Heisman Trophy odds: good bets and overvalued players
Generally, futures bets are slanted heavily in favor of sports books looking to capitalize on your love for your favorite team or player. (Georgia to win the national championship in 2016? Why not? We just hired Kirby Smart. Put me down for $100. What will it hurt?)
Usually there aren’t many good bets, but we’ve identified a few Heisman futures odds that could be attractive.
A good rule to follow: Barring a minor miracle, a quarterback on a very good team will win the award. Quarterbacks have won 13 of the last 16 Heisman Trophies, with USC running back Reggie Bush and Alabama running backs Mark Ingram Jr. and Derrick Henry the lone exceptions in 2005, 2009 and 2015.
(The Tide went 13-0 in ’09, winning its first national championship in 17 years. Ingram played well, but there was a dearth of options at quarterback. Texas QB Colt McCoy finished a close third.)
It also doesn’t hurt if you’re athletic and can run a little (Cam Newton, Tim Tebow, Johnny Manziel).
Clemson’s Deshaun Watson, Oklahoma’s Baker Mayfield, Ohio State’s J.T. Barrett and Ole Miss’ Chad Kelly are strong candidates, as they should put up huge offensive numbers on potential College Football Playoff teams.
But with any bet, it’s all about value — recognizing an undervalued asset or avoiding something or someone inflated within the marketplace. Here are some good and bad value bets based on the Bovada Heisman Trophy odds as of Feb. 3.
Keep in mind this isn’t a list of who is most likely to win the Heisman Trophy, but rather a guide to which players may have good or bad betting value based on the current odds.
Only one player will win the Heisman, so most of these bets are losers.
- Oklahoma QB Baker Mayfield (10/1). The dual-threat Mayfield and Samaje Perine, who has scored 37 touchdowns and rushed for 3,000 yards in just two seasons, return for an offense that averaged 43.5 points per game in 2015. Alabama, Michigan, Clemson, Ohio State and Florida State are getting more love nationally, but it’s just as conceivable that Oklahoma wins the Big 12 and returns to the College Football Playoff as it is that any of those teams make it. If he stays healthy, Mayfield could again top 4,100 total yards and 45 touchdowns on a top 4 team. His odds are outstanding relative to Deshaun Watson and Christian McCaffrey.
- Florida State RB Dalvin Cook (12/1). I normally am anti-running back when it comes to Heisman Trophy odds. But if you’re going to back one player at the position this year, Cook makes the most sense. First of all, the Seminoles are one of just two teams with a legitimate chance to come out of the ACC and into the College Football Playoff. If Cook outperforms Deshaun Watson as FSU knocks off Clemson, he’ll simultaneously bury a major contender and keep the Seminoles viable as a team. Cook averaged a remarkable 7.4 yards per carry and scored 20 total touchdowns last year in a season somehow mostly overlooked. If he just repeats his numbers, but leads FSU to an ACC championship, he’ll have a legitimate chance to win.
- Michigan S/KR/RB Jabrill Peppers (off). It’s a bit shocking that the early odds didn’t even list Peppers, especially considering that the public probably is dying to be able to back a Michigan player with all the hype. Perhaps the most versatile player in all of college football — certainly the most athletic player in the Big Ten — Peppers has a chance to pull a Charles Woodson. Particularly if the Wolverines are able to take the hype to the penultimate level by knocking off Ohio State and Michigan State and winning the Big Ten in Jim Harbaugh’s second season. If you catch 35/1 odds or so on Peppers, he could be the underdog candidate with the best value.
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- Clemson QB Deshaun Watson (4/1). Before the season, Watson looks like the best player in college football. If the Tigers’ defense doesn’t fall off the grid after severe personnel losses, Watson is more than capable of delivering a national championship to Clemson in 2016. If he can carry the Tigers back to the College Football Playoff, there’s a very, very good chance that he’ll win the award. His performance against Alabama in last season’s national title game can only help.
- Ole Miss QB Chad Kelly (12/1). The dude threw for 4,000 yards in the SEC, something that only Tim Couch and Johnny Manziel did before him. Laquon Treadwell was otherworldly in 2015, but all due respect, the Rebels are very well equipped to replace him. In fact, it can be argued that Ole Miss retains the best group of pass-catchers in the SEC in 2016. If the team can pull the unthinkable and beat Alabama three straight times, it’s very possible that Hugh Freeze finally delivers an SEC West title to Oxford, which would place Kelly squarely in the Heisman conversation.
- Georgia RB Nick Chubb (14/1). Assuming that he recovers from a horrible knee injury to be more or less the player he was pre-injury — and that’s a sizable assumption — Chubb will challenge Leonard Fournette for the title of “SEC’s best running back.” That title was good enough to get Derrick Henry the award in 2015. Granted, Henry’s team won the SEC championship as well. Chubb would need the Bulldogs to beat out Tennessee and Florida and at least win the SEC East to get real consideration.
- Tennessee QB Joshua Dobbs (16/1). You don’t have to like it, but the Vols will be a preseason top 15 team and a solid favorite to win the SEC East. Dobbs already has proven to be an excellent runner. His passing numbers won’t be as impressive as Mayfield, Watson or Chad Kelly. But if he can somehow find a way to win an SEC championship while improving as a thrower, he’ll be a prime candidate to be a Heisman finalist in the least.
- Stanford RB Christian McCaffrey (5/1). I’ve saved a reiteration of this stat for McCaffrey’s write-up. Thirteen of the last 16 Heisman Trophy winners were quarterbacks. The others? Two Alabama running backs who won the national championship, and Reggie Bush (award vacated), a two-time defending national champion on a 34-game winning streak who lost to Vince Young’s Texas team after winning the award. McCaffrey broke Barry Sanders’ single-season all-purpose record in 2015, a year without the typical clear-cut quarterback candidate, and still didn’t win the Heisman Trophy. That’s with Stanford winning the Pac-12. What, exactly, would it take for him to win the award? Long-time quarterback Kevin Hogan and others are gone. McCaffrey not only must repeat his legendary on-field performance. But Watson and Mayfield can’t lead their teams to conference titles with good numbers, or they’ll beat him. And Stanford has to once again win the Pac-12. And that’s at a minimum. The fact that the public is in love with McCaffrey has inflated these odds. This is the ultimate square futures bet.
- LSU RB Leonard Fournette (5/1). Speaking of running backs, Fournette had what could be considered a top 5 all-time season for an SEC player at the position. That’s the stuff of legends. Still, his team lost three games in November and he produced virtually nothing against Alabama, immediately dropping from Heisman favorite to not even a finalist. That’s yet another example of just how difficult it is to win the award if you’re not a quarterback. Everything has to be perfect.
- Alabama WR Calvin Ridley (16/1). The one thing that Ridley has going in his favor is coordinator Lane Kiffin’s propensity to force-feed his top individual player on offense. We saw it with Amari Cooper in 2014, Derrick Henry in 2015 and a plethora of offensive superstars at USC. So, unless Bo Scarbrough or O.J. Howard emerge, expect Ridley to be Kiffin’s favorite toy in 2016. Still, he’s not even a running back. It’s infinitely more difficult for him to win the trophy. He’ll face increased attention from defenses, which helped lead to a sophomore slump for Cooper a few years ago after a similar freshman trajectory. Also, we still don’t know who will be throwing him the football. That’s not a major concern for Alabama, but it doesn’t instill confidence in Ridley as a Heisman Trophy winner.