2020 Heisman Odds: Shades of 1994 as DeVonta Smith soars into the race
Let’s make the rounds on the 2020 Heisman race and look at the latest Heisman odds…
Heisman House hopefuls
The 2020 Heisman Race is beginning to mirror the 1994 campaign. One team is in pursuit of a perfect season with a pair of Heisman hopefuls (Alabama ‘20, Penn State ‘94) and another is just on the outside looking in with a statistical monster as its offensive catalyst (Florida ‘20, Colorado ‘94). And despite the fact that Mac Jones has overtaken Kyle Trask as the odds-on favorite to win the award next month, Jones’ ticket-holders should be nervous. DeVonta Smith’s 8/231/3 performance against LSU has rocketed the wideout into serious contention, changing his odds from 100:1 just two weeks ago to 20:1 as of this morning.
Not to go full Steve Kornacki on everyone, but the ‘94 Heisman vote could provide a preview of what is to come for Jones, Trask and Smith. Ki-Jana Carter and Kerry Collins led Penn State to a perfect season in 1994, with Collins taking home the Maxwell Award. When it came time to cast their ballots, however, Heisman voters were split on the pair of playmakers from Happy Valley. Collins finished 4th in the race but siphoned off 101 first-place votes. That was the most for a 4th-place finisher in Heisman history, a record that stood until 2009 when Ndamukong Suh garnered 161 first-place votes.
Beyond the ballots, Collins also hogged the spotlight and stat-sheet at times. In the end, Carter toted the rock 100 fewer times than the eventual winner, Rashaan Salaam, a fact that essentially cost him the Heisman. If he had received the same amount of carries, Carter would have dwarfed Salaam’s production. Case in point, Carter nearly tied Salaam in rushing touchdowns (23 to 24) despite the massive touch disparity.
Could Smith take the spotlight away from Jones in a similar way? I think it’s decidedly possible given the shift in the betting mark and the way in which Smith is making eye-popping plays. Wide receivers and running backs have a decided “highlight” advantage over pocket passers when it comes to Heisman hype. Smith’s Beckham-esque touchdown grab is just one example.
But will Jones’ loss be Trask’s gain? I still believe this year’s Heisman will come down to the SEC Championship Game in Atlanta. And as I detailed last week, if you’re bullish on Trask to win the Heisman, you may as well take UF on the moneyline (+200 to +300) instead of Trask’s current odds (-110).
Current Heisman Odds: Weekend update
(Odds from FanDuel Sportsbook Tennessee)
Kyle Trask, Florida, QB | Odds shift (-135 to -110) ⏬
Ahh, the insanity of the Heisman race. The favorite throws for 433 yards, 4 touchdowns and zero interceptions and is … passed by another candidate. Despite this “setback,” the score is the same for Trask. Beat the Crimson Tide in Atlanta, send the Gators to the College Football Playoff for the first time and collect your Heisman Trophy. Easy peasy.
Mac Jones, Alabama, QB | Odds shift (+175 to -125) ⏫
May I present Mac Jones’ QBR in his past 3 games: 96.5, 95.8, 99.6. Games are quickly devolving into 7-on-7 drills for Jones and this Alabama offense. The only thing left to do is win a shootout with Florida in the SEC title game. Do that, and I think Jones will become the first Alabama quarterback to win the Heisman in school history.
DeVonta Smith, Alabama, WR | Odds shift (+10000 to +2500) ⏫
Over his last 4 games, Smith is averaging just shy of 9 receptions for 188 yards and 3 touchdowns per game. Essentially, that’s averaging a career day for a wide receiver every Saturday for a month straight. He’s a shoo-in for the Biletnikoff Award, he’ll likely be selected in the top 15 of the NFL Draft and he is in the midst of building the best receiver highlight reel in college football history. You can’t really ask for much more from Smith, which speaks to the inherent bias of the Heisman Trophy. If he can’t crack the top 2, no wide receiver can reasonably be expected to ever do so.
Justin Fields, Ohio State, QB | Odds shift +2000 to +2200) ⏬
Just like Trevor Lawrence, Fields has faded from contention due, in large part, to COVID cancellations. His play on the field has been, for the most part, tremendous, but he needed to be otherworldly to catch up to the SEC favorites. Fields’ stat-line against Michigan State, 4 total touchdowns and 303 total yards, would have been enough for him to “hold serve” had he been at the top of the watch list heading into the game. As a contender in need of a late-season surge, his performance wasn’t enough to truly move the needle. This is also a prime example of the pitfalls of competing against yourself. Fields was flawless in his first season in Columbus, which means that any time he stumbles statistically, it’s viewed as a letdown.
Any value left?
For anyone to win the Heisman outside of the trio of SEC contenders, 3 things need to happen.
1. Alabama needs to be upset by Arkansas in a game that is thrown away (INTs) by Mac Jones. 2. Alabama then needs to suffocate Kyle Trask in the SEC title game. And then … Ian Book needs to single-handedly defeat Clemson in the ACC title game, thereby sending the Irish back to the CFP. Your reward for all of these things happening? A measly 20:1 payout.
If any of those things fail to happen, a Book Heisman ticket is essentially worthless. I would only take a flyer on the Golden Domer if I could find a sportsbook offering him at 30:1 or higher; that’s my threshold.
We will continue to monitor the changes in Heisman odds as we head toward the Heisman Trophy presentation on January 5, 2021.