Here's why you shouldn't bet right now on Tua Tagovailoa or Trevor Lawrence to win the Heisman Trophy
I’m not saying it won’t happen, but the odds certainly aren’t good. In fact, they’re awful.
That vague sentence is my way of saying that while Tua Tagovailoa and Trevor Lawrence are obvious early Heisman Trophy favorites at +250 each (according to Bovada), I’d stay far, far away from them if I was a betting man.
Don’t worry. This isn’t my way of saying that I believe Tagovailoa or Lawrence will disappoint in 2019, though there’s something to be said for how we pick apart quarterbacks who are household names. In all likelihood, both will be in the Heisman conversation if they’re healthy and leading teams with national title hopes. I wouldn’t bet against either of them having success this year.
So why is it foolish to place your preseason bet on one of them to win the top individual award?
It’s simple, really. The somewhat recent history for preseason Heisman favorites is bad. Really bad. Like, worse than I thought before I decided to look this up assuming it would be bad.
Let me explain.
From what I could find on various sports books who post early Heisman odds in the last 10 years, the eventual winner was never the preseason favorite. In fact, this shows that a top-2 preseason Heisman candidate only won the award once in the last 10 years.
Check it out:
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I’m actually amazed that there were preseason odds on Murray or even Winston back in 2013 given how inexperienced they were at the time.
But in a way, this feeds into my point about how the Heisman has become such a narrative-driven award. Voters love when players follow this certain arc, which in my opinion was what helped Murray close the gap and ultimately win the award over Tagovailoa last year. The public tends to gravitate to “the next new thing” while the preseason favorite often struggles to reach such a high bar.
And part of it is the fact that we’re talking about 19-21 year-old kids here, and not 10-year NFL veterans going after the MVP. They’re still learning how to handle an entire offseason’s worth of attention. At this time last year, Lawrence and Tagovailoa weren’t even locks to start (Lawrence obviously had to wait his turn).
So with that in mind, why waste money betting on someone like Tagovailoa or Lawrence when only 1 of 20 people in their position in the last decade (Mariota) went from top-2 preseason Heisman candidate to Heisman winner? To me, it’s throwing money away. And for what? To get a payout of 2.5 times your money?
Even if you think Tagovailoa and Lawrence are the greatest thing since the invention of the forward pass and that they’ll handle this pressure better than 99.9% of people in their position, that bet makes absolutely no sense.
Any gambler is much better off rolling the dice on someone outside the top 5. That is, if they’re placing a bet in the preseason. This all goes out the window in a hurry once, you know, actual games are being played.
(Side note: I totally just realized that I should go back and try to find all the September Heismans and see how those odds changed and if they paid off. But that’ll be for another time. Maybe September?)
The funny thing is that if I had a gun to my head today, I’m still probably picking Tagovailoa or Lawrence to win the Heisman. In that scenario, though, it’s not about who’s +250 or +1,700. It’s simply, who do I think is most likely to have the best season.
I think there will be a tendency to treat both scenarios the same with a field like this. There shouldn’t be.
As of this writing, Tagovailoa and Lawrence are +250 while the next-closest candidate is Justin Fields at +1,100 (Bovada). That’s a huge gap. But at the same time, every publication is going to tell you that the Heisman will be decided between Tagovailoa and Lawrence.
Maybe it will be. Maybe it won’t be.
But save your money and don’t bet on that right now.