The 2021 college football season began with the likes of quarterbacks Spencer Rattler and D.J. Uiagalelei leading the Heisman Trophy odds. Instead, Alabama quarterback Bryce Young took home the hardware. Young became the second Bama player to win in two seasons, following Tide receiver Devonta Smith's win in 2020.
Entering the 2022 season, there are a number of names that are frontrunners for the award. A lot of guys in the mix for the Heisman include transfers starting at new schools in 2022.
Some upperclassmen in the mix to win the award include Young, Texas RB Bijan Robinson, Wake Forest QB Sam Hartman, Oklahoma QB Dillon Gabriel, Oregon QB Bo Nix and Rattler, who transferred from OU to South Carolina.
But this piece will focus on the underclassmen with the best shot at winning the Heisman in 2022.
Ohio State QB C.J. Stroud
The Buckeye quarterback had a stellar redshirt freshman season in 2021. In his first year as starting QB, Stroud threw for 4,435 yards, 44 touchdowns and just six interceptions.
Unsurprisingly, the QB was a Heisman finalist and ultimately finished fourth behind Bryce Young, Michigan's Aidan Hutchinson and Pitt QB Kenny Pickett.
Although the Buckeyes missed out on the Big Ten title game and College Football Playoff last season, Ohio State finished 11-2.
They capped off the season with a thrilling 48-45 win over Utah in the Rose Bowl. Stroud had his best game of the season, throwing for 573 yards and a Rose Bowl-record six touchdowns.
Ohio State will return plenty of starters from 2021, especially on offense. The Buckeyes check in at 24th in returning production rankings per ESPN's S&P+. Stroud will get his leading receiver Jaxon Smith-Njigba, running back TreVeyon Henderson and three of his starting offensive linemen back.
Stroud is second in early 2022 Heisman odds behind Young, and for good reason.
USC QB Caleb Williams
Caleb Williams had an outstanding true freshman season at Oklahoma in 2021. Even more impressive is that he didn't even become the starter until midway through the year. Williams began the season behind once-Heisman frontrunner Spencer Rattler.
Williams came off the bench for Rattler in the first half of OU's game vs. Texas and led the Sooners to a come-from-behind 55-48 victory. It was Williams' starting job from that game on, and he finished the year with 1,912 yards, 21 touchdowns and just four interceptions.
His best game of the season came against Texas Tech, where he threw for 402 yards and six touchdowns. Williams also set a school record for passing yards in a half (268 in the first) that game. His six touchdown passes were a single-game school record by a true freshman QB, as well.
In 2022, Williams will be playing for Lincoln Riley again, but the pair will both be at USC. Not long after Riley accepted the Trojans' head coaching job, Williams announced his transfer to Southern Cal.
Another year in Riley's system should help Williams post elite numbers en route to a potential Heisman-winning campaign.