- Tua Tagovailoa is the consensus Heisman favorite but hasn't amassed impressive raw numbers because he they haven't been necessary.
- Will that hurt his chances of winning come December?
- Georgia quarterback Jake Fromm has put up similar statistics but is sitting at 100-1 despite fitting all Heisman criteria.
After watching the full slate of games Saturday, it’s safe to say that it’s Tua’s world, and we’re all just living in it.
Tagovailoa and the rest of the Alabama offense made quick work of Ole Miss on Saturday, opening up a huge lead and not looking back. But did they make it look TOO easy?
As a result of the absurdity of the blowout, Tua’s stat line isn’t particularly memorable: 11-15, 191 yards, two touchdowns. It’s borderline uninspiring.
But if you watched the game, you know all the context that lurks behind those numbers. So will the voters give him credit for that? Or will they reward someone who was so important to his team’s success that he had to play all four quarters every week?
I’ve always had this issue when trying to rationalize Tua winning the award, because the narrative that any quarterback could go 12-0 at Alabama might develop.
Tagovailoa reopened at +350 to win the Heisman at offshore book 5Dimes, but then literally during the writing of this piece, took money, and went down to +300, then 15 minutes later went to +275. This is most likely due to the price difference between him there and at other books (for example, at Bovada, Tua is +150 as of this writing).
As I wrote last week, he will remain the favorite for at least another month, because Alabama’s schedule is so easy. It plays Texas A&M, UL-Lafayette, Arkansas, Missouri and Tennessee.
My guess is you’ll see stat lines a lot like the one from the Ole Miss game: low on raw numbers, high on accuracy and efficiency. Will that be enough in voters’ minds? Should it be enough? It’s almost a philosophical discussion about the award more than anything.
All odds via 5Dimes as of Tuesday afternoon.
A Value Hiding in Plain Sight
Let’s do a blind comparison of two quarterbacks from the same conference:
QB1: 3-0 record, 36-50, 646 yards, 8 TD, 0 INT, 233.3 passer rating
QB2: 3-0 record, 37-46, 479 yards, 6 TD, 1 INT, 206.6 passer rating
QB1 is Alabama’s Tagovailoa, the consensus Heisman favorite. His three wins are over Louisville (which might not make a bowl this year), Arkansas State and Ole Miss.
QB2 is Georgia’s Jake Fromm, whose odds are 100-1. His three wins are over Austin Peay, South Carolina and Middle Tennessee State.
Both quarterbacks haven’t been asked to do much beyond the first or second quarters of their games. Both play for teams that should win 10 or more games and will probably play each other in the SEC Championship Game. Neither quarterback has played a particularly difficult schedule, but each has a true conference road win.
The point of the comparison isn’t to say that Fromm is better, or that he’s been better so far this year. Rather, the point is to draw attention to the very small statistical differences between the two at this point, which are not reflected in the odds of each player to win the award. One bad performance can change things quickly.
Georgia running back D’Andre Swift is being saved for more competitive games and being platooned with other talented backs. Georgia, a team with 12-0 potential, now has only one candidate who can get the award.
And I think we’ve kind of forgotten about Fromm.
Contenders Stay The Same
The guys behind Tagovailoa in the market remain unchanged, and their prices — for the most part — remain unchanged as well.
Dwayne Haskins played well but not spectacularly in Ohio State’s win over TCU, and just had a small move to +650. He’s now alongside West Virginia’s Will Grier as second betting choice. Grier’s game was canceled due to weather.
Oklahoma’s Kyler Murray played well against Iowa State on the road, and has now dropped to +950, in front of Wisconsin’s Jonathan Taylor (10-1).
AJ Dillon, who I mentioned last week was sneaking into the discussion, dropped from 25-1 to 20-1 after his team beat Wake Forest. Boston College’s schedule sets up extremely well for it to put together a very gaudy record going into a prime-time game against Miami in a couple months. We may be seeing his price drop, even if only minimally, for a little while.
Trace McSorley, who keeps accruing touchdowns but hasn’t been particularly accurate, is also at 20-1 after Penn State throttled Kent State. McSorley faces Illinois Friday night, another opportunity to get buckets of touchdowns in a night game with a reasonable audience.
The contender who could shoot up the board the most this week? Justin Herbert, who faces Stanford in prime time in Eugene on Saturday. Herbert’s price dropped each of the first few weeks, but with his failure to put up extremely gaudy numbers against bad competition, he has now settled back into the 45-1 range.
If you like Oregon in this game, and are aware of its particularly easy schedule, Herbert may warrant a bet with this as a “buy low” opportunity.
Reexamining 10-Win Teams
One of my “Heisman Rules” that has proven true over the history of the award is that the winner needs to play for a nine-win team, but preferably a 10-victory one.
If we use the “10 or more wins” parameter, which are the teams three weeks in that are the most likely to achieve that level of success? And do they have players who are undervalued?
I think the following list best encapsulates the teams with reasonable chances to hit that mark:
ACC: Clemson, Miami, Boston College, Duke
Big Ten: Ohio State, Penn State, Wisconsin
Big 12: Oklahoma, West Virginia, Oklahoma State
Pac 12: Washington, Stanford, Oregon, Cal (all in the same division; the intra-division games will determine who really gets there)
SEC: Alabama, LSU, Mississippi State, Georgia
A reexamination of that list won’t be produce many surprises; the teams before the year we thought would hit the mark are, in many cases, on their way.
In the case of the unexpected teams, some just don’t have a viable candidate. LSU may wind up being the surprise of the season, but Joe Burrow isn’t listed, and probably shouldn’t be with his lack of statistical accomplishment. Same for Cal, Duke and even Stanford, because of Bryce Love’s injury.
Oklahoma State greatly improved its chances for 10 wins by beating Boise State, and Justice Hill (currently 66-1) has been impressive, averaging more than eight yards per carry with four touchdowns.
When the Pokes get into Big 12 play, Hill may start to really build a profile that merits consideration, and could be worth a flier now while a lot of the dead-money candidates (McKenzie Milton, Love, etc.) are still listed with better odds.
Nick Fitzgerald (currently 100-1) may be worth a flier for 3-0 Mississippi State, who in just two games has four passing touchdowns, four rushing touchdowns and has run for more than 100 yards twice.