Will a player from Utah be in the Heisman Trophy conversation next season? What about a player with ties to the state?

During the 2020 college football season, then BYU quarterback Zach Wilson was a regular on Heisman contender lists. He ultimately finished No. 8 in the voting, with 42 total votes, but his name was mentioned regularly throughout the year.

Last season, though, no BYU, Utah or Utah State player generated much if any noise. Not BYU quarterback Jaren Hall nor Utah quarterback Cam Rising nor Utah State quarterback Logan Bonner, and that despite breakout seasons by all three.

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The 2022 season is still more than five months away, but 2021 appears like it might be an outlier as far as Utah and the Heisman is concerned.

The latest projections don’t name any Utah-based players as Heisman favorites (more on those later) but Rising is considered a genuine candidate, if on the fringe of contention.

Rising threw for 2,493 yards, 20 touchdowns and only five interceptions in 2021 — he also boasted a quarterback rating (QBR) of 84.2, the sixth-best mark by any FBS quarterback — and led Utah to its first-ever Pac-12 title.

With Utah opening the season at Florida on Sept. 3, plus a somewhat favorable schedule — Utah travels to Arizona State, UCLA and Oregon, but hosts USC and San Diego State — a few preseason watch lists view Rising as a candidate primed to vault into the Heisman conversation.

Other players with ties to Utah who are projected to be in the discussion include Ole Miss quarterback Jaxson Dart, Oregon linebacker Noah Sewell and Stanford quarterback Tanner McKee.

Heisman Trophy favorites

The current Heisman favorite depends largely on who is asked. Alabama’s Bryce Young, Ohio State’s CJ Stroud and USC’s Caleb Williams are the three players most frequently mentioned.

In a recent roundtable, ESPN’s David Hale, Adam Rittenberg, Alex Scarborough and Heather Dinich all tabbed Stroud as the player to watch, his performance against Utah in the Rose Bowl a major reason why.

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“I watched the Rose Bowl. The answer is Stroud,” Hale wrote. “Young is exceptional, but the odds of a player repeating are long. Stroud, meanwhile, put up numbers worthy of the Heisman a year ago, showed out on a big stage in his bowl game and returns a mind-boggling amount of skill position talent in 2022. And when he helps the Buckeyes end that two-year winless streak against Michigan, it’ll be all but locked up.”

“Pains me to admit this, but Hale is right,” Rittenberg wrote. “The Big Ten hasn’t had a Heisman Trophy winner since Troy Smith in 2006! There’s a reluctance to go with a repeat winner in Young, and Stroud should once again put up monster numbers in Ryan Day’s offense. If Ohio State isn’t in the CFP conversation all fall, something has gone very, very wrong. Stroud will end the Big Ten’s Heisman drought and become Day’s first Heisman-winning quarterback.

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Scarborough and Dinich argued in favor of Williams and Young — Dinich also threw in Alabama defensive end Will Anderson — but both ultimately agreed that Stroud is the obvious favorite entering the season.

“Stroud is a smart and easy pick,” Dinich wrote. “And I do think Ohio State should be No. 1 this preseason and will finish in the playoff.”

Only one player based out of Utah has ever won the Heisman Trophy — BYU quarterback Ty Detmer in 1990.

Detmer still holds the records for most passing yards and total offense in Heisman history and is the last winner to come from a school that does not play in a major FBS conference.

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