Despite the fact that we’ve just entered the darkest and loneliest days of the college football offseason, oddsmakers have already turned the page to next fall.
Of course they have. There’s money to be made.
Most sports books have had BCS national championship odds posted since before this year’s crystal football changed hands—and we’ve touched on those. More recently, though, betting odds have been posted in regard to the world’s most famous hunk of bronze.
Strike a Heisman pose in your cubicle or office. Don’t worry, we won't tell.
Heisman odds are now available for your consumption (via Kegs 'n Eggs), and some of the brightest football minds in the world have already handicapped next season. These odds are more than just a means to make or lose money. They also outline expectations on who could be heading to the podium in New York City come December. Oh, that sounds so far away.
Using the recent odds posted at the online book Bovada.lv, here are some early impressions of who I’d stay away from, who I like and who I love. Wins, box-score destruction, Heisman moments and betting value—that’s what we’re looking for.
This isn't just about picking a winner, it's about making the most of what Vegas gives us.
Who I Like
AJ McCarron (10-1)
McCarron’s odds actually started at 12-1, and he has since been bet down. Even at 10-1, however, he is absolutely worthy of consideration.
The biggest factor working in his favor is the team he plays for. Alabama will be loaded yet again, and there’s a very good chance it'll be in contention for a national championship. Wins are, as we know, critical for this award. It’s what kept him in this conversation last year, and it will work for him yet again.
The biggest questions: Will the numbers be impressive enough to get him votes? Will a revamped offensive line cause him issues?
Alabama will likely use its running backs often, but McCarron will have plenty of chances. He also has one of the nation’s best wide receivers in Amari Cooper and should benefit from yet another offseason with Nick Saban.
Odds are moving, and 10-1 may not last much longer. I can see why.
Teddy Bridgewater (12-1)
What’s not to like about a quarterback for whom the sky appears to be the limit?
There are concerns on the Heisman front, but Bridgewater is poised to have a monster season at Louisville. His incredible development over the course of last season culminated in the masterful dissection of one of the nation’s best defenses in a BCS bowl.
He’ll have to greatly increase his touchdown total—he finished with 28 last season—which shouldn't be an issue if he stays healthy. As a sophomore, he was still incredibly raw, and another offseason will only help polish him further. Thus far, the ceiling is not in sight.
The problem, however, is Louisville’s schedule. The Cardinals will rarely find themselves in prime time, and a glaring lack of ranked teams could work against Bridgewater with the voters. On the flip side, it should help boost the numbers. The team is young and talented, much like this Heisman hopeful, and 12-1 makes a lot of sense.
He’ll need to be exceptional for you to cash, but that could very well be the case.
Who I’d Stay Away From
Marqise Lee (7-1)
First and foremost, I love Marqise Lee. He’s the nation’s best wide receiver and the best player not named Jadeveon Clowney in college football. With that being said, run from 7-1. Run as fast as you can.
The numbers for Lee last season were fabulous: 118 catches, 1,721 yards and 15 total touchdowns. Because USC lost six games, however, he didn’t get to New York City for the finals. A fourth-place finish was awfully close, though.
Despite his impressive showing, there are simply too many factors working against him. He’ll be working with a new quarterback, and USC’s offense could have a much different look and feel. We also don’t know just how many games this team can win, and the 2013 season is very difficult to predict. There could be more losses coming.
Then there’s the fact that he’s a wide receiver. Catching passes and winning Heismans just don't seem to go together. At 7-1, it’s not worth holding onto a ticket to hope the trend finally gives way.
Johnny Manziel (4-1)
Again, I begin my “don’t bet him” stance by talking about how fabulous the player is. Johnny Manziel is a one-of-a-kind talent and will only improve as a passer, which is scary.
There will be ridiculous expectations regarding his performance.
Anything remotely short of what he accomplished last season will be viewed by many as a failure. This is utterly unfair, but repeating as a Heisman will likely be a challenge because of those expectations. I don’t doubt that Manziel can continue to amaze us on a weekly basis, but I do wonder how voters will respond now that he already owns the hardware.
It's this unknown that worries me.
Bigger yet, 4-1 isn’t to my liking when it comes to an award like this. He’s worthy of being the chalk, no doubt, and he can also repeat because he’s that good. Still, I will reluctantly head elsewhere for better value.
Who I Love
Tajh Boyd (15-1)
At 15-1, Boyd presents tremendous value. His 339 yards per game were good for seventh in the country, while his 46 touchdowns overall put him just one behind Johnny Manziel.
Although the numbers were extraordinary, Boyd’s performance against LSU in the Chick-fil-A Bowl was the start of his Heisman candidacy. He dabbled with an early exit to the NFL, but he returns to a team still rich with talent in a conference ripe for the taking.
He loses Nuke Hopkins, his favorite target, but Clemson’s schedule provides a few national showcase moments. The Tigers open with a game against Georgia and have South Carolina on tap later on. While the ACC schedule has yet to be released, we do know that Florida State will be playing in their building as well.
It’s hard to find losses elsewhere in the ACC (insert your Clemson joke of choice here), and Boyd could match that production once again.
Odds at 15-1 won’t last; get it while you can.
Marcus Mariota (18-1)
Despite the departure of Chip Kelly, this is my favorite value on the board.
Odds of 18-1? Yes, please.
The Ducks’ schedule also works in their favor, but Mariota will have a game at Stanford late in the season to showcase his Heisman worth. Although De’Anthony Thomas is actually liked more by the oddsmakers at 12-1, I’d rather have Mariota, and I’ll certainly take the boosted odds.
The loss of Chip Kelly is no doubt a concern, as is the loss of running back Kenjon Barner—but this team will attempt to keep its identity without the master chef. If the Ducks can do that, and Mariota can continue to develop, 18-1 will likely look like a steal come October.