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Week One Overreactions: Heisman Odds

By: Jack Fredericks 

I went into Wal-Mart on Sunday to buy toothpaste and made the mistake of visiting the health kiosk to check on my general well-being. In five minutes, the machine informed me that my blood pressure was way too high and that I was considered obese by five out of six doctors. I immediately shot off a text to my ex-girlfriend to inform her of the good news, only to realize she’d blocked me. I arrived home an hour later after running wind sprints in the parking lot because I heard Julian Edelman say they were a great way to stay in shape. My anxiety yet quelled, I’ve been spending the majority of my free time researching how best to get an edge over Vegas in some tasty Heisman futures bet. After a glorious Week One of quarterback play, here’s what I have so far.

The Strategy

In order to make the most informed decisions about Heisman futures, historical context is important. The Big Data guys like to find trends in years of performance in order to locate areas where they can take a slight advantage or glean some insight that can help them make an educated guess. While we’re not major data guys here, it’s important to look at some information until a clearer picture comes to form. Let’s start with every Heisman winner since 2010. 

Year Heisman Winner Team Position National Champion Conference
2010 Cam Newton Auburn QB Auburn SEC
2011 Robert Griffin III Baylor QB Alabama Big 12
2012 Johnny Manziel Texas A&M QB Alabama SEC
2013 Jameis Winston FSU QB FSU ACC
2014 Marcus Mariota Oregon QB Ohio State PAC 12
2015 Derrick Henry Alabama RB Alabama SEC
2016 Lamar Jackson Louisville QB Clemson ACC
2017 Baker Mayfield Oklahoma QB Alabama Big 12
2018 Kyler Murray Oklahoma QB Clemson Big 12
2019 Joe Burrow LSU QB LSU SEC
2020 DeVonta Smith Alabama WR Alabama SEC
2021 Bryce Young Alabama QB Georgia SEC

*All statistics courtesy of sports-reference

A few initial thoughts from a brief overview of the Heisman winners:

  1. All but two played quarterback;
  2. Six of the last eleven came out of the SEC;
  3. Three of the last eleven came out of the Big 12;
  4. All of the winners came from Power 5 schools; and 
  5. Five won the national championship.

What conclusions can we draw from this? Well, we know the 2022 Heisman winner is going to come out of a Power 5 school. We know with clear-eyed certainty that he plays quarterback. We can assume that the players with the best odds will be in the national championship discussion. Our best value will come from players in the SEC or Big 12. This means our profile is as follows:

  1. QB
  2. SEC/Big 12
  3. College Football Playoff/National Championship

Now let’s take a look at the statistics of all the quarterbacks who won the award. (Note: I left out Henry and Smith because we don’t have much to compare them to. It’s safe to say that if you think Bijan Robinson is going to win the Heisman, you can just stop reading this article and punch your ticket now.) 

If you’re viewing this table on your phone scroll to the right. 

Year Heisman Winner TD/INT Ratio Completion % Yards per Attempt Rating Rushing Yards
2010 Cam Newton 30/7 66.1% 10.2 182 1,473
2011 Robert Griffin III 37/6 72.4% 10.7 189.5 699
2012 Johnny Manziel 26/9 68.0% 8.5 155.3 1,410
2013 Jameis Winston 40/10 66.9% 10.6 184.8 219
2014 Marcus Mariota 42/4 68.3% 10 181.7 770
2016 Lamar Jackson 30/9 56.2% 8.7 148.8 1,571
2017 Baker Mayfield 43/6 70.5% 11.5 198.9 311
2018 Kyler Murray 42/7 69.0% 11.6 199.2 1,001
2019 Joe Burrow 60/6 76.3% 10.8 202 368
2021 Bryce Young 47/7 66.9% 8.9 167.5 0

*All statistics courtesy of sports-reference

Here are some observations about how these guys played during their Heisman year. We’ll start with TD/INT Ratio and move from there:

  1. The QB has to throw no less than 10 interceptions. Any QB who hits over forty touchdowns is going to be in the conversation. 
  2. Their completion percentage should be north of 65% unless they go undefeated or can do it with their legs. (I think this also means they need a good receiving core.)
  3. They cannot throw for less than 8 yards per attempt. If you think they are going to average more than 10 yards per attempt, then go ahead and punch the ticket. 
  4. QBR is a little harder to analyze. If they are a dual threat, then it seems their QBR can suffer some. Any QBR over 180 is going to get a serious look. 
  5. A dual threat QB is not a must, but a lot of those guys up there can run. 

Conclusions? We’re looking for a QB who doesn’t throw many picks, has a terrific completion percentage, a good receiving core, and picks up yards quickly. (I’m not sure we even needed the data to tell us this…) If they can do all those things and run, they‘re basically a lock. (All odds are brought to you by Draftkings.)

The Odds

With all of this information, let’s take a look at some quarterbacks who played well in week one (maybe a little too well…) and who fit the profile described above. 

Bryce Young, QB, Alabama: +300

The man fits our profile so closely that it’s almost too good to be true. Here’s our problem: nobody in that group above has repeated (and plenty had an opportunity). I’m going to toss out Bryce simply because the data shows that the Heisman committee likes to go with someone new every year. 

C.J. Stroud, QB, Ohio State: +350

Stroud solidified his status as a frontrunner for the Heisman race with a statement win against #5 Notre Dame. He threw for 223 yards and 2 touchdowns with a completion percentage of 70%. His 2021 numbers are in line with past Heisman winners with a 44/6 TD/INT ratio, 72% completion percentage, and 10.1 yards per attempt. The Buckeyes will be in the national championship discussion all year. +350 seems like pretty good odds for a guy who is as close to lock as Bryce Young. Bet C.J. Stroud +350

Caleb Williams, QB, USC: +600

USC stomped Rice in Week 1 and the Lincoln Riley show is in full effect in L.A. Caleb Williams played well enough last year at Oklahoma to find himself with 6/1 odds to take home the Heisman. I particularly like his 10.6 yards per attempt in 2021. Two major issues. The first is he’s going to need to throw for way more than 21 touchdowns if he wants to be considered. The second is you have to decide if USC is going to weasel their way into the college football playoff. I think they probably drop two games due to growing pains and Caleb Williams is watching the Heisman ceremony from his couch. No play. 

Stetson Bennett, QB, Georgia: +1800

This is the major overreaction for the week. Bennett looked incredible against the Oregon Ducks and his odds skyrocketed from about 100/1 to 18/1. Georgia is going to be in the conversation for a national championship. Bennett has the best tight end room in the country, which will boost his completion percentage, yards per attempt, and TD/INT ratio. If UGA rips off a few more wins, you’d be lucky to get Bennett at 10/1. Bet Stetson Bennett +1800

Anthony Richardson, QB, Florida: +2200

Richardson had a good game against Utah in the Swamp. The major league gamblers are going to move his odds on the Heisman bet as they definitely see potential in the young star. He has a huge game against Kentucky this week. I don’t think the sophomore is ready for a Heisman-caliber performance this season. I’d wait a week and see how he plays against the Wildcats. See if he has odds for 2023 Heisman winner. No play. 

Dillon Gabriel, QB, Oklahoma: +3000

New team, no problem. Gabriel clocks in at 30/1 after Oklahoma thrashed UTEP. These are great odds considering Gabriel has two years at UCF, where he proved he can put up numbers. We know the Sooners will win games. Oklahoma has delivered some Heisman winners in recent memory. These are great odds considering where he’s playing, his age, and his ability to keep his interceptions down. Bet Dillon Gabriel +3000

Tyler Van Dyke, QB, Miami: +3500

Here’s my sneaky sleeper Heisman future at 35/1. My man Tyler Van Dyke clocked an 80% completion rate with two touchdowns and 12 yards per attempt against lowly Bethune. Come on! If you think Miami is going to win games this year– and they have to win a lot of games for any of this to matter  – and you think Van Dyke can throw for 30 or more touchdowns, book it! Bet Tyler Van Dyke +3500

JT Daniels, QB, West Virginia: +15000

The Georgia transfer is 150/1. WVU almost beat Pitt. This is the bet you send off after the Wal-Mart kiosk tells you that you’re obese. JT Daniels would never tell you to do wind sprints in the parking lot! Find the $100 in the seat cushion and turn it into $15,000 with a simple click. Wait – no – don’t do this. You’ll hate yourself for a month afterwards. Stick with Van Dyke. No play!

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