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Alabama quarterback Bryce Young is basically a three-touchdown favorite in the Heisman ceremony Saturday night at the Lincoln Center in New York City (8 p.m. Eastern, ESPN).
The sophomore from Los Angeles is considered a shoo-in by the oddsmakers to be the first Crimson Tide quarterback to win it.
“If you watched the game, if you’ve been watching the whole season, ain’t nobody else coming close to him,” Alabama linebacker Will Anderson Jr. said incredulously after Young’s command performance in the SEC Championship Game last week. “He should win it. The voters can see that. Everybody can see that. Bryce should win the Heisman this year.”
Well, all righty then.
Young was named the college football player of the year by the Associated Press on Friday and swept SEC individual awards this week.
There are three other Heisman finalists – Michigan defensive end Aidan Hutchinson, Pittsburgh quarterback Kenny Pickett and Ohio State quarterback C.J. Stroud, who will all be at the ceremony. And Stroud is rated higher in efficiency at 182.2 on 280-of-395 passing for 38 touchdowns and 3,826 yards with five interceptions to Young’s 175.5 on 314-of-462 passing for 4,322 yards (No. 4 nationally) and 43 touchdowns (No. 2 nationally) with four interceptions.
But Stroud’s team finished 10-2 and out of the College Football Playoff.
No. 1 Alabama (12-1) plays No. 4 Cincinnati (13-0) in a national semifinal on Dec. 31 in the Cotton Bowl in Arlington, Texas.
And Young delivered on the grandest, pre-Heisman stage against then-No. 1 Georgia by completing 26 of 44 passes for 421 yards and three touchdowns while rushing for 40 yards in a 41-24 win for the SEC title on CBS. The passing yards and 461 total yards were both SEC title game records.
“He knew where to go with the ball,” said Georgia coach Kirby Smart, who watched the game. “He keeps his eyes downfield with the rush, where a lot of quarterbacks wouldn’t do that. He did a tremendous job. He was mobile and made a lot of plays. He escaped pressure and got it out.”
He threw touchdowns of 67 and 55 yards and ran for an 11-yard touchdown.
“You all saw it,” Alabama wide receiver Slade Bolden said. “He did what we all expected. That’s Bryce Young.”
Last year, Alabama quarterback Mac Jones finished third for the Heisman to Alabama wide receiver DeVonta Smith with Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence taking second. Alabama went on to win the national championship. The Tide has two other Heisman winners – tailback Mark Ingram in 2009 and tailback Derrick Henry in 2015. Alabama won the national championship in both seasons.
“He has everything that every quarterback you see has,” said Anderson, who just missed a Heisman ceremony invite as he leads the nation with 15.5 sacks and 32 tackles for loss. “He can run. He can pass. He can extend plays with his arms. He can do everything. He fakes you out. He makes you jump when you’re not supposed to.”
Alabama coach Nick Saban noticed this at practice this season.
“Coach Saban said something to one of the defensive linemen, ‘This isn’t basketball,'” Anderson said. “Bryce had made him jump in the air like he was playing basketball. That’s one moment.”
There have been others. With the game on the line, Alabama down virtually all day, and with its back literally to the wall, Young directed a 97-yard drive in 12 plays over 71 seconds to tie Auburn, 10-10, in the regular season finale on Nov. 27. Then he threw two touchdowns and a pair of two-point conversion passes for the 24-22 win in four overtimes. And this was without one of his best receivers – junior John Metchie III, who injured his knee in the second quarter and is lost for the season.
“The Auburn drive – that’s probably one of the best things I’ve ever seen before, and how he kept his composure,” Anderson said. “It was great. I was right on the sideline. We were all up watching the game.”
Young completed a fourth-and-seven pass for 14 yards to tight end Jahleel Billingsley on the game-tying drive. On third-and-10, he threw a 28-yard touchdown to backup wide receiver Ja’Corey Brooks for the tie.
“He always kept telling the offense, ‘We’re going to get this right. We’re going to be alright,'” Saban said. “And I think the players really believe in him. He was pretty outstanding in the second half. He’s got a lot of mental toughness. He’s got a lot of grit about him.”
Young’s finest game was against Arkansas on Nov. 20 when he broke the Alabama record for passing yards in a game with 561 as he threw five touchdowns and completed 31 of 40 in a 42-35 win that clinched the SEC West. The previous record stood since 1969 when Scott Hunter threw for 484 in a 49-26 loss to Auburn.
“He’s so smooth,” Arkansas coach Sam Pittman said. “Very dangerous with his feet. He’s what an Alabama quarterback is – a winner and a guy that runs the team.”
Young threw touchdowns of 79, 40, 32, 20 and 11 yards.
“The guy had a fantastic game and really did a good job of taking what they give,” Saban said. “He made really good decisions about who to throw the ball to. He’s accurate with the ball. He has a great knack in the pocket for where to slide, and he keeps his eyes downfield. So, it’s not like he’s scrambling and looking for the rush. That’s a real key if you’re going to be a successful passer. He’s deceptively quick and has better speed than people think.”
Young was the No. 1 dual-threat quarterback in the country by Rivals.com for the class of 2020 out of Mater Dei High School in the Los Angeles area. He committed to USC on July 25, 2018, before his junior season, but then committed to Alabama on Sept. 22, 2019, as a senior.
“When I was making my decision, I didn’t want to limit by proximity or whatever coach I knew the longest or whatever team I rooted for,” Young said on the SEC Network’s Paul Finebaum Show on Friday. “I wanted to find what school made me the best player and best person. It definitely was the best decision I could’ve possibly made.”
Young backed up Jones as a freshman in 2020, completing 13 of 22 passes for 156 yards and a touchdown.
“I knew Alabama was going to push me to be the best me that I can be,” he said. “Being around the best coaching staff in the country, playing the best schedule in the country, being able to have opportunities to play in big games and push myself on and off the field. That’s really what attracted me.”
Young and his parents Craig and Julie Young are with him in New York.
“This is a once-in-a-lifetime type of moment,” he said. “It’s super special to be a part of it. Being able to savor that moment with my family for me – that’s going to be huge.”