Who will win the Heisman - a look at the candidates and our staff picks
It'ssssss game week - and with just a couple days to kick-off of Week 0, our Torres Media guys are hitting all of the biggest topics in the sport.
On Tuesday, our group of college football writers answered the question: Who is the most overrated team in college football? Then we followed up by asking: Who is the most underrated team? And later this week, the guys will give their conference title winners and playoff picks.
Today though, it's all the Heisman.
Bryce Young is the reigning winner, but can he go back-to-back? Aaron Torres and Torres Media college football writers Garrett Carr and Jake Faigus discuss:
Garrett Carr- Caleb Williams
Any year where you return the defending winner of the Heisman Trophy as well as two others that finished in the top five, there’s going to be a lot of buzz around the award. This year is no different. Returning winner Alabama quarterback Bryce Young returns as well as fourth place finisher Ohio State signal-caller CJ Stroud and Young’s teammate, star edge rusher Will Anderson, who finished fifth.
So, it would make sense to pick one of those three to win this year’s award, and a lot of people are doing just that. Stroud has been the betting favorite, with Young not far behind. Anderson has the best preseason odds of a defensive player I can ever remember, and he is actually my 2nd place pick to win the award this year.
But, I think it’s nearly impossible for Young to win back-to-back, as the voters have been reluctant to do that even when former champions have had real cases for a second Heisman Trophy win. He could end up splitting attention and votes with Anderson, too.
As for Stroud, he simply was not good enough last year against good defenses like Oregon, Michigan and Penn State for me to be comfortable picking him. He will see Michigan, Penn State, Notre Dame and Wisconsin this year in the regular season. All of those teams ranked in the top 15 in scoring defense last year. The other factor against Stroud could be called the “Ryan Day Tax.” Dwayne Haskins, may he rest in peace, was not anywhere close to an elite college football quarterback. Justin Fields shows serious issues every time he takes the field in the NFL. But, both of them put up huge numbers in an offensive system that is designed better than any in football at any level. Voters know that too, and Stroud will have to lead Ohio State to an undefeated season to win the award. Spoiler alert: he will not.
My third-place pick is Ohio State’s Jaxon Smith-Njigba. I think he’s the second-best player in college football behind Anderson and he has a serious shot at a 2000-yard season this year.
My fourth-place pick is Bijan Robinson. The Texas running back is the best back in the nation and if Texas can conjure some magic, the media will love Robinson, who is as good with the media as he is at running the ball.
So, who is my pick? It’s time for the Heisman Trophy to return to Southern California for an eighth time, and Caleb Williams will be the one to do it. He’s going to put up huge numbers playing against competition significantly outmanned by his weapons in a system that is tailor-made to win Heisman Trophies and produced two winners and six top-five finishers from 2015-2019. Jordan Addison was last year’s Biletnikoff winner and Mario Williams comes with Caleb Williams to USC, and they figure to be the two premier wide receivers in the PAC-12. Williams can make plays with his arm and legs, and being able to make plays with his legs is something Heisman voters have prioritized for quarterbacks for awhile now and Williams has an edge over Stroud that way.
One of the biggest factors in every Heisman race is who can capture the media attention. Make no mistake, if USC does what I think they will and wins the PAC-12, they will capture plenty of media attention in the nation’s 2nd-biggest media market. It will carry Williams to New York City, and ultimately to the podium to hold up the Heisman Trophy.
Jake Faigus - Bijan Robinson
My pick to win the Heisman is arguably the best player in all of college football that’s not a quarterback. Bijan Robinson is a threat whenever he has the ball in his hands. He could be seen as the modern version of Reggie Bush, I know that could be seen as blasphemy, but, to me the comparison makes sense all the way down to the same jersey number.
Robinson saw some time as a freshman but exploded on to the scene in the Alamo Bowl in 2020 when he won the MVP of the game after having 10 carries with 183 yards and one touchdown. Last year was a breakout year for him with 1,127 yards and 11 touchdowns on the ground while averaging 5.8 yards a carry. Robinson was also a great receiver and was the third leading receiver on the team with 26 catches for 295 yards and then four touchdowns. I’d expect all these stats to just continue to improve, especially with another year in Steve Sarkisian’s offensive system.
Robinson will be the best player that Texas has, so another reason why I think he’s a great pick to win it is because he might have the highest usage rate in the entire country. I wouldn’t be surprised if Coach Sarkisian’s offensive philosophy this year is just, “get the ball to Bijan.” Sarkisian’s history as an offensive coach has revolved around getting the ball too his players as often as possible, whether that’s on the ground or through the air. The most recent example of that was how well the offensive personnel was used on the 2020 Alabama team that won the National Championship, which was highlighted by Najee Harris and DeVonta Smith.
Another reason why I think Robinson will win the Heisman, is because he’s at Texas. Like it or not, Texas is one of the biggest brands in all of college football and if they start to win games on the back of Robinson, he will be catapulted into the national spotlight because of that. I think Texas will win around nine games this year, and if that happens Robinson will probably get an invite to New York at the bare minimum. Robinson is a lightning rod of a player that has potential to score a touchdown whenever he touches the ball. The spotlight will be on him to help Texas get back to where they want to be, and I think this will all culminate at the Heisman Trophy ceremony in New York.
Aaron Torres - Will Anderson
If you follow me on social media or listen to any of my pods, you know that I have been conducting the "Will Anderson for Heisman" train since shortly after last season ended. I even placed a sizable wage on it when I was in Vegas back in June.
Well, there's no turning back now, right.
First, and most importantly, Anderson has the baseline talent to win the award. The term "best player in college football" gets thrown around a lot to describe Anderson, but it's clearly accurate. His 33.5 tackles for loss last season weren't just the best in college football, they were comically higher than the next highest number (Devin Lloyd's 22). His 14.5 sacks were best in the sport as well.
Crap, Anderson is so good, Nick Saban had to pull him out of the spring game, so he could actually see his first team get work without him wreaking havoc out there.
So, one, the talent is there.
But two, the story behind Anderson's candidacy has been brewing for almost a year now.
That story of course being that in Tuscaloosa last year, they weren't just satisfied with having a fourth Heisman winner of the Nick Saban era with Bryce Young - they were mad that Anderson didn't get an invite with him, with numbers that eclipsed runner up Aidan Hutchison.
Therefore when you factor in, arguably the most productive player in college football last year with the "he got snubbed" last year narrative to go with it, you already have a compelling case going into the season. The whole "first defensive player to win the award" narrative will of course get plenty of steam as well.
Finally, and maybe the most important reason I like Anderson is that last part: The college football media will be drooling over themselves to tell you why you need to vote for Will Anderson for Heisman, and if you don't, you're not just wrong, but a terrible human.
Seriously, just think about it. Is there anyone who tries to push their thoughts, opinion and perspective on you more than college football media? If you followed the sport at all during Covid, the answer is of course "no."
Therefore, can you imagine what they'll be like late in the year if Anderson ends up having the type of season he did a year ago? The "if you don't vote for Will Anderson you should have your Heisman vote taken away" tweets are already being drafted, just to shove in your face come November and December.
Seriously, it isn't going to just be a race to say "Will Anderson should win the Heisman" but a race to see who can say it the loudest.
Well, I don't know who will say it the loudest - but I know who said it first. I said it back in February and put my money where my mouth was in June.
Will Anderson will be your 2022 Heisman Trophy winner.
Follow Jake Faigus on Twitter - @Jake_Faigus
Follow Garrett Carr on Twitter - @RealGarrettCarr
Follow Aaron Torres on Twitter - @Aaron_Torres