Sean Pendergast

2021 Heisman Odds Have a Ton of Local Houston Intrigue

Spencer Rattler could be Lincoln Riley's latest Heisman finalist.
Spencer Rattler could be Lincoln Riley's latest Heisman finalist. Screen grab from YouTube
With each passing month in 2021, it's somewhat refreshing to take a moment and be thankful that we aren't in that same month from the previous calendar year, because chances are whatever activities or sports you are currently preparing to enjoy were somehow massively affected by COVID 12 months ago. Specifically, in college football, we had Power Five conferences on the cusp of canceling their football seasons (only to renege on the cancellations weeks later, but still).

This year, things are far more normal. Schools are welcoming full stadiums of fans, alumni, and students back to games this fall, and we can reasonably begin to forecast the upcoming college football season with great confidence that it will go off without a hitch (delta variant be damned, I say!). Among many things, this means that we can start to forecast the race for the 2021 Heisman Trophy.

Along those lines, put out the first round of odds on college football's most prestigious award on Wednesday afternoon. Here they are:

JT Daniels, QB - Georgia 5/1
Spencer Rattler, QB - Oklahoma 7/1
Bryce Young, QB - Alabama 10/1
CJ Stroud, QB - Ohio State 10/1
D.J. Uiagalelei, QB - Clemson 1/1
Sam Howell, QB - UNC 14/1
Kedon Slovis, QB - USC 16/1
Matt Corral, QB - Ole Miss 16/1
D'Eriq King, QB - Miami 18/1
Bijan Robinson, RB - Texas 20/1
Breece Hall, RB - Iowa State 25/1
Emory Jones, QB - Florida 25/1
Brock Purdy, QB - Iowa State 28/1
Jayden Daniels, QB - Arizona State 28/1
Desmond Ridder, QB - Cincinnati 33/1
Kyren Williams, RB - Notre Dame 16/1 33/1
McKenzie Milton, QB - FSU 33/1
Brian Robinson Jr., RB - Alabama 40/1
Graham Mertz, QB - Wisconsin 40/1
Tyler Shough, QB - Texas Tech 40/1
Dorian Thompson-Robinson, QB - UCLA 50/1
Isaiah Spiller, RB - Texas A&M 50/1
John Metchie III, WR  - Alabama 50/1
Michael Penix Jr., QB - Indiana 50/1
Mohamed Ibrahim, RB - Minnesota 50/1
Now, as we dive into a few thoughts on these odds, it should be pointed out that, in the last two years, the Heisman Trophy has ended up being won by EXTREME long shots. In 2019, LSU quarterback Joe Burrow was +6500 (or 65 to 1, in plain English) heading into the season and won the trophy easily. In 2020, eventual winner Alabama WR Devonta Smith was not only off the board completely, but he wasn't even considered the best receiver on his own team!

So this year's eventual winner might not even be listed above. With that in mind, here are three more brief thoughts on these odds:

Houston Texan fans should be paying close attention to the names on this list
Barring some massive reversal in the Deshaun Watson situation, the 2021 college football season is going to serve as a prologue to the 2022 NFL Draft for Texan fans. Specifically, every Saturday of college football is going to be a QB scouting festival! Keep in mind that the last 11 quarterbacks to win the Heisman all went in the first round of their eventual NFL Draft, and of those 11, six were No. 1 overall picks, and two more were second overall. (The other three were Johnny Manziel, Tim Tebow, and Lamar Jackson.) Practically every name in the mix for the Texans, assuming they have a high first round pick in 2022, is on the odds board above.

Alabama QB Bryce Young is interesting on a couple of fronts
As happens every year, there are a few candidates on the board who have yet to start a game at the collegiate level. They are on the board because they play the marquee position for a perennially contending school. The most prominent name of that ilk this season is Alabama QB Bryce Young, who interestingly enough, is going to be coached by former Texans head coach Bill O'Brien this season. O'Brien is now the offensive coordinator at Alabama. O'Brien is no stranger to making less money than the quarterbacks he coaches, but probably wasn't expecting that to be the case in college football. With the new NIL (name, image, likeness) rules now allowing college kids to earn money from endorsement deals, Young has turned into an endorsement machine!

"Our QB has already approached ungodly numbers, and he hasn't even played yet," Saban said, per Chris Hummer of 247Sports. "If I told you what it is … it's almost 7-figures."
Here's hoping O'Brien doesn't screw him up.

You local college football fans have a few noteworthy names to follow
Among the names of interest to Houstonians for non-NFL Draft reasons, the top non-QB on the board is Texas RB Bijan Robinson. Why is he so high on this list? Well, perhaps these quotes from new Longhorns head coach Steve Sarkisian have something to do with it:
“We believe in the play-action pass. We believe in the RPO. Those two things work a lot better when you have to feel like you have to defend the run,” Texas head coach Steve Sarkisian said in Arlington. “And there’s a mindset there, I think from a team’s mentality, to know that they have a guy back there that is going to carry the football for us, that’s going to hold onto the football for us, that’s going to score touchdown for us, get first downs to finish games, things of that nature, and Bijan definitely has all the physical traits to do it. I think he has the mental traits to do it.”
Sarkisian basically conceded that Robinson will be the focal point of the Texas offense this season. Meanwhile, other names of interest to Houstonians (and fans of college football in the state of Texas) include former Manvel HS quarterback D'Eriq King of Miami, Texas A&M running back Isaiah Spiller, and Texas Tech quarterback Tyler Shough.

Listen to Sean Pendergast on SportsRadio 610 from 6 a.m. to 10 a.m. weekdays. Also, follow him on Twitter at and like him on Facebook at
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Sean Pendergast is a contributing freelance writer who covers Houston area sports daily in the News section, with periodic columns and features, as well. He also hosts afternoon drive on SportsRadio 610, as well as the post game show for the Houston Texans.
Contact: Sean Pendergast