One of the college football beats that I follow most closely is the week-to-week evolution of the Heisman Trophy odds. I maintain a large table of contenders and break down their odds, both during the offseason and once the year starts.
You’d be forgiven if the Heisman market – or even college football odds in general – is not something you’re locked into in mid-June.
But one of the most fascinating parts of BetMGM’s current Heisman table is that the modern influx of transfers, draftees, and pre-camp speculation has made for a very silly market.
Heisman Trophy 2023
There was a lot of brain drain after last year’s Heisman results came and went. Caleb Williams returns to defend his trophy at USC, but the other five top-six finishers – Max Duggan, C.J. Stroud, Stetson Bennett, Hendon Hooker, and Bryce Young – are all headed off to pursue professional careers.
Bijan Robinson, the No. 9 finisher, is also gone.
Caleb Williams the 2022 Heisman Trophy in a blowout. The final results: pic.twitter.com/wZj3g7JvBG
— Arash Markazi (@ArashMarkazi) December 11, 2022
That leaves Blake Corum, Michael Penix Jr., and Drake Maye as the sole top-10 Heisman finishers who are coming back for this year. And while I personally believe that Penix offers a really interesting profile, the Heisman betting market just isn’t dying to buy a UNC quarterback or a 2023 running back.
Normally, what happens in modern preseason college football is that the key names at juggernaut programs get hyped. When the calendar gets to August, we’ll all collectively start hearing about all the talent under center in Columbus, Tuscaloosa, and Athens, among other notable college towns.
But the familiar places we would normally look for obvious early candidates have all been ravaged by departures. Ohio State and Alabama both watched their quarterbacks get drafted at the top of the first round.
Georgia is sending Stetson Bennett off to the nursing home after a career that may or may not have started during the Reagan administration.
Former Clemson quarterback DJ Uiagalelei transferred to Oregon State.
Turnover across the board at the biggest programs of the last five years means that everyone is left guessing who’s going to be playing quarterback. And guessing at these names in particular means turmoil in the Heisman market.
For Clemson, at least, we know that Cade Klubnik is the guy, barring some kind of late-summer drama. Klubnik, in turn, is ninth in the table at +2000.
For other programs, though, the line to solving who the starting quarterback will be is a lot more complicated. And before you can bet a name for Heisman, you first have to believe they’re going to win the starting job.
Alabama Quarterback Battle
Right now at BetMGM, Alabama football has three guys at 80-to-1 or better in the Heisman market – and that’s just the quarterbacks! There are also guys like Jase McClellan, who checks in at a similar number (+8000) from the running back position.
Ty Simpson, currently +5000, is the best recruit, but starting jobs are rarely won by stars next to your name on recruiting websites. To date, Simpson is probably the least mobile of the three quarterbacks. He’s certainly the least experienced.
Then there’s Tyler Buchner, who transferred in late from Notre Dame after it was clear that Sam Hartman (+1400 in the Heisman market) had the job locked down.
Like Simpson, Buchner is currently +5000. He’ll need a fast adjustment to Saban’s clubhouse if he wants the job, but he could have some advantages over his competition.
The Heisman market sees Jalen Milroe (+8000) as the biggest longshot, which is interesting since he’d be my first guess. Milroe won the start last season against Texas A&M when Young couldn’t play. He’s raw and makes mistakes, but he’s also the most athletic of Alabama’s quarterback trio and could have the highest ceiling from a playmaking perspective.
Ohio State Quarterback Battle
Ohio State has a classic college football problem on its hands. Kyle McCord is a better passer that can excel at the traditional quarterback stuff; Devin Brown is a better dual-threat athlete who could be a particularly dangerous RPO weapon.
Who will Ryan Day choose? My money is on McCord, as Ohio State would be silly not to construct a team around the talent in its wide receiver room. That means relying on McCord’s passing ability. Perhaps the Buckeyes could utilize McCord in a red zone package.
Right now, the Heisman odds peg McCord at +2500 and Brown at +8000, so the market seems to agree with me for now.
Georgia Quarterback Battle
Who takes over for Bennett? The obvious answer is Carson Beck (+2000), who backed him last year, is the oldest, and generally has the most game experience.
Beck seems like the most likely candidate of any quarterback hopeful at any of these three schools, but the market says you shouldn’t count out Brock Vandagriff, who is lurking in the Heisman odds table at 50-to-1.
Gunner Stockton is also in the mix, according to local reporting, but he’s not currently listed anywhere in the Heisman table. Take that for what you will.
One other note: these Georgia numbers are a little shorter than the total odds at Alabama or Ohio State, which could mean that bettors are paying a slight premium to bet on a quarterback for the two-time defending national champions.
Oklahoma Heisman Winners
Oklahoma doesn’t quite hold the cultural power it did when Lincoln Riley was calling plays for the Sooners, but its quarterbacks still command a certain level of national respect.
Dillon Gabriel, who threw for 3,168 yards and 25 touchdowns in 2022, announced he was coming back for the 2023 season. He settled into the market at +3500. He should definitely be the starter, right? Case closed.
Except… Jackson Arnold has entered the chat. The No. 42 overall college football prospect for the 2023 class could come in and push Gabriel for the job. It’s clearly going to be his job one day, anyway. Would it be such an upset for him to get major PT a year ahead of schedule?
Arnold is currently 100-to-1 to win the Heisman right now. He’s a fascinating inclusion in the market, as the trading team at BetMGM could have easily left him out of the market entirely, and no one outside of Norman, Oklahoma would have noticed.
Heisman Betting: No Clarity In the Market Yet, But That Could Be a Good Thing
The multitudes of quarterback teammates that are dominating this weird Heisman table is an interesting curiosity, but it might not be anything more than that for many bettors.
Unless you closely follow one of these half-dozen programs, it doesn’t make sense to try to prognosticate and bet quarterback battles with virtually no current information.
However, there’s a major caveat here. If you are a fan of one of these elite programs, there’s a good chance you’re snapping up all the rumors and scraps of information that slowly leak out of the locker room throughout the summer.
If that’s the case, you may see an upstart seizing the job long before the market at large does. If that’s the case, you have a huge opening to buy Heisman tickets with a ton of upside.
Recent history tells us that the Heisman goes to high-achieving quarterbacks at prominent programs, who often enter the season with low expectations or no national name ID.
If you can identify one of these candidates before the market, the potential payoff could be monstrous.
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