With college football action officially underway for the 2021 season, it’s a good time to get an early look at Heisman hopefuls this season. Week 0 typically doesn’t feature the top contenders for the award, but it does allow for lesser-known players to emerge ahead of what many consider the true start to the season. Here’s a look at some players who could be in contention for college football’s biggest individual honor and how Saturday’s play impacted their chances.
Dorian Thompson-Robinson, QB, UCLA
Thompson-Robinson was part of a big 44-10 victory, but he didn’t put up big numbers. The quarterback went 10/20 for 130 yards and a touchdown through the air. He added 16 rushing yards on three carries. RB Zach Charbonnet was the real force in this one, racking up 106 yards and three touchdowns on six carries.
Thompson-Robinson is +6000 to win the award according to DraftKings Sportsbook, but this performance left a lot to be desired. UCLA has a tough test next week against LSU and Thompson-Robinson needs to have a monster game to stay alive in the Heisman race. Of course, he prefers victories over individual awards but there will be some concerned fans after Week 0.
Adrian Martinez, QB, Nebraska
Stock: Rock bottom
Martinez actually had a big game, putting up 232 yards and a touchdown through the air while adding 111 yards and a score on the ground. The problem here was Nebraska losing to Illinois 30-22 and setting up another disappointing season in Lincoln. Martinez was a long shot to win the honor at +20000 on DraftKings Sportsbook, but this loss basically takes him out of any individual awards race.
Jake Haener, QB, Fresno State
Haener isn’t on the board at DKSB, but the Fresno State gunslinger put on a show against UConn in a 45-0 blowout. He threw for 331 and yards and three touchdowns, eventually calling it a day due to the team’s massive lead. The Mountain West isn’t exactly a Heisman hotbed, but Haener has reason to be hopeful.
The Bulldogs play Oregon and UCLA on the road in the non-conference schedule, with the Ducks being ranked. If the Bruins handle LSU next week, there’s a good chance they could also be ranked. Haener has set himself up for the chance to have big games against two ranked opponents on the road. If Fresno State can pull off a shocker in either game, it significantly boosts the quarterback’s profile. He’ll still be a long shot, but he’ll be on the radar.
Nick Starkel, QB, San Jose State
Starkel had a solid performance on Saturday against FCS Southern Utah, throwing for 394 yards with four touchdowns and one interception, and also ran in a goal line score. Starkel entered the game installed at +25000 to win the Heisman at DraftKings Sportsbook, and the best he could hope to do is not lose ground, which he did.
Starkel has his biggest game of the year this coming Saturday when San Jose State travels to face No. 15 USC. It’s possible he gets one or two more ranked opponents depending on how the Mountain West looks this year, but this will be his best shot to make some noise in the Heisman race. He’s a long-shot at best, but a strong performance in an upset of USC could get him into the conversation for a potential invite to New York City.