There’s one thing to know about betting on the potential Heisman Trophy winner entering each college football campaign: The preseason favorites almost never win it.
Players become favorites for this award entering a new season because they had a huge previous year statistically, and it’s often impossible to match that production again. Thus voters penalize guys simply on the eye test, fair or not. And if we are being honest, many Heisman voters aren’t watching most of these kids play.
Southern Cal quarterback Sam Darnold is the +400 favorite on the Heisman Trophy odds at sportsbooks monitored by OddsShark.com entering 2017. This is a guy who didn’t even open last season as USC’s starter. Darnold got his first start in the Trojans’ fourth game last year and they lost that – but wouldn’t lose again.
And no player in the country had a more impressive bowl game than Darnold did in throwing for 453 yards and five touchdowns in a Rose Bowl shootout victory over Penn State.
Darnold, considered a potential No. 1 overall pick in the 2018 NFL Draft, checks a few boxes for a Heisman winner: He plays on a marquee team that will be very good and is a quarterback. Much like the NFL MVP Award now generally only goes to quarterbacks on good teams, so does the Heisman. USC has had six Heisman winners; it would be seven, but Reggie Bush’s in 2005 was forfeited.
Louisville’s Lamar Jackson won the 2016 Heisman – he was a +10000 long shot at this time last year – and is +800 to join former Ohio State star running back Archie Griffin as the only players to win the award twice. The problem with betting Jackson is he had one of the greatest offensive seasons in NCAA history last year in throwing for 3,543 yards and 42 touchdowns while rushing for 1,571 yards and 21 scores – so the bar is set incredibly high.
Jackson was the first player in FBS history with 3,300 passing yards and 1,500 rushing yards in a season and only the sixth in history to rush and pass for 20 touchdowns in the same season. How realistic is it for Jackson to top those numbers? Voters will almost demand it.
Penn State running back Saquon Barkley (+700), Oklahoma quarterback Baker Mayfield (+800) and Ohio State quarterback JT Barrett (+800) are the only other players priced under +1200 on the 2017 Heisman Trophy betting lines.
Mayfield finished third in the Heisman voting last year, when he set the FBS single-season pass efficiency rating record (196.4), and fourth in 2015. Barrett is going to set the Big Ten career record for TDs responsible for this season, currently held by Drew Brees. As for Barkley, only two running backs this century have won the Heisman if not counting Bush. The rest have been quarterbacks.