How early is too early to bet on Heisman futures

June 18, 2022 07:20 PM
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When analyzing futures bets, there are always two points I stress.

First, take an advanced approach by looking at the next season on the sports calendar while the public is focused on what is currently going on. Most public bettors are focused now on MLB, the NBA Finals and the Stanley Cup Final, not so much on college football. 

Yes, making a bet on football at this juncture means bettors must lock up their money for about six months. The trade-off is a fresh futures board that, for the most part, has yet to be altered.

As for tying up funds so far in advance, consider creating two bankrolls: one for futures plays and the other for daily wagers. Since futures are a riskier investment with the potential for big paydays, a futures bankroll can start smaller. 

Second, do some comparative shopping before making any futures bet. In this case, we’re not talking about searching for the best odds (that type of shopping is mandatory and should go without saying). 

Here, the idea is to compare a possible futures bet with other bets, either daily or futures, to see which one is the most prudent way to allocate funds in terms of odds and time. The decision should not come down solely to which one pays out the most. 

For example, is a $100 wager on Justin Verlander (+ 400 DraftKings) to win the American League Cy Young a better option than putting the same amount on a golfer such as Jordan Spieth (+ 275 DraftKings) to finish Top 10 in the U.S. Open? 

Here, the time it takes and what is needed by each player to win it are more important to scrutinize than just the possible payoffs. 

So let’s put these ideas together by looking ahead to what the Heisman Trophy odds board currently offers, particularly those players soon to get the media’s attention, and compare some possible plays with other available wagers. The goal is to determine whether it is too early to make Heisman bets. 

Be narrow-minded 

No matter when a bettor contemplates making a Heisman wager, the handicapping process must start with understanding the player profile that most often wins the award. 

Since 2000, the winner overwhelmingly checks the following boxes: 

— He plays in a power conference.

— He plays on a Top 15 team that is part of the national championship conversation for most of the season. 

— He’s likely a quarterback. 

Anyone outside of this profile will need to put up unbelievable numbers to alter the established mindset of the nearly 900 Heisman voters. 

Of the last 22 winners, 18 were QBs with just three RBs and one WR. 

Lamar Jackson from Louisville’s 9-4 team in 2016 is somewhat of an outlier. Joe Burrow (2019) and DeVonta Smith (2020) were long shots mainly because the market failed to recognize their work early enough, but both players came from the SEC, where the Heisman winner often resides. 

Starting at the top

Since the pool of viable Heisman winners is limited using those aforementioned characteristics, the books have already acted accordingly regarding C.J. Stroud (+ 300 Circa; + 250 DraftKings, + 200 BetMGM) and last year’s winner Bryce Young (+ 350 BetMGM and DraftKings; + 300 Circa).

Even Caleb Williams (+ 900 DraftKings; + 800 BetMGM and Circa), now off to play for Lincoln Riley at USC, is somewhat short. 

At this point there is no reason to play any of these options, even though the handicapping points to one of these three winning. 

First off, the odds are just too low from a value standpoint. Getting ahead of the futures market rarely includes running to the window to bet on short favorites, especially for awards based on subjectivity. 

Here’s where futures odds should be compared to other bets. Those odds in the + 250 to + 300 range are similar to what the Orioles, Rockies or Pirates get against a top MLB team. 

Last week in college baseball, Notre Dame was + 300 to defeat Tennessee in the final game of their super regional. That dog came home, paying about the same amount as a Stroud-for-Heisman win would. 

Wagering on a baseball dog now is a much better option than playing the Heisman favorites this far out. 

Even if someone has strong convictions about one of the favorites winning the award and wants to be proactive, it’s still too early. The odds for Stroud and Young are not changing anytime soon, and betting on either would be an example of unnecessarily tying up funds for an extended period.

More time sensitive futures should take priority.

From a futures standpoint, backing either the Avalanche (-175 DraftKings) or Lightning (+ 150) to win the Stanley Cup is a better bet now than the two QBs. Colorado, the preseason favorite, is still alive at the end of the season, while the favorites in college football are still months away from playing a game. On the other side, Tampa Bay, the two-time defending champ, is priced in a similar range as the Heisman favorites. 

Think Conn Smythe favorites before Heisman favorites. It is very likely the winner will be one of the top choices: Cale Makar (+ 180 DraftKings), Nathan MacKinnon (+ 210), Nikita Kucherov (+ 400) or Andrei Vasilevskiy (+ 400). The winner of this award has at most seven games left to play. 

No participation trophies given out 

Futures betting should be about taking advantage of the best opportunities and odds, not carpet bombing the board with every wager possible. 

So even though college football fans are desperately waiting for the season to kick off, they are not required to make Heisman bets now to pass the time. Getting a ticket on Stroud or Young doesn’t also get a bettor an invite to sit next to them for the awards ceremony in New York City. It just provides the potential of a 2-1 or 3-1 payout, the same as betting the Orioles to defeat the Yankees in June. 

Keep a perspective when it comes to futures betting. It’s about ROI, not collecting wins in the most categories. 

Time to run? 

The college football punditry season is almost upon us. Expect to hear a number of insiders tossing out the name Bijan Robinson (+ 2500 Circa; + 2000 DraftKings; + 1600 BetMGM) as a suggested Heisman play. The Texas running back created a national profile last season by demonstrating the ability to put up tremendous numbers both rushing and receiving.

He looks like a Heisman candidate, plays under the national spotlight in a power conference and offers much better odds than the QB favorites. When the media attention turns to college football, Robinson’s odds are going to drop.

That still doesn’t mean you should bet him now. 

How Robinson performs when Alabama comes to Austin on Sept. 10 will have a major impact on the Heisman race. Robinson’s Heisman campaign is contingent on his performance in that game, so any wager now is like betting a parlay without getting parlay odds. 

A Robinson Heisman bet is also a bet against Nick Saban. 

In order for Robinson to win the award, he must put up numbers in the range of 200 total yards with multiple touchdowns leading the Longhorns to victory.

So here is the issue with betting him anytime before this game. If he doesn’t do well, he’ll likely be out of consideration by the second weekend of the season and all those preseason tickets will be dead. But, even if he leads Texas to an upset, he still isn’t coasting to a Heisman Trophy. 

The 10 regular-season games after that create a lot of time for a Heisman campaign to be derailed by a multitude of reasons. 

Beating Alabama would give Robinson an edge over Young but that does nothing to move Stroud out of the top spot. Robinson would need a similar chain of events that worked out for Johnny Manziel in 2012: Beat Alabama and create enough juice on the field to become the top story in the sport. 

If the Alabama game is a must for a Robinson Heisman, then those who want to back him should instead just bet the dog Texas to win the game. 

The lookahead line, which won’t be around for long, has Texas catching 15 points and + 500 on the moneyline. Shifting the action to Texas beating Alabama could provide some expendable units that can be directed to your futures account and used for an in-season Heisman wager on Robinson. 

All the same logic above applies for Texas QB Quinn Ewers (+ 5000 DraftKings; + 3500 Circa; + 2000 BetMGM).

Dotting the ‘I’

Not that I am advocating for either, but Stroud at + 250 to win the Heisman seems like a better option than Ohio State’s national championship odds (+ 455 Circa; + 450 DraftKings and BetMGM).

In order for both to happen, OSU needs a strong regular season and a Big Ten title. Oddsmakers have the Buckeyes listed at -210 to win the Big Ten championship game, and if they do, Stroud will be in a great position to take home the Heisman. 

What happens after that is more challenging for the Buckeyes — namely beating two playoff teams with Alabama likely in the mix — but doesn’t pay much more than Stroud winning the Heisman. 

For those who want to back what appears to be a powerful Buckeyes team this year, there’s no need to make two different futures wagers that are correlated. Just wait until September and get a Heisman ticket on Stroud. 

If he wins it, the Buckeyes presumably would be a playoff squad. In that case, a bettor can use part of those Heisman winnings to start a rollover ML parlay for the national semifinals and championship game. 

With Stroud set to headline this college football season, it makes his other notable teammates less-than-appealing options this far in advance. 

The QB has made it known he wants the offense to be pass-centric. That doesn’t bode well for TreVeyon Henderson (+ 4100 Circa; + 4000 DraftKings; + 2000 BetMGM) to get the carries he needs to make a big enough impact in the eyes of voters. Jaxon Smith-Njigba (+ 5000 Circa; + 3000 DraftKings and BetMGM) is going to need a successful passer to get him gaudy receiving yards.

Essentially, for any other OSU player to win the Heisman, Stroud must miss some games. 

Be defensive 

After listing so many reasons not to make a Heisman bet now, here is a player that deserves your timely attention: Alabama LB Will Anderson Jr. (+ 4000 DraftKings; + 3000 BetMGM and Circa). Anderson could receive more media attention this year than any other player, even his teammate Young. 

When the season grows closer and the spotlight is directed to Anderson, his Heisman odds likely will be lower. He can move quickly from the intriguing tier of candidates to the close-to-favorite tier. 

Besides leading the most dominant defense in the country, Anderson is going to benefit by providing content creators a new topic of analysis. 

Can a defensive player win the Heisman? Is the next Charles Woodson out there? Those types of college football topics will be repeatedly discussed on hot-take shows, podcasts and social media pages. Those media outlets often feature Heisman voters as guests, thus exposing them to the thought of Anderson for the award. 

Last year, Anderson just being part of the conversation was a major achievement. This year, the story will evolve into why a defensive player should win the Heisman. 

According to DraftKings, the same 40-1 odds are available for Brooks Koepka, Joaquin Niemann, Hideki Matsuyama, Louis Oosthuizen and Sungjae Im to win the U.S. Open. I prefer an Anderson bet over any of those golfers because he has already demonstrated an elite level of play. Media coverage, an essential Heisman-winning component, is guaranteed to be there for him and his team. 

All of these golfers are elite as well, but a golfer needs more luck than the rest of the field to win a major. 

Go deep

A Heisman bet on Wake Forest QB Sam Hartman (+ 5000 DraftKings; + 3000 BetMGM) is the type of small speculative play that can be added to a college football portfolio over the summer. 

For those out in Vegas, the 100-1 at Circa is even better. 

This early Heisman play seems more realistic than the Mariners (+ 5000 DraftKings) winning the American League pennant or Miomir Kecmanovic (+ 5000 DraftKings) winning Wimbledon. 

The difference between a Hartman bet and those two is how quickly the Heisman odds can change once the preseason media hype starts. 

While he is outside the national championship profile of a Heisman winner, Hartman’s work last season in winning an ACC division title and the Demon Deacons ranked 15th in the way-too-early AP poll can bolster his candidacy. 

Similar in conference and style, Hartman can be this year’s version of Kenny Pickett, who was in the race much longer than anyone would have predicted last June. Even though he didn’t win the award, Pickett provided those with tickets (+ 4000 in Week 6) some equity to hedge with other Heisman bets when it became clearer Young was on the way to victory. Hartman has the potential to do likewise this year for those who get him at this opening number.

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