Previewing the Power 5, Heisman race as college football kicks off
After almost eight long months, college football is officially back with the first full Saturday slate of games on tap.
The pandemic threw the sport into flux last year, and while COVID-19 will surely remain a storyline, all conferences are back to a full schedule for the 2021 season.
Here's an overview of the Power 5 conferences and Heisman race as Week 1 kicks into full gear.
There's little doubt that Ohio State remains the class of the Big Ten, but how the Buckeyes fare on the national stage will depend on the production of first-year starting passer C.J. Stroud. Ryan Day's success with quarterback development and the return of star receivers Garrett Wilson and Chris Olave should certainly make the transition from Justin Fields much easier. Elsewhere in the conference, the seat is heating up for Jim Harbaugh, while Wisconsin looks to emerge from a crowded West division. Read our full preview.
Spencer Rattler enters the season as the Heisman favorite, and Oklahoma has its best defense in the Lincoln Riley era. If the Sooners can't get over the hump and make the College Football Playoff title game this year, it might never happen. While Oklahoma is certainly the talk of the Big 12, both Iowa State and Texas are making headlines coming into the season. The Cyclones have their best chance to win their first conference title since 1912, and the Longhorns look to return to national prominence led by new coach Steve Sarkisian. Read our full preview.
There's no doubt Clemson comes into the 2021 season as the class of the ACC, but a number of new starters will be called upon to keep the Tigers atop the standings. D.J. Uiagalelei showed in brief action last year that he's up for the task and should be in the Heisman race this year. Sam Howell and D'Eriq King lead North Carolina and Miami, respectively, among the chasers hoping to cause chaos at the top of the conference. Read our full preview.
The winner in four of the seven CFP national title games has emerged from the SEC, and with three teams in the top six of the preseason AP poll, don't be shocked if that number becomes five of eight. Despite major roster turnover, Alabama is once again the No. 1 team in the country, but Georgia, Texas A&M, Florida, and LSU figure to challenge for top spot in the country's best conference. Read our full preview.
After playing the fewest number of games among Power 5 conferences last year, the Pac-12 returns to a regular schedule with Oregon eyeing a three-peat. The Ducks certainly are the class of the North but will face a tough test from Washington in Jimmy Lake's second season. In the South, a favorable schedule for USC should finally ease some of the pressure on Clay Helton's shoulders. Read our full preview.
DeVonta Smith won the Heisman last year, but the award remains predominantly a race among quarterbacks. The opening odds for this season reflect that, with both Rattler and Uiagalelei listed as co-favorites. The biggest non-quarterback favorite is Texas running back Bijan Robinson, with oddsmakers banking on new boss Sarkisian's ability to help the talented rusher put up gaudy numbers. Read our full Heisman preview.
Top games in September
Sept. 4: No. 1 Alabama vs. No. 14 Miami
Sept. 4: No. 5 Georgia vs. No. 3 Clemson
Sept. 11: No. 11 Oregon at No. 4 Ohio State
Sept. 11: No. 20 Washington at Michigan
Sept. 18: No. 8 Cincinnati at No. 17 Indiana
Sept. 18: No. 1 Alabama at No. 13 Florida
Sept. 18: Auburn at No. 19 Penn State
Sept. 25: No. 9 Notre Dame vs. No. 12 Wisconsin
Sept. 25: No. 6 Texas A&M vs. Arkansas