With Heisman odds slowly trickling out across a handful of books, FanDuel has the best opportunity to take advantage right now. Inevitably, as more odds are released, there may be better (or worse) values compared to what’s here, but according to our numbers and projections, we still have value.

Anatomy of a Heisman Winner

Many players have listed odds to win, but in reality, there are likely under ten players with a legitimate case to be made. Heisman finalists and winners fall within certain buckets, and based on these guidelines, that should inform our selections. 

  1. The Heisman winner needs to be a player on a top-10 team at a minimum but more likely on a top-five team. 

Since 2005, the Heisman winner has been from a top 10 team in 15 of 18 (83%) seasons and from a top 5 team in 14 of 18 seasons (78%). Lamar Jackson (2016) is the only player outside the top 20 to win this award over this timeframe. Jackson posted a masterclass and massively successful individual season that saw him accumulate 51 total touchdowns and 4,928 total yards. 

2. You’re much better off betting on a quarterback.

A quarterback has won the Heisman in 14 of 18 (78%) seasons since 2005, with two running backs (Derrick Henry and Mark Ingram) and a single wide receiver (Devonta Smith) winning in their respective seasons. Running back selections have also declined over time, with only one (Henry) being selected since 2010. 

In the decade prior to 2005, a running back had won the award in four of ten seasons. For all intents and purposes, it’s become a quarterback award. Before we trick ourselves into backing a defensive player, remember it’s been 25 years since Charles Woodson pulled off a surprising “upset” in the 1997 Heisman ceremony.

3. Invest in situations, weighting them similarly to talent.

Caleb Williams, Max Duggan, CJ Stroud, and Stetson Bennett. Does anything stand out? Bennett, a one-time walk-on at the University of Georgia, lacks the pedigree and raw talent the other three have. However, his 3,823-yard, 23-touchdown season was enough to earn him a place in New York. There’s a story like this every year. Most come from top teams based on the offense and ability to win. Georgia’s undefeated season allowed Bennett to receive votes, but offensive coordinator Todd Monken played a large role in this as well. 

For example, the Ohio State and Lincoln Riley quarterback is almost a shoo-in to attend the ceremony (a Lincoln Riley QB has attended the ceremony in five of the last seven years, and Ohio State has sent a representative in three of the last six.) Caleb  Williams returns for Riley next year, but Ohio State has an opening and a battle between third-year QB Kyle McCord and second-year Devin Brown.

Players Worth Betting On

Given the criteria above, let’s establish the players that fit into some of these buckets regardless of their odds. Again, using FanDuel for odds (as of 1/10/2023):

  • Caleb Williams, USC + 400
  • Drake Maye, UNC +1000
  • Michael Penix Jr., Washington +1200
  • Bo Nix, Oregon +1200
  • Jordan Travis, FSU +1200
  • Sam Hartman, Notre Dame +1800
  • Drew Aller, Penn State +2000
  • Jayden Daniels, LSU +2000
  • Kyle McCord, Ohio State +2000
  • Joe Milton, Tennessee +2000
  • Cade Klubnik, Clemson +2500
  • Quinn Ewers, Texas +2500
  • JJ McCarthy, Michigan +2500
  • Brock Vandagriff, UGA +3000
  • Dillon Gabriel, Oklahoma +3000
  • Ty Simpson, Alabama +4000
  • Carson Beck, UGA +4000
  • **Marvin Harrison Jr., Ohio State +5000
  • Jalen Milroe, Alabama +6000
  • Nico Iamaleava, Tennessee +8000
  • Devin Brown, Ohio State +8000
  • Arch Manning, Texas +8000
  • Dante Moore, UCLA +12000
  • Collin Schlee, UCLA +15000

Based on the current odds, there are 24 players that fit into the criteria we’ve laid out above. One thing to note is the arbitrage opportunity. Despite having 24 players represented, nine players are from the same team as another, giving us 15 teams represented. The lowest odds of any team included here (UCLA) is +10000, good for 22nd. I’ve included only a single WR above, given how infrequently they have been selected. I think Marvin Harrison Jr. should be included, given the entire list, but he is not the strongest bet here.

Players with the Top Odds

2024 Draft Favorites

Southern California QB Caleb Willaims (+400) comes in as the Heisman favorite after winning the award in 2022, and rightfully so. There is no player that checks as many boxes as Williams does when considering team strength, situation, and position. However, as the prohibitive favorite, the value isn’t there at 4-1 to back him. We haven’t had a two-time winner since Archie Griffin, the only player to ever win the award twice. A lot of this is voter fatigue and the human element of Heisman voting, which has never been consistent. USC is a top-four team entering 2023, will the curse break of two-time winners and become the first since 1975?

North Carolina QB Drake Maye (+1000) is a popular vote as well. Maye finished 10th last year in voting, receiving three first-place votes with 42 total, and enters 2023 as second in odds. UNC currently ranks 19th in National Title Odds (+8000). If this holds, this would make Maye the first Heisman winner since Lamar Jackson to win the award with a team outside the top 15. I suspect once the portal is ironed out, we come out lower on UNC than consensus, given the defensive attrition, including Storm Duck and Tony Grimes Jr. This was a unit that already ranked 123rd in EPA/Play on defense and 129th in EPA/pass. This might help Drake Maye’s counting numbers, but he also just posted 4,321 yards (fourth among QBs), passing 38 touchdowns (5th) and 45 overall touchdowns (third). 

The talent is not the issue with Maye, it’s whether this Tarheels team can win enough games to put him in the conversation. The ACC moving from two divisions to a single division in 2023, meaning the top two teams in the conference go to the title game. UNC goes from the weakest Power 5 division (ACC Coastal) to competing with Clemson and Florida State outright and not getting into the ACC Championship as a default division winner. UNC’s 2023 schedule is more favorable as they avoid Wake Forest and Florida State, but given that we have both Clemson and the Seminoles’ power rated higher, it makes it more difficult to sell the Tarheels in 2023.

Evaluating offensive performance broken down by Rush/Pass EPA per Campus2Canton’s Team Tool.

Tier Two Challengers

The next three players, all with the same odds, represent different upside bets based on their respective teams taking a step forward in 2023. Michael Penix Jr. (+1200) returns to Washington in 2022 after finishing 8th in Heisman voting last season. Similarly to Drake Maye, the offense and production are not the issue for Penix, who led the country in passing yards last season. Washington sits in one of the more competitive top-end conference battles. In 2023 the Huskies play USC, Oregon, and Utah. Two of these have better national championship odds, and Utah is projected to be of similar quality.

Oregon QB Bo Nix (+1200) goes head-to-head with Penix next season, a game that likely decides who finishes higher in Heisman voting and a potential PAC 12 championship. Nix loses his offensive coordinator and coach who unlocked the secret sauce, Kenny Dillingham, to Arizona State. Nix was excellent in 2022, accumulating over 4,100 total yards and 44 touchdowns. Repeating his efficiency in both phases of the game – specifically 14 rush TDs on 66 designed rush attempts is going to be difficult. However, Oregon does add Nix’s brother Troy WR Tez Johnson via the portal and WR Traeshon Holden from Alabama. Johnson is a speedster, albeit undersized, and Holden should add a veteran element. Along the offensive line, the Ducks added two impact transfers in Rhode Island’s Ajani Cornelius and Texas’ Junior Angilau. The Ducks shouldn’t take a massive step back with their personnel, but the defense will need to improve and find a way to replace corner Christian Gonzalez if Nix is to lead a top-five team.

Ultimately, both Nix and Penix, who play for similarly graded teams, need to beat USC on their way to a Heisman win. Penix and Nix suffer from the same issue as Drake Maye. Can each of their defenses do just enough to help them finish as a top-five team?

Florida State’s Jordan Travis (+1200) enters as the final quarterback tied for third in current odds. Travis enters this discussion as the quarterback for the most well-balanced team among the top five in odds. Florida State ranked 33rd in EPA/play on defense and under Travis, 14th in EPA/play on offense. Entering 2023, Florida State should be ranked solidly as a top-ten team. Returning key members on this offense, they’ve also added tight ends Jaheim Bell and Kyle Morlock via the portal. Bell, an offensive playmaker, should provide a big bodied-weapon for this offense, while Morlock can catch and block at a high level. Tackle Jeremiah Byers from UTEP is a sneaky addition to this transfer class as one of the best tackles from the SunBelt in the last few seasons. This overall offense should be even better this year.

As referenced in the chart above, the thing separating Travis from his counterparts is the quality of defense – a defense only losing safety Jammie Robinson. The surprise return of Jared Verse for 2023 should only elevate this defense that did struggle at times. However, with adding Fentrell Cyprus at corner from Virginia and Braden Fiske from Western Michigan, Mike Norvell has continued to restock via the transfer portal. Florida State (+2000) enters the 2023 ACC season as the favorite to win the conference in our numbers despite Clemson (+1600) being favored in FanDuel’s odds when it comes to National Championship. Travis has three opportunities to shine in prime time next year. First against LSU, a game he won last season – this time at home. Second, against rival Florida, and finally, in Death Valley against Clemson. Even with one loss in these games, Florida State can win the ACC and certainly be in playoff consideration.

One player who doesn’t fit neatly into this piece’s categorization is LSU quarterback Jayden Daniels (+2000). He’s lower odds than the players discussed below but is worth talking about because there are power rankers who will place LSU In the top five or ten, and arguably for good reason. However, staking a claim to Daniels makes a lot of sense. LSU should be favored in ten games next season and two where they will be close underdogs (Alabama and Florida State). The bigger concern with Daniels is the counting stats will never match up to the Tiger’s record.

In 14 games last season, Daniels averaged 208 passing yards per game to go along with 17 passing touchdowns. His rushing totals proved to be impactful, where he posted 885 yards and 11 touchdowns. However, his 29 (one receiving) total touchdowns ranked T-34th in the country this season. Although his primary weapons return in Malik Nabers and Kayshon Boutte, Daniels still only had one game over 210 passing yards in his last six and averaged 243 total yards per game in the same span.


LSU is probably a better team on paper in 2023 than they were this season, especially on defense, with Harrold Perkins in year two and the addition of Syracuse DB Duce Chestnut. However, Daniels being the driving force behind the performance in 2023 is unlikely. The team is well-coached under Brian Kelly, and the entire unit is the beneficiary.

Top Targets to Bet at Current Odds

QB, Quinn Ewers, Texas (+2500)

Am I a sucker? Possibly. However, Texas enters 2023 with a top-five roster, and in a relatively weak Big 12, Texas should be regarded as the preseason favorite. It’s no secret Ewers struggled at times last year, but the potential is there, and we saw flashes, notably against number one Alabama in week two. Despite only 12 dropbacks in the game, Ewers had 0.67 EPA/play and 7.98 EPA before being knocked out with a clavicle injury. Hudson Card represented a substantial drop-off from Ewers after entering the game. With Ewers in, Texas wins this matchup.

Quinn Ewers and Hudson Card performance against Alabama per Game on Paper.

Here’s where I start making excuses:

After returning from the clavicle sprain, Ewers was pedestrian to bad, depending on the matchup. He struggled to find consistency with a QBR above 80 in only three of his final nine games. This offense, which featured Bijan Robinson heavily, will need to adapt next year as the replacements (Keilan Robinson, Jonathan Brooks, Jaydon Blue, Cedric Baxter, etc.) can’t replace what Robinson brought as a rusher or receiver. 

The peripherals are kinder to Ewers than the raw stats are. Per PFF, in 2022, he had a 6.3% Big Time Throw Rate (13th nationally, 8th among P5 QBs) while having only 2.44 seconds to throw (6th lowest, lowest among P5 QBs). When he was able to stand in the pocket, he could make the throws he wanted to, having a higher big-time throw percentage than Heisman winner Caleb Williams. His completion percentage suffered as Ewers is an aggressive downfield passer, with an ADOT of 10.5 (21st nationally, 10th among P5 QBs), above Drake Maye, Michael Penix Jr., and Williams again.

His supporting cast last year was unhelpful at best and actively poor at worst. Among Power 5 quarterbacks, Ewers ranked sixth in drop rate, with 8.6% of his passes being dropped by his receivers. Entering 2023, he should have TE Ja’Tavion Sanders, a healthy Isaiah Neyor, their top offensive transfer from Wyoming last year, a potential freshman stud in Johntay Cook, and Xavier Worthy, who should rebound from his 2022 performance. They also welcome the return of Jordan Whittington, who provides depth at the position.

Ewers hits all of the criteria we’re looking for. Not only was he touted as the number one player in his class, joining the perfect 1.000 rating club from 247, but he also has Steve Sarkisian calling plays with one of the best-supporting casts in the country. Along the offensive line, Texas has two true sophomores poised for massive seasons in Kelvin Banks and Cole Hutson but also returns two other starters. This offensive line is among the best in the Big 12 heading into next season. On defense, they return four defensive linemen, do-it-all LB Jaylan Ford, and three of their top four secondary pieces, highlighted by Jerrin Thompson and new addition safety Jalen Catalon.

As of January 10th, the Longhorns have the seventh-highest odds (+1800) to win the National Championship. Not only is this the highest in the Big 12, but it’s significantly over second-ranked Oklahoma (+4000). Ewers is going to have an opportunity to quarterback a very good football team next year, and if he can show a higher level of consistency, there’s value on him at these odds.

QB, Joe Milton, Tennessee (+2000)

We would have gotten better odds if Milton didn’t light the Clemson Tigers’ defense on fire in the Orange Bowl. Milton wasn’t perfect, with an xQBR of 61.3 and an EPA/play of 0.23, but he should what this offense could be with him under center. Heisman voters don’t particularly care about advanced metrics, but they do see 19/28, 251 yds, 3 TD, 0 INT, and that gets the juices flowing; so does beating the Tigers by 17 points.

Comparing Hendon Hooker’s starts at Virginia Tech and Tennesee using Campus2Canton’s player tool.

Hendon Hooker should have been at the Heisman ceremony in 2022, and Milton has the chance to avenge this. Hooker took a massive jump in his transfer from Virginia Tech to Tennesee. He went from barely averaging a ~70QBR to reaching 89.4 during his final season in Knoxville. Hooker was electric for the Vols last year, but a lot of his production is a product of the system. In the sixth year, Hooker didn’t magically find a new gear. Did he improve? Yes. But Josh Heupel has masterminded a system that boosts player production.

Heupel runs the closest offense to the Baylor spread system that we have seen in the last handful of years. This benefits quarterbacks using spacing and stacking on the outside to confuse secondaries in a way that most offenses simply don’t. It’s a system that will get Jalin Hyatt drafted in the first round despite his only true attribute being speed, and got Drew Lock drafted in the second round. It works for scoring and, more importantly, elevates players. 

As for Milton, he is a similar player to Florida quarterback Anthony Richardson. Big, incredibly athletic, but also incredibly raw. Bazooka Joe, as he’s affectionately called, has the ability to put consistent “wow” throws on film. He has potentially the best arm in the country. The biggest question has always been accuracy, but some of his throws in the Clemson game assuage some concern. However, at the end of 2023, his highlight package might be one ready-made for New York.

Tennessee is currently T-8th in National Championship odds (+2000) but will need to repeat a feat from last year: beating one of Alabama/Georgia. They can do it, we saw it last year, but it’s nevertheless a tall ask. One thing they can’t do? Lose by 25 to South Carolina.

The Alabama QB: Ty Simpson (+4000) and Jalen Milroe (+6000)

Betting on Alabama makes a lot of sense to me. We don’t know who the quarterback will be in 2023, but sportsbooks seem to think it’s going to be Ty Simpson. At 40-1 odds, he outpaces Jalen Milroe (60-1) significantly. I believe both are worth investing in for different reasons. 

Starting with Simpson, a former five-star from Tennessee and a player who plays backyard football akin to Johnny Manziel. A flashy player who can post Hiesman-type highlights. We have five career passes from Simpson at the collegiate level, making his game more difficult to evaluate. However, using Campus2Canton’s freshman guide, we can better understand his game:

“His quick, compact release is very repeatable and he has enough arm strength to get the ball to his target on time. He takes care of the ball with only 7 interceptions over two full years as a starter. Simpson improved his pocket presence between his 3rd and 4th year, adding a relaxed layer to his otherwise electric (and at times, erratic) game. What really sets Simpson apart is his athletic ability; he is like a twitchier Sam Howell and will legitimately make defenders miss while scrambling.” – Alfred Fernandez (@AlfredJF)

Milroe stepped in for Bryce Young this year when Young was dealing with a shoulder injury. Milroe’s calling card is that he is an excellent athlete. He rushed for over 263 yards on only 17 designed runs and 31 total carries. His passing has left a lot to be desired, and it will never be the focal point of his game. However, he just needs to do enough to keep this team competitive if he earns the starting role. 

We’ve simply seen more of Milroe, but his write-up is a juxtaposition considering the effusive praise heaped on Ty Simpson. 

“Milroe is a bit of a gunslinger and constantly wants to hit the deep ball, resulting in poor completion percentages. He has a longer wind-up and often throws the ball flat-footed. Milroe has relied on his athleticism and arm talent until this point but could benefit from further refinement of his mechanics.” – Cory P (@FFGuitarist)

Alabama’s offensive performance since 2013, highlighting the Bill O’Brien performance in context.

The selling point is not the respective game of either quarterback, at least not as the main focal point. The selling point is the Alabama quarterback. Since 2013, Alabama has had a Heisman finalist seven times, including three winners. Investing in Alabama has historically paid off, and heading into 2023, Alabama is a 7-1 favorite to win the National Championship. We also can bake in the fact that Bill O’Brien is likely moving on from the Tide (not by choice). Two of the three worst offenses since 2013 have been engineered by O’Brien himself, highlighted by 2021’s season, which was below average in Rush/EPA per play and below expectation in EPA/pass. A top-30 offense is still very good. However, his offense has been a step back from the Steve Sarkisian, Lane Kiffin, and Mike Locksley offenses of the past and is not up to par for an Alabama team looking to contend. 

Investing in Simpson at 40-1 is not a bad value. If he’s the Alabama starter, by virtue, you’re getting better odds than you would when he was announced. I think this is the most likely scenario. Saban turns to Simpson to run his offense, and he does well at the helm. However, it’s impossible not to put something on Milroe at 60-1. Milroe has one start to his name and was still the chosen quarterback in Alabama’s 2021 class. He’s the bigger athlete that the offense might default to. Backing him for Heisman is simply numbers play.

The Ohio State QB: Kyle McCord (+2000) and Devin Brown (+8000)

This is an Alabama redux but with higher offensive potential. Whoever takes over for CJ Stroud in 2023 is in for an incredible supporting cast. Presumptive WR1 in the 2024 class, Marvin Harrison Jr., returns alongside likely first-rounder Emeka Egbuka. The departure of Jaxon Smith-Njigba hurts in a vacuum, but with only five receptions in 2022, McCord/Brown won’t lose out. Ryan Day is still a brilliant offensive mind with four straight seasons with an EPA/Play in the top 5 and ranking fourth in 2022 at 0.24. 

The concern – at least partially – is the losses on the offensive line for the Buckeyes. Both tackles, Paris Johnson and Dawand Jones, are top 50 picks in April, with guard Luke Wypler as a potential day-two option. This unit exceeded expectations last season and might take a step back in 2022, but it should still be good enough next season, given the depth of this unit.

Realistically, Kyle McCord is the probable starter, and the odds reflect that likelihood – to an extent. If McCord is named the starter tomorrow, his odds likely jump to the 12-1 range, where Nix, Travis, and Penix reside. However, there’s a value at this current price, given the uncertainty. Uncertainty shouldn’t be a reason to avoid the situation, in fact, it gives us a substantial backstop for value.

Evaluating top coaches and teams in the CFP era via Campus2Canton’s Coaching Tool.

I don’t personally believe Devin Brown is the guy in 2023. That shouldn’t prevent one from throwing a few bucks down on him at 80-1. He has the arm talent and better raw skills than Kyle McCord. However, he doesn’t always fit into the Ryan Day quarterback mold of pocket passing and emphasis on pure quarterback play. If something was to happen to Kyle McCord early in the season, Brown has the ability to step up and deliver splash plays. Despite being skeptical he can win this job, he could force the hand of the coaching staff with stellar play in Spring.

The 2023 Ohio State quarterback is, in a vacuum, more valuable than the 20-1 odds that McCord is listed at. An Ohio State quarterback has attended the Heisman ceremony in three of the last six years, and given the returning weapons, it’s not unlikely this repeats in 2023. Additionally, under Ryan Day, the Buckeyes have attended four College Football Playoffs and one New Year Six game. As of today, Ohio State is second in National Championship odds at 7-1. There is no doubt that whoever the starter is for Ohio State, they will have a potent offense and a team contending for the playoff. 

QB, Sam Hartman, Notre Dame (+1800)

This number doesn’t feel like it bakes into the team change for Hartman. This number moved from +3000 to +1800 this morning so the market might be catching up. He moves from one of the ACC’s middle-tier teams to a legitimate playoff contender and, more importantly, national media darling (hey – narrative matters). Hartman gets a nice bump simply from national exposure, given the influence Notre Dame has and its own network. This is hard to tangibly calculate, but it’s still something that voters are likely to consider and should be included in our prognostication. 

Comparing Sam Hartman’s performance to prior Notre Dame quarterbacks with the C2C player tool.

Sam Hartman is an excellent quarterback in his own right. The slow mesh that has notoriously taken over Wake Forest has fit his skill set perfectly. A heavy RPO offense, one that Notre Dame should run next year, will allow Hartman to continue to excel in his strengths. In 2022, Wake Forest ranked 12th in EPA/Pass while the Irish ranked 35th (incredulously). Hartman gives this offense a substantially higher ceiling with an underutilized WR duo in Lorenzo Styles and Virginia Tech transfer Kaleb Smith. 

The concern for Hartman has never been production, it’s been a product of his poor surroundings. In his last two seasons, he has combined for 8,421 total yards and 89 total touchdowns. In 2021 his touchdown total ranked third and ninth in 2022. However, with an 8-5 record this season and an 11-3 record in 2021, the Deacs don’t have the profile or ability to win big games. However, in 2022 Notre Dame finished 19th in AP Poll voting and a 9-4 record. The expectation is – based on their schedule – they can improve this number, and Hartman, deservedly or not, will be the face of the potential Year 2 bump under Marcus Freeman.

Hartman comes to Notre Dame as their best quarterback since Brady Quinn in 2006 from a collegiate perspective. His five-year career at Wake Forest had been nothing short of spectacular. With 108 career touchdowns, he holds the ACC record and has been a longtime staple in the conference. However, the difference between Wake Forest and Notre Dame is massive. The Deacs are currently 300-1 to win the National Championship, compared to Notre Dame’s 30-1 odds.

QB, Carson Beck, UGA (+4000) 

This is largely an arbitrage play off of Brock Vandagriff, who has 30-1 odds. The gap between the two is hilariously mispriced, and I expect it to even out as the offseason moves on. Vandagriff holds the edge in recruiting pedigree as a former five-star prospect. However, Beck has come in as the second QB when Bennett is out and has been in the system longer. Vandagriff had a significant adjustment coming from small-school competition at the Georgia high-school level and while he improved from year one, Beck was running ahead in Spring, in fall camp, and ultimately during the season.

Getting a starting quarterback for a team that is playoff bound for the third straight year is a good bet period. However, getting this player at 40-1 is stupid good odds. It even opened at 100-1 a few days ago.

I have no idea how good Beck is and if he can put up production eclipsing Stetson Bennett in 2023. I do know, however, that Bennett has massive holes in his game, and Beck, a former four-star himself, should be able to equip himself nicely in this offense. This is an offense that has been top five in EPA/play in back-to-back seasons under Todd Monken and has given quarterbacks baseline production. Beck hits all of our criteria above and is an investment in the situation. These odds are simply too long.

Players to Avoid

QB, Brock Vandagriff, UGA (+3000)

Starting with the second-best odds of this group, Brock Vandagriff (+3000) is the worst bet to make as it stands. I articulated above what concerns me about his ability to start and the likelihood of Beck starting over him. In a vacuum, I would consider Vandagriff a potential value, however, given the arbitrage scenario with Carson Beck, there’s less incentive to place a bet on the UGA third-year QB, especially one top six in odds.

QB, Cade Klubnik, Clemson (+2500)

As a prospect, Cade Klubnik (+2500) won the Elite 11 Finals MVP and was outstanding in Texas’ 6A division. This season proved to ultimately be the better option for the Clemson offense than DJ Uiagalele, especially to end the year. Klubnik is a better player than my argument proposes, but he’s hampered by Dabo Swinney’s blatant nepotism and inability to hire coaches who have experience. Clemson’s offensive line has been an issue for years, and with an inexperienced Klubnik, there’s reason to be skeptical. The line struggled on passing downs last season, ranking 79th in passing down line yards and, with a 10% sack rate, ranked 96th. It’s an underwhelming result in the trenches for a team that should recruit better there.

Comparing Clemson’s offensive performance in the last two years post-Lawrence and Watson using the Campus2Canton Coaching Tool.

The worst two offensive seasons under Swinney have come in the last two years, below average in EPA/Pass and slightly above average in EPA/Rush. Clemson is not a bad team on paper, they have a defense that can perform as a top-ten unit in any given season. The offense, however, cannot produce enough offensively to send a quarterback to New York. Even at 11-2 this season, there was no argument DJ Uiagalelei to be in the Heisman conversation. For example, in 2022, the Heisman finalists came from offenses ranked top 15 in EPA/play, with thirteenth (TCU), second (USC), ninth (UGA), and fourth (Ohio State), all sent representatives. In fact, every team with a Heisman candidate in the top ten votes came from an offense ranked in the top 20 outside of Bijan Robinson (Texas ranked 44th in EPA/play). The average finish in EPA/play was 10th, with half finishing top ten. Clemson ranked 52nd in 2022 and 78th in 2021.

The other issue we take with backing Klubnik is that Clemson is likely overpriced in the market (+1600 to win the National Championship is the sixth-highest odds). Florida State comes out higher in our power ranking, and Notre Dame is closer than the current market odds indicate. Add in a potential matchup against likely Heisman contender Drake Maye, and there’s more risk than in past seasons. Losing two potential top 15 picks to the NFL draft on the defensive line is another risk the market has failed to adjust to.

Non-Quarterbacks

If the first part of this piece wasn’t convincing enough to avoid non-quarterbacks, in the last 19 Heisman finishes, there have been 14 non-quarterbacks who finished in the top three in the voting of 57 (24%) players in this sample. However, quarterbacks are winning this award substantially more often (78%) than any other position.

This makes me skeptical of the chances Penn State’s Nick Singleton (+5000) can pull off an impressive enough season to win the award. In fact, fellow true freshman Kaytron Allen out-touched Singleton on a 187-167 margin. Allen, while less efficient, isn’t going anywhere for this offense, and given the constraints of winning the award position-wise, Singleton is a poor bet. This comes from someone who thinks Penn State can contend for the Big Ten next year. However, if you want to invest in this offense, Drew Allar (+2000) is the better bet. He has the raw tools to surprise next season and will have an offense tailored around his skillset. 

Another running back duo enters the equation with an equally skeptical situation. Blake Corum (+3000) surprisingly announced his return to Michigan in the 2023 season. Courm is likely to see a more 1A/1B split in this backfield entering the season. His backfield mate, Donovan Edwards (+10000), fell from 40-1 odds after today’s news. Without Corum, Edwards is built in the *this is not a comp* Alvin Kamara mold of utilization. I don’t think he could ever have achieved a workload big enough to win the Heisman. An undersized, dual-threat back, Edwards is less likely to win the award than his 2023 counterpart Blake Corum as he won’t put up the same counting stats.

Both backs also have to contend with second-year starter JJ McCarthy (+2500), who should improve in his second season. Overall, Michigan is too balanced for either player to totally control the offense. In 2022 under Sherrone Moore, the Wolverines ran the ball 41% of the time in neutral game script pass rate, following a 39% neutral game script pass rate in 2021 under Josh Gattis. 

Second-year running back Quinshon Judkins (+6000) is a suckers bet. Ole Miss cannot win the SEC, let alone the more competitive SEC West. Ole Miss plays Alabama and LSU as division opponents, but more importantly, this is the year they get Georgia from the East. Those are three likely losses, with Texas A&M and Mississippi State / Arkansas providing a potential loss or two. A running back on a slightly above-average team won’t play. Bijan Robinson, who is a better rusher and receiver, had no shot at the award this year, and Judkins will fail to produce as well as Robinson did in both phases.

I really like Clemson’s Will Shipley (+6000) and TreVeyon Henderson (+6000) as players but as Heisman bets, pass. Shipley suffers from the same concerns laid out about Cade Klubnik above. An underperforming offense and a team with losses on the schedule. His path is even less viable than Klubnik’s, given the position. Henderson is the more interesting case because he’s a great back on a great offense. However, the return of Miyan Williams crushes his upside. Williams outperformed Henderson while both were on the field, and with him in the picture (6.4 yards per carry v 5.3 yards per carry), there isn’t a legitimate path to Henderson’s Heisman campaign. It doesn’t help either back that Ohio State has a neutral game script pass rate upwards of 49.3%, ranking 26th in 2022. There is an additional built-in risk of the Ohio State players taking votes from each other as well.

We need to talk about Marvin Harrison Jr. (+5000). In my and many’s opinions, he is the best receiver in college football. A 6’4″ contested-catch specialist with uncanny route-running ability, Harrison Jr., stands out among his peers. He’s the odds-on favorite to be the first receiver drafted in 2024, but he works within an offense that produces gaudy quarterback stats. Ohio WR1s have been some of the most prolific producers, averaging second in receiving yards over the last three seasons. I have no doubt Harrison Jr. can join this club. Will his individual contributions be respected enough to justify an investment? I’m not sure.

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