Heisman race down to three

November 5, 2021 07:19 PM

For those examining the Heisman Trophy market, last weekend had the look and feel of Saturday at a golf tournament.

It was moving day. 

There’s now some separation between the top section of the leaderboards and the rest of the pack. 

All it took was a couple of movers to alter the race. 

Michigan State’s Kenneth Walker III ran past Michigan defenders and into a spot among the top four candidates. Walker’s transition from intriguing midlevel status to the platinum club happened just about the same time Pittsburgh’s Kenny Pickett surprisingly dropped a home game to Miami. 

That loss in effect ends the feel-good talk about the Panthers and the passing exploits of Pickett. 

Walker firmly in, Pickett moving out. 

That gives us a leaderboard featuring Bryce Young (+ 190 BetMGM, + 180 DraftKings), CJ Stroud (+ 450 BetMGM and DraftKings), Walker (+ 500 BetMGM and DraftKings) and Matt Corral (+ 500 DraftKings, + 275 BetMGM). 

That’s four names, but let’s remove Corral from the equation. 

During the last three weeks, his Mississippi squad was one of the most discussed teams in the country. That attention had zero impact on the market, and his odds remained stagnant. 

If it didn’t happen then for Corral, it certainly isn’t going to happen now after Ole Miss’ loss at Auburn.

Under this premise, then, if the Heisman Top 4 is really just three names and noticeable movement occurred last weekend, bettors should be in an advantageous position of finding clarity with just a month to play. 

Not the case. 

Just ask those holding tickets on Young, the clear leader, how confident they are in cashing them. 

So it's time for another round of Heisman handicapping with just about four games left in the regular season and conference championships on the horizon. This type of information is needed for a host of reasons: doubling down on existing futures, hedging out of dead preseason long shots or an itch to make an initial late-season bet. 

Examining the race in November should be based on whether a candidate has any key games left on the schedule and a chance at a conference championship appearance that will provide media coverage and conversation that continues even through the end of NFL Sundays. 

Using this approach, stats are almost secondary. It is more about analyzing which scenarios could elevate the top choices or create an opening for a late higher-odds entry. 

Let’s call it boost potential. 

With odds less than 2-1, Young is the clear favorite across all the national books. He can easily win. That doesn’t mean he should get your action.

The value just isn’t there in an uncertain market, even though no player has more boost potential than the QB of the Nick Saban express. 

It is not hard to believe that Young and the Tide can make it through LSU, New Mexico State, Arkansas and then at Auburn without a mistake to end the regular season. Young’s odds will just keep getting lower every step of the way. 

The return on Young isn’t there, especially for those looking to make their one and only play. 

Rather than play Young for the Heisman, just do a rollover Bama moneyline parlay for the November games. A much better payday awaits, especially since Auburn’s recent wins have increased its profile. 

Of course, rollover ML parlays would pay out better for four straight wins for any of these top candidates’ teams compared with a Heisman bet. But that just isn’t a realistic approach many bettors can take. If a recreational bettor wants to attempt this move in a practical manner, it could be done with time and focus on just one team. And that might as well be the most talked-about team in the sport.

Stroud is the one to keep an eye on with boost potential in mind. The Ohio State QB has a path to be the favorite and win the award even if Alabama wins out and Young maintains his current level of play.

The Buckeyes’ six-game winning streak following the Oregon loss has the media narrative on their side. Chatter went from OSU being left out of the playoffs to what spot in the Top 4 it now deserves. 

Much of that can be attributed to Iowa peaking early and falling just as quickly. 

Next up for the Buckeyes are Nebraska and Purdue, and those games should generate more positive publicity and in turn drop Stroud’s odds even lower, possibly equivalent to Young’s.

The + 450 range for Stroud at the moment has some value because it will soon disappear. 

The last two regular-season games for Ohio State — in which will be favored at home against Walker and Michigan State and then at Michigan — provide the best boost potential for any of the leading candidates. If you want to back Stroud and believe his team’s momentum will continue, a wager must be made soon. 

Think of it this way: OSU beating the two Michigan schools will create a powerful media narrative that can trump Young and Alabama’s presumed success over Arkansas and Auburn. 

Next up is Walker, and that boost-potential train left the station once he rushed for 197 yards against the Wolverines. At various books, Walker’s pregame odds were in the 20-1 range. The current 5-1 is at just a fraction of that, so any bet made now is reactionary, and that type of wager comes with a steep price tag. 

Walker and Michigan State will own the airwaves and social media posts this week. Don’t be hypnotized by the media and run to the window.

Think it over first.

It seems very likely that Alabama or Ohio State will end the season with just one loss, so a bet on Walker now is also a wager that one of these teams will lose a November game, which would end the candidacy of either Young or Stroud. At the same time, Michigan State must remain undefeated by beating Ohio State and Penn State to end the season. Add one more factor — a running back winning the award that seemingly favors those playing quarterback.

Would you make a bet for all these correlated parlay legs to hit and win at just 5-1? 

For bettors who took Walker when he was north of 30-1 and are inclined to hedge, give some consideration to a Stroud ticket as well since Michigan State travels to Columbus on Nov. 20.

The Walker ascension up the odds board is being rivaled by the movement of Oklahoma QB Caleb Williams (+ 850 BetMGM, + 800 DraftKings). 

Talk about a boost. He goes from backup behind preseason favorite Spencer Rattler to being one of the leading candidates himself — all in a month.

His Sooners are undefeated and have just three games left. A perfect record spurred by a replacement QB leading his team to the conference championship game would be the type of media narrative that those betting on a subjective award would dream about.

But listen to the alarm clock buzzing before backing Williams. 

He can win the award only if Alabama, Ohio State and even Michigan State slip up.

It would also take the voters to reconsider their de-facto parameters needed to be a Heisman winner. 

At best Williams will play nine games this season, seven of which featured substantial time. 

The profile of Heisman winners is clear: They are starters from the outset and play every game. 

The last winner of the award to miss even one regular-season game against a power-conference team was Charlie Ward in 1993.

Williams’ odds movement has a lot to do with public bettors hoping to find this year’s DeVonta Smith and Joe Burrow, who at times over the last two seasons were ridiculous long shots who cashed. The big difference, though, is that both started every game, an accomplishment impossible for Williams to duplicate.

Anytime someone walks to the window with cash in hand and says “Caleb Williams for Heisman,” those on the other side likely smile. 

Scouring the rest of the board with boost potential in mind, there is little left. 

Perhaps RBs TreVeyon Henderson (+ 3000 BetMGM and DraftKings) of Ohio State and Alabama’s Brian Robinson Jr. (+ 6600 BetMGM, + 4000 DraftKings) can make late entries. However, it will be extremely difficult based on how both teams spread the ball around on offense and base their play around the QB. 

The media could start giving more air time to Georgia DL Jordan Davis (+ 8000 BetMGM and DraftKings). Without JT Daniels consistently in the lineup, someone will be anointed the Bulldogs’ leading man. It is very easy to make the case that Davis is the best all-around player in the country.

If a Georgia-Alabama SEC championship game is soon to be dissected, expect to hear a lot about Davis and his game-changing abilities. 

Still, a defensive player coming from the periphery late in the year to win the Heisman sounds unrealistic. 

There is a way to play this if one has a desire for an ultra-long-shot play. Treat it like a penny stock. Make a micro-unit wager now, hope for the talk about Davis to pick up, and that may lead to just a little betting momentum.

A small amount on Davis might move the books to offer an early cashout option at a profit.

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