Heisman Trophy Odds: Longshot Betting Strategy

Written By Brett Gibbons on August 12, 2022
Heisman Trophy Odds

Preseason Heisman Trophy odds favorites usually don’t win the award. Since 2010, just one top-two favorite won (Marcus Mariota, 2014) and zero outright favorites have won in that time. It’s not easy to stare down a C.J. Stroud () or Bryce Young () this year and say, no thank you.

But, as history tells us, you should consider it.

If you’re looking to bet a longshot for the 2022 Heisman Trophy, here are some things to consider when picking your bet.

What Should You Look For?

There are more longshots than we can reasonably assess right off the bat. So let’s whittle down some of the field by setting a few proven qualifiers.

First, 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, 2016 and Robert Griffin III, 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.

We haven’t seen a Heisman winner from a school outside the current Power Five conferences since 1990 (Ty Detmer, BYU) and outside schools set to join Power Five conferences since 1963 (Roger Staubach, Navy).

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

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Statistical Benchmarks

Since 2010, every QB winner of the Heisman has accounted for at least 44 touchdowns (10 total). Of those, nine accounted for at least 47 and five crossed the 50-touchdown line. Only Jameis Winston in 2013 threw double-digit interceptions (10) while six 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 70% and with QB ratings around 200 (note: Young posted an outlier 66.9% completion and 167.5 rating in 2021).

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. This is where using advanced metrics comes into play to project who may take the leap forward.

Indicators of Progression

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:

  • CJ Stroud, Ohio State (0.610)
  • Grayson McCall, Coastal Carolina (0.562)
  • Tanner Mordecai, SMU (0.536)
  • Malik Cunningham, Louisville (0.513)

Other metrics that point toward efficiency include air yards per attempt and touchdown rate. McCall and Stroud top the leaderboard from 2021 for air yards per attempt while both posting greater than 10% TD rates. Some more names near the top of those lists:

  • Hendon Hooker, Tennessee (11.3 air yards per attempt, 10.2% TD rate)
  • Stetson Bennett, Georgia (10.9, 10.1%)
  • Caleb Williams, USC (10.2, 10.0%)
  • Devin Leary, NC State (9.1, 12.4%)

Heisman Odds Longshots Who May Fit The Bill

We’re going to write off Stroud and Young for being the favorites in an attempt to find a longshot. Going further, we can also remove Williams, as only three top-three favorites have won the Heisman in the last 13 years. While not impossible, Williams () doesn’t quite fall under the “longshot” category.

McCall and Mordecai are almost immediately out of the running given the status of them playing for schools in the Group of Five. Cunningham (+8000) may struggle with the wins requirement, as Louisville is projected for Over wins.

Taking all of the above into account, we have a field of three longshot candidates to consider:

  • Georgia QB Stetson Bennett ()
  • Tennessee QB Hendon Hooker ()
  • NC State QB Devin Leary ()

Depending on your view of each team and of each player, one or more of these players might be worth a bet. Bennett has the farthest way to go to meet the 44 TD benchmark (30 total last season), but he leads in EPA by a comfortable margin (0.501, sixth nationally). Hooker has the framework for the TD-interception ratio (31:3) and posted a 181.4 rating and a 0.430 EPA (23rd). Leary leads the group in TDs (35) and TD rate (12.4%), but notably lags in rating (157.0) and EPA (0.336, 59th).

How Do Their Teams Shape Up?

Georgia leads the group in projected win total (over ) while NC State leads the group in passing play rate from 2021 (55.9%, 13th nationally). However, Tennessee has the resume to vault Hooker into the national conversation (fifth in FPI strength of schedule).

While all three teams have a reasonable shot at that nine-win category (with Georgia and NC State having the inside track at 11 wins), Georgia () remains the lone strong National Championship contender.

Barring a real shocker of a season from Tennessee or NC State, one of two things will have to give: a Heisman winner won’t make the National Championship or a favorite will win the award.

  • Georgia: over wins, to win National Championship
  • NC State: over wins,
  • Tennessee: over wins,

Heisman Trophy Odds 2022

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Brett Gibbons

Brett is an avid sports traveler and former Division-I football recruiter for Bowling Green and Texas State. He’s a graduate of BGSU and works as an auditor for Google content curation products. He’s also contributed to Sports Illustrated and Fansided during his young writing career.

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