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Heisman Trophy: Which Player Should Win College Football's Top Award in 2021?

Bryce Young, Alabama Crimson Tide Football

College football's 2021 Heisman Trophy will be awarded on Saturday night to the nation's most outstanding player. After the votes were submitted on Monday, four finalists - Alabama quarterback Bryce Young, Michigan end Aidan Hutchinson, Ohio State quarterback C.J. Stroud, and Pitt quarterback Kenny Pickett - were invited to New York for the award ceremony. Alabama linebacker Will Anderson and Michigan State running back Kenneth Walker III didn't make the top four but were certainly worthy of consideration.

Related: 5 Biggest Landslides in Heisman Trophy Voting History

The 2021 season has featured an interesting race for the Heisman Trophy. Which player should hoist college football's top award on Saturday night? Athlon's editors and writers make their pick:

Heisman Trophy: Which Player Should Win College Football's Top Award in 2021?

Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven)
The race to win the Heisman in 2021 seemed to go long stretches without a clear front-runner, and the group of candidates vying for that status seemed to change frequently. Alabama quarterback Bryce Young was always among the favorites this season, but after Championship Saturday, he clearly emerged as my pick to win it. Young was outstanding with Alabama's season on the line in the SEC Championship Game, picking apart Georgia's defense for 421 yards and three touchdowns to lift the Crimson Tide to a conference title and the No. 1 ranking in the CFB Playoff. For the season, Young threw for 4,322 yards and 43 touchdowns to only four picks and connected on 68 percent of his passes. Although those numbers aren't a major surprise considering Alabama's recent track record on offense, Young has had to fight through subpar offensive line play and a lack of a consistent running game all year. Despite those issues, it's been Young's play keeping the Crimson Tide offense on track and he's delivered in all of the big spots in 2021. Yes, the Heisman has become a quarterback award, but Young earned it this fall.

Related: 5 Closest Outcomes in Heisman Trophy Voting History

Mark Ross (@AthlonMarkR)
With apologies to Aidan Hutchinson, the Heisman will go to a quarterback yet again. The other three finalists have put up eye-popping statistics but only one of them has led his team to the College Football Playoff, and as the No. 1 overall seed no less. Bryce Young's numbers are enough to merit the stiff-armed trophy alone, but it's also how he has performed in the nation's toughest conference that makes him a worthy recipient. Yes, Alabama struggled against Auburn but Young still finished with more than 300 passing yards and he was instrumental in the Crimson Tide rallying to tie the game and then eventually winning it in four overtimes. But Young was at his best in the SEC Championship Game against Georgia, carving up the Bulldogs' vaunted defense for 421 yards, three touchdowns and no turnovers. Young is a big reason why Alabama is now the favorite to repeat as national champs, and you know what they say – to the victor goes the spoils.

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Ben Weinrib (@benweinrib)
Before the season, I thought that Bryce Young would be the SEC's best quarterback. But he's exceeded my expectations and then some this season. Sixth nationally in passing (332.5 ypg) and yards per attempt (9.4). Fifth in passer efficiency rating (175.53). And now he has the narrative to go with the stats with legendary performances in the Iron Bowl and SEC Championship Game. But the most impressive part of his sophomore campaign is that he only has four interceptions in his first full season as a starter. Among CFB players with four or fewer interceptions this season, only Matt Corral is within 1,000 passing yards (4,322 vs. 3,339) and only Hendon Hooker is within 19 touchdowns (43 vs. 26). Young marries efficiency with big-play ability and is the key cog in Alabama's perpetual No. 1 seed machine.

John Coon (@johncoonsports)
A case can be made for both Kenny Pickett and Bryce Young to claim the Heisman Trophy. Young has passed for at least 300 yards in all but four games this season and almost singlehandedly saved Alabama from suffering an extra loss or two that would have kept the Crimson Tide out of the playoff. Still, I have to give Pickett the edge in this race. He finished the regular season as the no. 2 passer in the ACC with 4,319 yards and led Pittsburgh to its first conference title since 2010 and first 10-win season since 2009. The Panthers would not have been an ACC champion for the first time in school history without Pickett. 

Gabe Salgado (@GabeSalgado82)
Bryce Young picked up where Mac Jones left off and the Crimson Tide didn't skip a beat in 2021. Young is the nation's fourth-leading passer (4,322 yards), is tied for third in the country in yards per attempt (9.4), and is second among all FBS signal-callers in touchdown passes (43). His efforts are a prime reason why the Tide claim college football's sixth-ranked offense (495.5 yards per game). But what doesn't show up in the box scores is the way Young remains calm under pressure. He doesn't let the big moments bother him, adversity doesn't phase him, and the fearlessness he displayed against Auburn, combined with the determination he showed in the SEC Championship Game against Georgia sealed the deal for me.

Rob McVey (@Rob_UTVOLS)
In my opinion, Alabama quarterback Bryce Young is the most deserving candidate among the Heisman Trophy finalists. He not only put up Heisman-worthy numbers in just his first year behind center for the Crimson Tide, he did so primarily against elite competition in the SEC. He also had to overcome the inconsistent play of Alabama’s offensive line, all while adjusting to a new offensive coordinator and a host of new faces among the supporting cast. But the clincher was Young’s unbelievable performance in the SEC Championship Game, making easy work of Georgia’s “historically great” defense. Young is also a huge reason why the Crimson Tide are positioned as the No. 1-ranked team in the College Football Playoff, and the favorite to win yet another national title.

Jon Kinne (@JonRKinne)
It certainly was far from a slam dunk going into this past weekend. As good as Bryce Young's performance on the last drive in the Iron Bowl against Auburn was, he still completed less than half of his passes that day. But all doubt was removed when Young torched the nation's top defense for 421 passing yards and four total scores in Alabama's SEC Championship Game romp. His season stats are extremely impressive and he was the face of the nation's best team. Aidan Hutchinson had a dominating campaign and Kenny Pickett drove the Pittsburgh Panthers to a New Year's Six bid, but Young will be the 2021 Heisman Trophy winner.

Aaron Tallent (@AaronTallent)
Bryce Young

Scott Whittum
Bryce Young