For the second consecutive season, could it be that a member of the Alabama Crimson Tide offense stayed steady enough all season long to take home the Heisman?
Last year, it was DeVonta Smith. The wide receiver was dominant in the passing game (1,641 yards and 105 receptions), becoming the first player at the position to win the award since 1991 (Desmond Howard, Michigan).
While quarterbacks have a better track record for the award (nine of the last 11 winners have been QBs), Crimson Tide signal-caller Bryce Young will have a similar path to the Heisman if he indeed wins.
Alabama survived in a dramatic, four-overtime 24-22 win against the Auburn Tigers. Young’s first try at a “Heisman Moment” went awry in the final minutes of the fourth quarter, but the Tigers gave it back to the Crimson Tide offense and Young led the unit on a game-tying, 97-yard drive — capitalized by a beautiful throw to the pylon from Young and hauled in by Ja’Corey Brooks for the equalizing, 28-yard score.
Some will say the late-game heroics sealed the hardware for Young. Others voters surely aren’t as convinced. With that in mind, here’s a look at how the other Heisman contenders fared this weekend, plus the question of whether a defender deserves to be in the conversation this year:
C.J. Stroud, Ohio State
Michigan broke through in “The Game,” as Stroud and the Buckeyes (10-2) fell to the Wolverines 42-27. It was no fault of the redshirt freshman, who threw for 394 yards and two touchdowns. An advantage Young holds over Stroud is that Alabama still has a shot at the College Football Playoff, while the Buckeyes no longer do.
Kenny Pickett, Pittsburgh
Pickett tossed four touchdowns for the second consecutive game (40 on the year), as the Panthers rolled past Syracuse 31-14. He set the record for most touchdown passes in a single season at Pitt, breaking a 40-year-old mark set by Dan Marino. Pickett went for 28-for-38 with 209 yards through the air. On the outside looking in on the Heisman conversation, Pickett can lock down another piece of his legacy with a win against Wake Forest in the ACC championship game.
Desmond Ridder, Cincinnati
Ridder turned in another 300-yard game (301 to be precise), but he turned it over twice on 17-for-28 passing. Undefeated Cincinnati (12-0) faces Houston in the American championship on Saturday.
Matt Corral, Ole Miss
Ole Miss defeated Mississippi State 31-21 in the Egg Bowl on Thursday, with Corral supplying two touchdowns — one throwing, one rushing. It wasn’t his most prolific passing day, as he threw for 234 yards and went 26-for-34 with an interception. Corral will not return to Ole Miss and perhaps has played his last game, given the trend of players sitting out bowl games, although the Rebels are slated for a New Year’s Six game.
Will Rogers, Mississippi State
On the other side of the Egg Bowl loss, Rogers slung 58 passes and completed 38 of them. He racked up 336 yards but had just one touchdown.
Malik Cunningham, Louisville
Disaster struck in Rivalry Week for Louisville, as the Cardinals (6-6) were blown out at home by Kentucky 52-21. Cunningham completed 12 of 20 passes for 145 yards and an interception, with his only score of the game coming on the ground (11 rushes, 35 yards).
Should a defensive player win the Heisman?
The only defensive player to win the Heisman Trophy is Charles Woodson (1997). Another Michigan defender entered the conversation — if he wasn’t there already — on Saturday with a three-sack performance against Ohio State and Stroud, a potential fellow finalist: Aidan Hutchinson.
The defensive end now owns the Michigan record for sacks in a season (14) and his dominance will be front and center Saturday during the Big Ten Championship against Iowa.
Another conference championship matchup — Georgia vs. Alabama for the Southeastern title — will feature players on both defenses worthy of Heisman consideration.
Bulldogs defensive lineman Jordan Davis will want to make himself familiar with Young to bolster his stock ahead of the Dec. 21 voting deadline. The stats (24 tackles, two sacks) aren’t eye-popping, but he is a game-wrecker on the best defense in the country.
The man with the numbers to back up his case is Crimson Tide linebacker Will Anderson Jr. His 29.5 tackles for loss this season lead the country, and he has 14.5 sacks. Even more terrifying, he is only a sophomore.
In a year in which no player on offense has cemented himself as the standout, defense could win the hearts of voters. And any of the these three would be deserving.
Follow Chris Bumbaca on Twitter @BOOMbaca.