

This was contributed by Wolverine Digest's Josh Taubman, who also wrote an in-depth piece specifically on Hutchinson's case for the trophy. For more updates on everything Michigan, visit and follow them on Twitter @BSB_Wolverine and @Josh_Taubman.

"From a narrative standpoint, Hutchinson makes a lot of sense as a winner. Hutchinson came back for his senior year as a man on a mission and this year he has emerged as the vocal leader of a Michigan team that is heading to the playoffs while individually, he’s solidified himself as a top pick in next year’s NFL draft.

"Michigan has surpassed every expectation this year and Hutchinson is the biggest reason why. What hurts his case for the Heisman may simply be the side of the ball he lines up on. The historical precedent for defensive players in the Heisman voting is not great.

"Historically, even great defensive campaigns are no match for offensive stars when it comes to winning the Heisman. The difference for Hutchinson is that the usual slew of offensive candidates has fallen back rather than risen down the stretch.

"The two front-runners ahead of Hutchinson are Alabama quarterback Bryce Young and Ohio State quarterback C.J. Stroud. The former needed four overtimes to beat a 6-5 Auburn team (although he rebounded in the SEC Championship Game win over Georgia) and everyone knows how Stroud and Hutchinson’s head-to-head matchup played out.

"He deserves the highest individual honor in college football because of what he’s done on the field and for helping catapult Michigan into a national title contender — which no one saw coming. The historical precedent may not be there. But in Hutchinson's case, that shouldn’t matter."

C.J. Stroud

Ohio State QB C.J. Stroud

This was contributed by Dan Hope, deputy editor and lead Ohio State football beat writer for For more updates on everything Buckeyes, follow Dan on Twitter @Dan_Hope and Eleven Warriors @11W.

Also, much thanks to Dan who rose to the occasion on short notice and gave reasoning for Stroud despite not believing he would win it. For more of a statistical dive on his season, click here

"I don't actually think C.J. Stroud will win the Heisman over Bryce Young, but statistically, there is a case to be made for him. Stroud has thrown for more yards per game (351.1 to 332.5) and more yards per attempt (9.8 to 9.4) than Young with a better completion percentage (70.9 to 68.0) and a better passer rating (182.2 to 175.5) and only five fewer touchdown passes (38 to 43) in two fewer games.

"If Ohio State had beaten Michigan and made the Big Ten Championship Game, I think Stroud would have had a very real chance to take home the trophy with another big game against Iowa. He had several Heisman-worthy performances over the course of the season – most notably, his 432-yard, six-touchdown game against Michigan State in which he set a school record by completing 17 consecutive passes – but probably needed one more to seriously challenge Young for the prize."

The Heisman Trophy presentation will be televised on ESPN, and will begin at 6 pm Arizona time.