2019 Heisman Odds & Best Bets: Finding Competition for Tua, Lawrence

Jul 21, 2019 05:20 PM EDT
Credit:

Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports. Pictured: Trevor Lawrence

  • Collin Wilson gives out his rules for betting the Heisman to filter out the large list of players offered at the Westgate SuperBook.
  • Alabama QB Tua Tagovailoa and Clemson QB Trevor Lawrence are the heavy favorites, but are there any investments worth making down the board based on those filters?

Just 12 months ago, two running backs were atop the Heisman odds board. But if you’re a reader here, you know we have specific rules to follow when betting on the most prestigious individual trophy in college football. And one of them is to always bet on quarterbacks.

This year, order has been restored with signal callers being given the best chances. Besides Wisconsin’s Jonathan Taylor, no running back or wide receiver has odds better than 40-1 to win the Heisman.

The current odds are not surprising, as 2018 final voting was made up of six quarterbacks. Of more than 850 voters, only two first place votes went to a player other than a quarterback (Alabama DT Quinnen Williams and Taylor).

In keeping with the geographical bias, the only player from the Mountain West or Pacific time zone to receive votes was Washington State quarterback Gardner Minshew. Thanks to Power 5 bias, McKenzie Milton of Central Florida received just four first-place votes.

As we look for our Heisman winner, keep in mind the six regional sections of voters and that 16 of the last 19 winners have been quarterbacks. So with quarterbacks from Alabama and Clemson expected to go first overall in the next two NFL drafts it is worth asking:

Can anyone beat Tua Tagovailoa or Trevor Lawrence for the Heisman?

This article will take an in-depth look at the current market and which players clear the voting filters. Comparing schedules against Passing S&P+ ratings from 2018 may help identify a player as a contender.

Filtering Heisman Prospects

The first order of business is to throw out non-quarterbacks, particularly those who are not on College Football Playoff contending teams.

This includes the electric Rondale Moore, Tylan Wallace and AJ Dillon. This could also be said about any player on the west coast that is not a championship contender like Jacob Eason, JT Daniels and Justin Herbert. The last time a West coast player won the Heisman with three losses was Ty Detmer in 1990.

There are Heisman contenders on championship-caliber teams, but their fates are directly tied to their quarterbacks success. A Jerry Jeudy or Tee Higgins Heisman is completely dependent on Tagovailoa and Lawrence, respectively. This removes those players like D’Andre Swift, Justyn Ross, Najee Harris and Travis Etienne.

A gambler’s portfolio should feature the best price for the scenario most likely to play out. For a player like Adrian Martinez to beat the Heisman front runners, a Nebraska conference championship is necessary. Nebraska can be found at 16-1 in some shops in contrast to Adrian Martinez at 10-1. The better investment is in a Nebraska future if you believe the Cornhuskers can win the Big Ten.

The general Heisman voter also does not take strength of schedule into account when looking at total statistics, as long as it’s a Power 5 team. Any team not expected to contend for the playoff with a top 25 schedule more than likely won’t post numbers good enough to win. Jake Bentley, Kellen Mond, Bo Nix and Feleipe Franks are just a few of the SEC quarterbacks that have a strength of schedule in the top 10.

New Michigan offensive coordinator Josh Gattis will have to maximize Shea Patterson’s snaps per game against a top 20 schedule to get the needed statistics. Quarterbacks in the slowest systems include KJ Costello, Keytaon Thompson and Tate Martell. Number of snaps was critical in Kyler Murray’s win over Tua in 2018.

Two Contenders From The Field

Tua Tagovailoa and Trevor Lawrence are the favorite for the Heisman, but who will join the quarterbacks in New York? Two players that check all the boxes for Heisman voting are Jalen Hurts and Jake Fromm. Both players have playoff experience and are expected to contend for a national title in 2019.

This section will look at the schedule, 2018 Passing S&P+ ratings and returning production.

There are plenty of takeaways from the above chart. Defensive Passing S&P+ numbers will change in 2019, but should not deviate too far off last year’s rating. Hurts may not have to pass like Baker Mayfield or Kyler Murray in 2019. The Oklahoma schedule lines up to face just three defenses that ranked top 50 against the pass in 2018. The first five games on the Sooners’ schedule could not setup any better to get Hurts comfortable in Lincoln Riley’s system.

It’s a different story for the Georgia schedule. Jake Fromm starts with top 50 defensive passing S&P+ in three of the first four games. After a game against a Tennessee squad on the rise, the Bulldogs face four top 50 teams in five weeks. Fromm has one of the toughest schedules for a quarterback in contention for the Heisman. A stellar ground game and defense will assist Georgia in victories, which may present a better betting opportunity late in the year.

Tua vs. Trevor

There are two separate stretches when Alabama will face experience and talent in an opposing back seven. Highlighting the Crimson Tide in the chart will show a dip for Week 3 and 4 then again from Week 11 through the end of the season. Tua Tagovailoa should survive South Carolina and Southern Miss early in the season, but questions are bound to come on health in the back half of the season.

Much like 2018, the Alabama schedule is backlogged with superior defenses in LSU, Mississippi State and Auburn. The Crimson Tide lost the entire left side of the offensive line and their center this offseason. Tua’s health is in the hands of an offensive line that lost 129 career starts.

That brings us to Clemson, a program that has never had a Heisman winner. Lawrence will not face a single defense that ranked in the top 30 in passing S&P+ in 2018. Florida State may be the toughest test as the Seminoles return almost every tackler in the second year of defensive coordinator Harlon Barnett’s scheme.

While Lawrence had fewer passing yards in more attempts than Tua in 2018, his 2.7% sack rate was lower than Tagovailoa at 3.5%. Lawrence also lost a left tackle and center, but bring in one of the highest rated offensive tackles in school history with Jackson Carman who had over 200 snaps in 2018.

Lawrence has an easier schedule than Jake Fromm, more polished passing skills than Jalen Hurts, and a lower sack rate with a better offensive line than Tua this season.

D’Eriq King Pulling a Lamar Jackson

When betting on the Heisman, it is always fun to have a longshot in your pocket. Most of the previous winners could have been found at 20-1 or better in preseason. During a March Madness trip, the opportunity came up to jump on D’Eriq King at 200-1.

Lamar Jackson was at 100-1 prior to the 2016 season. The Louisville quarterback is an anomaly, an instance where the Heisman winner’s team had no shot at the College Football Playoff. Jackson put up numbers as if Bo Jackson was running without a game clock on Super Tecmo Bowl.

But here are two blind resumes that may surprise:

  • Player A: 10 games, 2,982 passing yards, 36:6 TD/INT, 748 rushing yards, 14 rushing TD
  • Player B: 13 games, 3,543 passing yards, 30:9 TD/INT ratio, 1,571 rushing yards, 21 rushing TD

Consider Player A only played 10 games and averaged 1.7 yards more per rushing attempt. Player B is Heisman winner Lamar Jackson from 2016, while Player A is D’Eriq King, who was injured in the 10th game of the season after putting up 50 total touchdowns.

We are in a golden year of quarterbacks in college football, and if this was 2016, D’Eriq King would have a fantastic shot. At long odds with a guy that can put up Lamar Jackson numbers, it may be fun to ride a cheap ticket. If it is good enough for Uncle Verne, it is good enough for gambling nation.

Contenders, Sleepers and Snoozers

Some other names not filtered out include Joe Burrow. The LSU quarterback was not spectacular in the stat sheet through the first half of 2018, but turned up the efficiency as the year went on. Head coach Ed Orgeron came to SEC Media Days and said LSU will run the spread.

In case you missed the Fiesta Bowl, the Tigers have already started to air it out.

Burrow threw for close to 400 yards, lining up with four wideouts and executing explosive play one after another. The hiring of Joe Brady as passing game coordinator needs full attention, as Burrow could be a real contender for the Heisman if he can put up those kind of numbers all year.

If D’Eriq King serves as our deep sleeper, Justin Fields is our snoozer for 2019. Plenty of highlight videos from the Ohio State spring game will show just the 4 completions he made, but the 9 other misses were not pretty.

Fields had multiple 3-and-outs, was only familiar with the drag route, and under threw Binjimen Victor on a 98-yard touchdown pass. Stories are beginning to leak from Georgia that Fields just could not grasp the playbook, read defenses and had off-the-field noise during his stint in Athens. Ohio State loses three of its top receiving targets and 116 offensive line starts among four players.

Our other snoozer is Sam Ehlinger. Texas has the worst Power 5 returning production rank that includes 113 career starts gone on the offensive line. Lil’Jordan Humphrey had 120 targets and 9 touchdowns, but will not be there this fall as Ehlinger’s hot receiver. The 16 rushing touchdowns are great, but it is hard to put a Heisman ticket on a player that seeks contact with every snap.

Heisman Bets To Make

  • Trevor Lawrence +275: This number probably won’t rise anymore during the summer. As mentioned earlier, there is no dip in the Clemson schedule where Lawrence may have a stretch that will allow you to buy him at a better price mid-season. An upset loss to Texas A&M is possible early, but it would be a gamble to try and get a better in-season price
  • D’Eriq King +10000: Although Westgate is at 60/1, there are shops posting 100-1 and worth a little spare change. The stats alone are worth investment and the injury bug could come for the leading contenders. Pass on the margaritas and queso on your next trip to a Houston Taco Cabana and spend that money on King to win the Heisman.
  • Jake Fromm (mid-season): If you believe Georgia makes the playoff like I do, then Fromm is worth an investment at some point during the season. The Georgia schedule eases up on passing defenses around the same time Tua begins his stint against LSU, Auburn and Mississippi State. Look for Fromm at 30-1 odds or better through the end of October during the roughest patch of Georgia’s schedule.
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