Heisman Odds Market Analysis, Week 2: Start Fast or Get Left Behind

Heisman Odds Market Analysis, Week 2: Start Fast or Get Left Behind article feature image

Mark D. Smith-USA TODAY Sports. Pictured: Kyler Murray

  • The Heisman Trophy market is as volatile as any futures market, since there's only a 12-game sample to go off.
  • But the last five winners have all had huge first games and set the train in motion for voters to take notice.
  • Alabama's Tua Tagovailoa is a big favorite now, despite not playing the entire game against Louisville last week.

I’ve found that the market for the Heisman Trophy shifts faster than almost any other futures market. Because players get only 12 games before voting happens, one bad outing can make a huge difference. Getting off to a fast start is critical.

Here are the Week 1 stat-lines from the last five winners:

Heisman Winners Week 1 Performances

Baker Mayfield vs. UTEP in 2017

19 of 20, 329 yards, 3 TD

Lamar Jackson vs. Charlotte in 2016

286 yards passing, 119 yards rushing, 8(!) total TD

Derrick Henry vs. Wisconsin in 2015

13 carries, 147 yards, 3 TD

Marcus Mariota vs. South Dakota in 2014

14 of 20, 267 yards, 4 total TD

Jameis Winston, vs. Pitt in 2013

25 of 27, 356 yards, 4 TD

Even if you don’t completely torch the opponent, what these prove is that getting off to a slow start may really hurt your chances. In what is essentially a giant popularity contest, you don’t want the media talking about how bad you are, and you also don’t want them NOT talking about you at all.

If that’s the case, I’ve got bad news for Bryce Love, who had 18 carries for 29 yards in a win against San Diego State. Teammate KJ Costello put up a much better stat line.

Despite what we know about recent Heisman history, and that weak beginning for Love, his odds dropped only to 13-1, which is completely absurd. I would maybe consider him at 40-1 or 50-1. The small bit of good news for him is Stanford won, which means the Cardinal are slightly closer to the 9-10 win plateau necessary for consideration.

Heisman Market Analysis, Week 2

Can Tua win if he doesn’t play enough?

Alabama’s quarterback competition is over, at least for now. Tua Tagovailoa will start for now, while I would expect to see Jalen Hurts in a lot of the garbage-time reps.

Tagovailoa is the clear favorite to win the award at +390 ($10 wins $39), but as we saw last year, Alabama finds itself in garbage time quite a bit.

Can Tagovailoa really win the award when he’s playing three quarters or fewer than 10 games this season? Or will the narrative become that Alabama is so dominant at all positions that he really can’t be considered the best player in college football?

I think this is really fascinating, and would lean toward him being unlikely to win considering all that we know right now. In some kind of weird way, it would be better for him if Alabama was worse on defense, or worse in some other areas, where his talent would be the clear difference between winning and losing games.

Trace McSorley’s price went in the wrong direction.

This is the only price change that made no sense to me whatsoever. McSorley literally won Penn State the game last Saturday. The call of his touchdown throw to tie it late in the fourth against Appalachian State was something along the lines of “That’s a Heisman throw!”

His completion percentage was pretty poor, especially for him, but he had three total touchdowns and Penn State won. I guess you could make a case that the App State game proved his team might not win nine or 10 games, but they’re so young and breaking in so many new pieces. So I think that’s entirely premature analysis.

Plus, do you really like Michigan, Michigan State or Ohio State MORE after last Saturday? No on all three counts. I still like McSorley a lot, and can’t believe after so many other candidates bricked, he actually went up to 25-1.

Dwayne Haskins and Will Grier each had crazy statistical performances, but only one went down in price.

We really have no idea how good Tennessee will be this year, and in Game 1 with a brand new coaching staff, the Vols looked about how you’d expect.

Grier torched the Vols for 429 yards and five touchdowns and now occupies the spot as second favorite — probably rightfully so. I liked his chances coming in, and the team will need more big performances from him in basically every game going forward.

For Haskins meanwhile, 313 passing yards and five touchdowns got him essentially nowhere in the market, as he remains 15-1 to win the award. You could actually argue Ohio State needed this level of performance from him because its defense was atrocious against Oregon State, allowing long touchdown after long touchdown. I think Haskins has value at the current price, as well, if you have no skin in the game yet.

Oklahoma might have a two-candidate problem.

The Sooners could have the No. 1 offense in college football again this season, which would be a remarkable accomplishment. But as we saw with Baker Mayfield and Dede Westbrook in 2016, two players with stunning statistical profiles on the same team can actually hurt the other’s chances of winning because they’ll split votes.

With quaterback Kyler Murray and running back Rodney Anderson (now down to 25-1 and very close to Murray’s 20-1), we may be witnessing a repeat scenario. They were both incredible against Florida Atlantic.

What are McKenzie Milton’s true odds of winning?

Since the BCS started in 1998, no Group of 5 player has ever won the Heisman Trophy.

A few have been invited to the ceremony — Chad Pennington, Colt Brennan and Kellen Moore — but there was never any real sense that they could win. Even getting invited is a monster hurdle for a Group of 5 player to overcome.

So while I like Milton as a player, and think he looked great against a UConn defense that’s basically dead last in the entire country, I think we’re jumping the gun a lot on this odds-wise. Ed Oliver is 100-1, and even his odds are probably too low still.

I really believe we’ll never see a Group of 5 player win, but even if I’m wrong, the confluence of events it will take for that to happen will be borderline miraculous.