2020 Heisman Odds: An Alabama trio for the ages
Our weekly look at the latest 2020 Heisman odds… note that sports betting is now live in Tennessee (and soon to be Michigan). Click those links to learn more about your betting options in those states.
The Three Amigos
Some quick Heisman history, mainly for the folks in and around Tuscaloosa. No school has ever produced the top 3 vote-getters, but Army came the closest back in 1946. After waiting his turn, Glenn Davis finally won his Heisman, collecting the lion’s share of the votes. Former Heisman winner Doc Blanchard took 4th and senior quarterback Arnie Tucker took 5th. Collectively, the team went 9-0-1 and secured Army its 3rd national championship in a row.
In terms of modern history, Ohio State’s trio of Heisman finalists in 1973 bears mentioning. John Hicks placed 2nd, the highest finish for an offensive lineman in Heisman history. Future 2-time winner Archie Griffin placed 5th and linebacker Randy Gradishar took 6th. None of them really stood a chance as John Cappelletti ran away with the vote, more than doubling the runner-up’s total.
BET ON THE HEISMAN WINNER
So here we are with just days before the official announcement and it appears Alabama is primed for the greatest “team performance” in Heisman history. Here are the latest odds from FanDuel sportsbook.
- DeVonta Smith (Alabama) -170
- Mac Jones (Alabama) +170
- Kyle Trask (Florida) +1900
- Trevor Lawrence (Clemson) +1900
- Najee Harris (Alabama) +2400
It appears likely that Smith is primed to be just the 4th wide receiver to win the Heisman, and, at the very least, the first wideout to finish in the top 2 of the Heisman vote since Larry Fitzgerald in 2003. Despite Mac Jones’ massive performance against Florida (418 yards, 5 TDs), his odds of winning decreased pretty substantially. Last week he was sitting at -300, with an implied win probability of 76%. This week his number is now +170, which drops that implied probability down to 37%.
The real wild card here, however, is Najee Harris. Based on the models and markets, it appears he was too far “behind” to stage a miraculous upset at the ballot box. But he did do enough to potentially siphon votes from Smith and Jones. How that shakes out is anyone’s guess, but it stands to reason that his incredible play has the potential to downgrade Jones more than Smith. The knock on Jones is that he’s surrounded with exceptional talent (he is), which could allow voters to write off his laundry list of statistical accomplishments. Namely:
- 1st in QBR
- 1st in QB Rating
- 1st in Completion %
- 1st In YPA
In almost any other year, when you combine those stats with a perfect season, conference title and No. 1 overall seed in the College Football Playoff, you have a sure-fire Heisman winner. But this year has proven time and time again that predictions are for the birds.
Even Smith’s late-season surge to the head of the Heisman pack was aided, in no small part, by the injury of his teammate Jaylen Waddle. The insanely talented junior was ahead of Jones in terms of the betting markets and had just broken their game against Georgie wide open with a 90-yard touchdown reception (Hello, Heisman Moment). If he had avoided injury, Heisman history tells us that both Smith and Waddle would have been drawing dead in terms of their candidacies, negating each other’s chances. Just another strange wrinkle to consider when looking back at this historic Alabama offense.
And finally, a farewell to Trevor Lawrence.
I wrote in the offseason how difficult and unfair it is to compete for a Heisman Trophy with a target on your back, and it appears the future No. 1 overall pick in the NFL Draft will leave Clemson without a top-2 Heisman finish.
He closed his 2020 regular season with 1,060 total yards and 8 touchdowns in his final 3 games, including a blowout win over Notre Dame that propelled the Tigers back into the College Football Playoff for the 6th straight season (and his 3rd). But that wasn’t nearly enough given the games he missed due to COVID protocols and the insane statistical pace being set by a couple of SEC juggernauts. If anything, this just serves as another reminder that placing a bet on a Heisman future doesn’t make a whole lot of sense unless you’re getting value in the 20:1 range or better.