BY TONY JOHNSON
We are finally into another season of college football and I couldn’t be happier! Wagers flow each and every week on sides and totals involving schools unknown to the outside world. What could be better? I think I have the answer. At “Betting For An Edge” we strive to find value on single games and also in the futures markets. We tackled National Championship futures in the last article and I want to discuss Heisman Trophy betting in this one.
The Heisman Trophy futures market has grown a lot over the past many years as more and more hype seems to surround the ceremony. In fact just “getting to New York” or in other words getting on the official Heisman finalists list is a bet that can be made itself before the season starts.
There are five factors to understanding how the Heisman futures market differs a lot from the National Championship market. First, the Heisman Trophy is voted on by 870 members of the media and all of the previous winners. This brings along the relative “popularity” of players in the media and not necessarily their skill on the field. Second, stats obviously play a major factor. Players with beefed up numbers tend to do better than others that may be in offenses where there are numerous other good players and the ball is spread around more. Third, quarterbacks win the award more often than any other position which makes it harder to bet on running backs or wide receivers. Fourth, schedule plays a role and usually players on teams with weaker schedules will shine brighter. This is one of the factors why six of the last seven winners have not come out of either the Big 10 or SEC. Finally, national recognition in the form of televised games to a broad audience plays a role. This distinctly favors teams on the East Coast or Midwest over teams on the West coast because of game times and the arguable “East Coast bias” that may or may not exist.
In full disclosure, I’ll start by unveiling my bets made before the season started.
Dwayne Haskins (OSU QB) 25/1
Kyler Murray (OK QB) 30/1
J.K. Dobbins (OSU RB) 40/1
Trevor Lawrence (Clem QB) 50/1
Nick Bosa (OSU DE) 125/1
Sam Ehlinger (Tex QB) 150/1
Stephen Carr (USC RB) 150/1
Just like championship betting I completely stay away from players in non-power five conferences. There simply isn’t enough reach for these players to even have a chance against guys from the major conferences that get national exposure almost every week. As you can see from above, I stayed mostly with quarterbacks and took a shot on only two running backs. I believe OSU is the most talented team in the country so I added Dobbins in there since his numbers would be bonkers on the likely best team in the Big 10. Carr was a longshot and I knew USC would have quarterback problems so the running back would have to carry the load. Unfortunately he’s stuck in a timeshare right now with no way out barring injury. Lastly, I threw Bosa in there because he’s the most dominant and disruptive defender in college football (Ed Oliver included) and with a crazy monster year and big exposure I thought he might have an outside chance. An injury unfortunately currently takes him out of the picture. Ehlinger is starting to round fully into form and he’s one of the best dual threat guys in the country in my opinion. Playing for Texas helps and I would not count him out yet. Lawrence is still the backup at Clemson but his upside is tremendous and if there is a change at quarterback soon, he could still emerge. Haskins and Murray have had great starts to the season and are on the short list of favorites currently.
The current favorite is quarterback Tua Tagovailoa (+250) out of Alabama. I was initially against betting on him since I feared a timeshare with incumbent Jalen Hurts but it appears he’s the full time starter right now and looks absolutely dominant. At the pace he’s on and if Alabama goes undefeated, he would be the clear winner but those are two very big ifs in a sport where things can change in a hurry any given week. Haskins (+500) has come way down off his initial odds and I no longer see enough value there. Other guys that are too low to currently bet are Will Grier (+600), Jonathan Taylor (+800), Kyler Murray (+800), and Trace McSorley (10/1). I like all of them going forward but believe we need higher odds to justify a bet with the early dominance of Tua. Bryce Love (15/1) has fallen back from opening around 5/1 and appears to be on the outside looking in. Another interesting name that’s fallen is quarterback Khalil Tate (50/1) who opened as the favorite around 4/1. He burst onto the scene last year with over 1400 rushing yards in only nine starts but has since become a mostly pocket passer under new coach Kevin Sumlin. It doesn’t help that Arizona has been a train wreck as a team this season as well. A big mover in the other direction is A.J. Dillon, (10/1) the great runner at Boston College. He opened around 40/1 and is poised for a huge season on a good team. I like him a lot but feel like 10/1 is too low to bet.
Finally, here’s a list and a brief synopsis of three players and that I think hold good current betting value.
Justin Herbert QB Oregon (40/1)- Unfortunately he plays on the West Coast but when he’s healthy his stats are out of this world. A throw first quarterback who plays in a big offense and will be playing in some shootouts and behind some which will help his numbers. If Oregon gets on a big run he could very well be in New York at the end.
Shea Patterson QB Michigan (75/1)- Patterson and Michigan got off to a rough start against Notre Dame but they have righted the ship and this offense will only go as far as he goes. He’s got some great weapons at WR and will be on national TV a lot with Michigan playing a lot of high profile games. Like Herbert, if Michigan gets on a run and can even beat Ohio State at the end of the year he could be in the discussion.
Sam Ehlinger QB Texas (100/1)- Ehlinger is a premier dual threat QB who is prominently featured in Tom Herman’s big play offense. Texas is a team on the rise but oddly enough do not have a dominant force at running back like in years past. Everything will go through Ehlinger and I think he’s good enough to win a lot of games and possibly bring Texas to the Big 12 Championship game.
Good luck to everyone on their wagers and I look forward to visiting the Heisman futures again as the season progresses further.