2021 Season Preview: College Football Playoff and Heisman Predictions from the Eleven Warriors Staff

By Garrick Hodge on August 22, 2021 at 10:10 am
Spencer Rattler
Bryan Terry/The Oklahoman via Imagn Content Services

Because of the craziness of 2020, when the season was already well underway by the time Ohio State started playing, we didn't do usual our preseason Heisman Trophy and College Football Playoff predictions in last year's Season Preview.

In 2021, those prognostications from the Eleven Warriors staff are back. There's no clear frontrunner for either the national championship or the Heisman this year, but that won't stop us from calling our shots.

According to VegasInsider.com, Oklahoma quarterback Spencer Rattler is the favorite to win the Heisman Trophy with odds at +800. He's followed by Alabama quarterback Bryce Young (+1000), Clemson QB D.J. Uiagalelei (+1110), Georgia QB J.T. Daniels (+1200) and Ohio State's new starting signal-caller, C.J. Stroud (+1600).

Meanwhile, Alabama is favored to win the national championship with +260 odds, followed by Clemson (+450), Georgia (+600), Ohio State (+600) and Oklahoma (+800). It's a steep drop from there, with Iowa State and Texas A&M coming in at +4000. 

The start of college football is less than a week away, with Nebraska facing Illinois on Saturday to kick off Week 0, while Ohio State will open its season at Minnesota on Sept. 2.

Do 11W staff members think the Buckeyes will earn a college football berth for a third straight year? Will Alabama repeat as champions? Is one of the favorites listed above going to walk away with college football's most prestigious award, or will the Heisman go to a sleeper? How silly will these predictions look in four months? 

Check out our CFP and Heisman predictions below, then tell us yours in the comments.  

Chris Lauderback

CFP field: Alabama, Ohio State, Clemson, Oklahoma

National championship: Alabama over Ohio State

Breakdown: No huge limb to go out on here: I'm good with taking Ohio State, Clemson, Alabama and Oklahoma to make the CFP field, in that order. From there I will take Alabama to win at all, 42–35, over Ohio State in the national championship game.

Heisman pick: D.J. Uiagelelei, QB, Clemson

Breakdown: I really want to take Iowa State running back Breece Hall but since he doesn't play quarterback, I'll go with D.J. Uiagelelei.

Ramzy Nasrallah

CFP field: Georgia, Ohio State, Oklahoma, Clemson

National championship: Ohio State over Georgia.

Breakdown: Ohio State 41, Georgia 14. If you cannot see this outcome materializing from four months out, you are simply overlooking the fact that I make all the rules whenever I make stuff up.

Heisman pick: Coleridge Bernard Stroud the Fourth, QB, Ohio State

Breakdown: The purpose of these 11W staff prediction charades isn’t to be right, it’s to feel good – so I’m choosing Ohio State’s starting QB to win the Heisman because a) I like his team the best b) he will throw to the best WRs in the game c) he shares a name with England’s greatest philosopher d) he goes by CJ even though his initials are CB, which gives him incredible swagger but also probably because QBs tend to avoid CBs whenever possible, and f) choosing him makes me feel good. Go Bucks.

Jared Naughton

CFP field: Clemson, Ohio State, Alabama, Oklahoma

National championship: Ohio State over Alabama

Breakdown: I'll give the edge to Ohio State maybe in a 24-14 win. This is the optimist in me, but I think Alabama may get beat up in the SEC. If Clemson and Ohio State can stay healthy, they should be able to cruise somewhat. 

Heisman pick: D.J. Uiagelelei, QB, Clemson

Breakdown: I think with the weak schedule, and no other clear favorites, D.J. should win the Heisman in a weak year for Heisman candidates.

Dan Hope

CFP field: Alabama, Clemson, Ohio State, Oklahoma

National championship: Alabama over Ohio State

Breakdown: Alabama and Ohio State are the nation's most talented teams once again after bringing in two of the best recruiting classes in college football history, but lingering concerns about the Buckeyes‘ defense stop me from picking them to win it all.

Heisman pick: D.J. Uiagalelei, QB, Clemson

Breakdown: Uiagalelei, Alabama's Bryce Young and Ohio State's C.J. Stroud were the top three quarterbacks in the recruiting class of 2020, and I believe one of them will win the Heisman as a first-year starter. I'm giving the nod to Uiagalelei to do what Deshaun Watson and Trevor Lawrence did not and become Clemson's first-ever Heisman winner.

Garrick Hodge

CFP field: Alabama, Ohio State, Oklahoma, Clemson

National championship: Alabama over Ohio State

Breakdown: It's really, really hard to logically pick against Nick Saban. I'll do it someday, but today is not that day. 

Heisman pick: Spencer Rattler, QB, Oklahoma

Breakdown: Has the Big 12 learned to play defense? No? Check. Has Lincoln Riley's system done wonders for quarterbacks' Heisman chances? Also check. Do Heisman voters love gaudy numbers? They sure do. Rattler it is. 

George Eisner

CFP field: Oklahoma, Georgia, Clemson, Alabama

National championship: Alabama over Clemson

Breakdown: A nightmare scenario for a one-loss Ohio State team as Georgia beats Clemson early this season, Oklahoma runs the table, Clemson wins the ACC, and Georgia defeats an undefeated Alabama in the SEC Championship. As for the national championship, college football is swirling in a whirlwind of change, and the sport’s most consistently successful program of late will probably take advantage of the chaos again this season.

Heisman pick: Spencer Rattler, QB, Oklahoma

Breakdown: Like Mayfield and Murray before him, Rattler has the easiest path to an unblemished season as he faces a conference crumbling beneath itself full of teams that continue to play hopeless defense.

Kyle Jones

CFP field: Ohio State, Oklahoma, Georgia, Clemson

National championship: Georgia over Ohio State.

Breakdown: OSU and Oklahoma get signature wins over Oregon and Iowa State and skate through undefeated, while Georgia beats Clemson in Week 1 but drops a conference game later in the year before both end up winning the SEC and ACC, respectively. As for the national championship, much like LSU in 2019, Georgia looks like the most talented team in the nation for most of the season and its back-seven proves more capable at slowing down OSU than the other way around.

Heisman pick: Spencer Rattler, QB, Oklahoma

Breakdown: Despite all the pushback from detractors who credit Lincoln Riley’s system, Rattler’s stats and record separate him from an otherwise underwhelming field.

Johnny Ginter

CFP field: Alabama, Oklahoma, Clemson, Ohio State

National championship: Oklahoma over Alabama

Breakdown: The Sooners might surprise people with how good they are, and while "this is finally their season!" is never a thing that actually happens to the Georgias and Notre Dames of the world, Oklahoma looks to have the talent to finally get over the hump.

Heisman pick: Spencer Rattler, QB, Oklahoma

Breakdown: Spencer Rattler is going to have approximately ten billion opportunities to make his case for the Heisman in 2021, but more to the point, his real actual name is Spencer Rattler and that's about half the battle right there.

Matt Gutridge

Picks: Alabama, Clemson, Ohio State, Georgia

National Championship: Alabama over Clemson

Breakdown: Alabama has been invited to the College Football Playoff in six of its seven years of existence. Might as well make it seven of eight. After missing the inaugural CFP, Clemson has made six consecutive. This year will be seven straight. An Ohio State team with Ryan Day as head coach has never lost to a Big Ten opponent. Even with a new quarterback, the Buckeyes looked poised to keep their coach with a clean slate.

With Clemson, Ohio State, Oklahoma and Alabama accounting for 20 of the 28 selections in the CFP's history, it's hard to go against Oklahoma and that history. However, it's been a while since the SEC had two teams in the playoff. Georgia gets the last spot.

History says picking Alabama to win it all is the safe bet, but I sincerely hope that it's the wrong bet. Another title for Saban might be enough for him to hang up his whistle.

Heisman pick: JT Daniels, QB, Georgia

Breakdown: Only once since 2009 has a player with the best preseason odds (ranked in the top three) won the Heisman. That player was Baker Mayfield in 2017. The winner is also
typically a quarterback on a team with a lot of wins. With this as a guideline, JT Daniels is my pick.

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