Michael Penix Jr. pushing Caleb Williams in Heisman Trophy race heading into Week 4
Caleb Williams was the favorite to win the Heisman Trophy before the 2023 season began and the USC star is still out in front. However, there are some other big name quarterbacks gaining on him a bit, as well as some longer shots that are starting to enter the picture. With that in mind, keep reading for some of the risers and fallers in the Heisman race heading into Week 4. Each week, I'll dive into the prices and analyze how I'd play this market for the remainder of the season. It's important to see what type of stats a player has racked up already, but how will they do the rest of the way? I'll get into that — and a lot more — here!
MORE: Check out our Pro Picks page for college football best bets from all of our analysts
USC QB Caleb Williams +360 (was +400)
USC didn’t have a game in Week 3 and Williams’ odds are less favorable than they were a week ago. This season, Williams has thrown for 878 yards with 12 touchdowns and no picks, and he also has 61 rushing yards and a touchdown. This week, the star quarterback should light up a very weak Arizona State defense. So, if you do want to back Williams to win the Heisman, you might want to jump on it now. He should also have big games against both Colorado and Arizona in the following weeks, so you’re running out of time. But I do think there’s a very good chance that this award goes somewhere else this year. It just feels like there is legitimate competition at the top, and USC has a ridiculous end-of-season schedule. Meetings with Notre Dame, Utah, California, Washington, Oregon and UCLA all have the potential to trip Williams up. So, I wouldn’t be shocked if he plays a couple of bad games down the stretch. That would blow the door wide open for some of the others.
Washington QB Michael Penix Jr. +500 (was +900)
If you thought Penix Jr. was going to slow down after throwing for eight touchdowns in the first two weeks of the season, we have some bad news for you: Penix Jr. threw for 473 yards with four touchdowns and no picks in a road game against Michigan State in Week 3. The lefty has now thrown for 1,332 yards with 12 touchdowns and only one pick this season, and he has a completion percentage of 74.3% — and the third highest PFF passing grade in the nation. Penix Jr. is now really pushing Williams, which is amazing. A lot of people thought Williams would run away with this thing before the year, but we’re getting a legitimate race now. And Penix Jr. can do more damage this week by putting up big numbers against a very good Cal defense. If Penix Jr. turns in a big performance against the Golden Bears this week, you can probably count on him maintaining this level of play — or at least coming close to it — against Washington’s gauntlet of a conference schedule. But it does kind of feel like time is running out on this bandwagon. You don’t want to take Penix Jr. at anything short of +500 odds.
Texas QB Quinn Ewers +700 (was +1000)
After throwing for 349 yards with three touchdowns and no picks in a road win over Alabama, Ewers followed it up with a mediocre performance against Wyoming. The sophomore threw for only 131 yards with two touchdowns in that game, but he did add another score on the ground. But the real reason Ewers is emerging in this race is that Texas now feels like a real College Football Playoff contender. And if the Longhorns do ultimately turn in that type of season, it’ll be hard to ignore the play of the team’s star quarterback. Having said that, I’m not a big fan of backing Ewers at this price. I think there is better value to be had elsewhere. Texas definitely trusts Ewers to air it out, but Steve Sarkisian is perfectly okay with winning games with the ground attack. Jonathon Brooks rushed for 164 yards on 21 carries against the Cowboys last game. If he can step up and fill the void left by Bijan Robinson, Sarkisian won’t need to put as much pressure on Ewers.
Notre Dame QB Sam Hartman +1000 (was +1400)
Not a thing has changed since Hartman transferred from Wake Forest to Notre Dame. The senior gunslinger is still dropping dimes all over the field, as he has thrown for 1,061 yards with 13 touchdowns and no picks through four games. Hartman has also rushed for two scores and the Fighting Irish are off to a 4-0 start. But things get very interesting for Hartman and Notre Dame in Week 4. This week, Marcus Freeman's team hosts Ohio State in a battle that could have serious College Football Playoff implications. But as it pertains to this, another big passing game and a win for Notre Dame likely shoots Hartman all the way up to the top of this race. And Hartman also gets a crack at USC on October 14, when he'll get to go out and try to out-duel Williams. So, he has a great shot at winning this award and is somebody to take seriously at +1000.
Florida State QB Jordan Travis +1500 (was +900)
Perhaps I’m a bit stubborn in continuing to consider Travis a threat to win this award, but how many players will have a stat line like the 342 passing yards with five total touchdowns that he had against LSU in Week 1? We might look back on that game as one of the best performances of the season, and Travis still has more opportunities to impress the voters. This week, Florida State goes into Death Valley and faces Clemson in a battle for ACC surpremacy. If Travis delivers in a big way in that game, do you really think you’ll be able to get him at +1500 heading into Week 5? There just aren’t that many players in the country with Travis’ ability to rack up huge numbers through the air and on the ground. And I think better days are ahead for a Florida State team that learned it can’t afford to sleepwalk in a close win over Boston College last week. The Seminoles also have a real shot at making the College Football Playoff, which also can’t be ignored. Travis is the unquestioned star of an elite football team, and that matters when it comes to this award.
Colorado QB Shedeur Sanders +1800 (was +2000)
Like a couple of others on this list, if you want to take Sanders to win the Heisman then you’re going to want to get on it now. I’m not personally buying him as a Heisman candidate, especially after last week’s game against Colorado State. I just don’t think the Buffaloes will win enough games for him to come away as the winner of this thing. But if Sanders puts up big numbers and somehow leads Colorado to a win over Oregon, you’re likely going to see him as one of the favorites to win. Again, I don’t think that’s going to end up happening. Oregon head coach Dan Lanning is a very good defensive coach, so he’ll be out to try and slow down this offense here. Deion Sanders’ team then has to face USC on September 30, and the team finishes the year with a number of tough Pac-12 opponents. But I fully understand that people are on the Colorado bandwagon right now, so I feel it’s my duty to tell you that this will be the best price you’ll get on him for a while if the team does continue to win games.
LSU QB Jayden Daniels +2200 (was +3000)
Daniels is going to be an interesting one to follow the rest of the way. The star quarterback’s odds took a huge hit after a Week 1 loss to Florida State, but it’s not like Daniels was awful in that game. He threw for 346 yards with a touchdown and one pick, and he also rushed for 64 yards. It was his defense that ultimately let him down — and the Tigers didn’t exactly call the right plays in short yardage situations on offense either. But Daniels has thrown for 630 yards with seven touchdowns and no picks in the two games since, and he has also added another 93 yards and two scores on the ground. And the reality is that this LSU team still has everything to play for. The Tigers can still very well win the SEC West this season, and I think making it to the SEC Championship Game would be enough for Daniels to be in consideration for the Heisman if he continues to put up big numbers. That said, I think this is a very good price for one of the most talented players in the country.
Oklahoma QB Dillon Gabriel +3000 (was +3000)
I’m a little shocked that Gabriel’s odds haven’t changed much since the start of the season. He’s one of the guys I mentioned as a sleeper to win this award in our 2023 VSiN College Football Betting Guide, so I have been keeping close tabs on his play early in the year. Overall, it’s hard to find a player that has a better case than him, if you’re taking everything at face value. Gabriel has thrown for 905 yards with 11 touchdowns and only one interception this year. He has also done so while completing 82.5% of his passes. As things stand, Oklahoma is unbeaten and is scoring more points per game (55.7) than all but two teams in all of college football. And I do think the Sooners are being slept on a bit right now. Oklahoma might have had a horrible season in Brent Venables’ first year on the sidelines, but the Sooners are looking good early in the year. It doesn’t seem outrageous to suggest that Oklahoma could win 10 or 11 games this year, especially with the Sooners getting the Longhorns at home this season. If that does end up happening, why wouldn’t Gabriel be in the mix with these numbers? This is one that I’d strongly suggest throwing a little something on. Perhaps this is where you should go with a bonus bet or a risk-free play at DraftKings Sportsbook?
More College Football
College Football Odds
College Football Betting Splits
Steve Makinen's College Football Team Power Ratings
VSiN College Football Betting Podcast