Heisman Trophy Odds: Betting Preseason Favorites Has Mostly Failed

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Written By Brett Gibbons | Last Updated
Heisman trophy odds

Favorites in the preseason within Heisman Trophy odds usually do not win the award. Since 2010, just one top-two favorite took home the award (Marcus Mariota, 2014) and zero outright favorites have won in that time. It’s not easy to stare down Caleb Williams () or Jayden Daniels () this year and say, no thank you. But history tells us you should consider tossing them if you want to bet on the Heisman before college football games begin.

If you’re looking to bet a longshot for 2023 Heisman odds, here are some things to consider when picking your bet.

Finding a Live Longshot in Heisman Trophy Odds

There’s more Heisman longshots than what’s reasonable to consider right off the bat. The first place to start is whittling down the field into a manageable list using proven qualifiers.

1. Start With College Football Win Totals

Every Heisman winner since 2010 came from a team with at least nine wins. Of those, only two failed to win 11 games (Lamar Jackson in 2016 and Robert Griffin III in 2011). Seven appeared in the National Championship game. Team performance historically has proven to be equally important as player performance.

While teams like 2019 LSU and 2010 Auburn came from preseason longshot territory, most championship winners aren’t far off the top of odds boards.

2. Sorry, Small Schools

We haven’t seen a Heisman winner from a school outside the current Power Five conferences since 1963 (Roger Staubach, Navy).

3. Don’t Look For The Next Desmond Howard

The winner will probably be a quarterback. Since 2010, only two non-QBs won the award. In the history of the Heisman Trophy, only one true defensive players won it (Charles Woodson, 1997) and no offensive linemen nor tight ends have won. Only four receivers have won the award ever (most recently DeVonta Smith, 2020). Second-most likely is running back, but only five have won the Heisman since 1997.

While not impossible, it’s statistically fruitless to throw darts at too many non-QBs this preseason.

4. Find Overlooked Elite Offenses

Since 2010, every quarterback winner of the Heisman has accounted for at least 44 touchdowns. Of those 11 QBs, 10 accounted for at least 47 and six crossed the 50-touchdown benchmark, most recently Williams in 2022.

Only Jameis Winston in 2013 threw double-digit interceptions (10), while seven of those winners had fewer than seven.

In the mid-2000s, dual-threat QBs dominated Heisman odds and voting, with players like Cam Newton, Johnny Manziel and Lamar Jackson all rushing for about 20 touchdowns each. However, the last four QB Heisman winners have shown to be hyper-efficient passers with completion percentages over 66% and QB ratings of at least 160.

Remember: voters won’t be analyzing EPA and yards per attempt. The Heisman Trophy is about pop, visibility, and gaudy yet efficient numbers.

Of course, we don’t have a list of players’ stats from the upcoming season. Understanding which offenses have produced numbers like this helps. This is also where using advanced metrics comes into play to project who may take the leap forward.

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5. Use Advanced Stats To Help Project Breakout Seasons

Expected Points Added (EPA) is a metric that measures how effective and explosive a player is on any given play. It breaks down what value they add to the team. Here are some of the top returning QBs in terms of EPA from a season ago (min. 100 snaps):

  • Joe Milton, Tennessee (0.665)
  • Jalon Daniels, Kansas (0.528)
  • Caleb Williams, USC (0.512)
  • Frank Harris, UTSA (0.509)

Other metrics that point toward efficiency include air yards per attempt and touchdown rate. Williams and Milton top the air yards per attempt among returners and both had a TD rate near or over 10%. Here are the leaders in both combined categories from last season (min. 100 snaps)

  • Joe Milton, Tennessee (14.3 air yards per attempt, 12.2% TD rate)
  • Grayson McCall, Coastal Carolina (10.4, 8.1%)
  • Caleb Williams, USC (10.3, 8.4%)
  • Jordan Travis, Florida State (9.8, 6.8%)

Longshots in 2023 Heisman Trophy Odds Who May Fit

It’s tough to write some of these names off, but for the sake of longshot betting, we have to. Williams not only would be the second-ever repeat winner (first since 1975), but he’s the favorite to win the award this year. While LSU’s Jayden Daniels is technically the second favorite, his odds are much longer and in line with the next group of nine or so players.

Next, Grayson McCall and Frank Harris are out due to playing for Group of Five schools. Unfair as it may be, history tells you it won’t be any of those players. Kansas almost certainly will fail in the double-digit wins requirement (Over/Under /), so Jalon Daniels is out.

Taking all of that into account, we have a field of just two longshots to consider, based on this criteria:

  • Tennessee QB Joe Milton ()
  • Florida State QB Jordan Travis ()

Of course, this isn’t where Heisman longshot betting has to stop. I do believe each of these players is worth a preseason flier, given their ceilings and indicators of progression. But this year’s Heisman field is loaded with QB talent, many of whom are clustered together on odds tables. So, let’s dig a little deeper.

Other Heisman Longshot Betting Considerations

Let’s backtrack to team qualifications. As mentioned, there’s a minimum win threshold of nine and a preferred threshold of 11. According to FanDuel Sportsbook (as of Aug. 7), six teams have a win total of 10 or more: Georgia, Ohio State, Michigan, Alabama, USC, and Clemson. Nine more are lined for 9+ wins.

Despite no starter yet being named for Ohio State, either option is a viable one. Kyle McCord is the frontrunner after Devin Brown missed spring camp with a hand injury. You have to dig back to 2016 to find the last Buckeye QB not to surpass 3,000 passing yards in a full season (save for 2020, where Justin Fields threw for 2,100 yards in just eight games). While McCord doesn’t have the baseline stats himself, all his predecessors in scarlet and gray do.

Clemson’s Cade Klubnik () and Penn State’s Drew Allar () also have the 44+ TD upside – indicated by their five-star status. For Klubnik, school history is also on his side. However, there’s no baseline to project and bets here would be off pure speculation.

Going against the trend of QBs dominating Heisman winners, I did place a longshot wager on Georgia tight end Brock Bowers. No TE has ever brought home the award. The second Heisman Trophy winner, Larry Kelley of Yale, played the equivalent of TE in 1936. In 1949, Notre Dame’s Leon Hart won playing an end position at 6-5, 260. So theoretically he could have been a TE today, but Kelley and Hart also both played defense.

Bowers is a one-of-a-kind TE. Likely the top NFL TE prospect for the last two seasons, Bowers returns for his third season with Georgia. Given his unique versatility, he’s best positioned to be the first TE Heisman winner and comes with a long price tag.

He posted 13 touchdowns as a freshman and almost 1,000 yards last year.

Brett’s Preseason Heisman bets:

  • Kyle McCord, QB, Ohio State (+2000)
  • Joe Milton, QB, Tennessee (+2500)
  • Brock Bowers, TE, Georgia (+7500)

Best Available Heisman Trophy Odds Across Sportsbooks

While the table at the top of this post allows you to search and compare Heisman trophy odds across sportsbooks, this one automatically shows the best available price for each player at sportsbooks in your state. Click on odds anywhere below from the best sports betting sites to bet on a player to win the Heisman.

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