After an outlier season, the Heisman Trophy returned to normalcy last fall.
To be clear, “normalcy” isn’t encouraged. But the reality remains somewhat simple: great quarterbacks on great teams, particularly those who deliver great individual performances, have a leg up on the field.
While many made pushes throughout the season, Bryce Young’s consistency, coupled with Alabama’s improbable comeback win against Auburn that he parlayed into a brilliant performance in the SEC championship game, was enough to take home the prize.
Young started the season around 9-1 to win the award. He was one of the favorites, along with a slew of other quarterbacks on teams with playoff aspirations.
This is normal. And in 2022, the list of quarterbacks capable of winning the Heisman has only grown. Sure, there are a handful of intriguing skill-position players and even a defensive player worth monitoring.
But if “different” is what you seek when it comes to the Heisman, this might not be the fall where those wishes come true.
Here are some of my favorite Heisman betting opportunities up and down the board.
MY FAVORITE CHALK
Ohio State QB C.J. Stroud (+ 250)
He isn’t just my favorite chalk. He is the chalk.
Historically, I don’t back the favorite to win the award. My inner contrarian normally won’t allow it, and history has told us that betting favorites don’t normally end up winning the award. Stroud, however, feels like a worthy exception.
In his first year starting, Ohio State’s quarterback passed for 44 touchdowns and only six interceptions. He accomplished this despite looking a little jittery early in the season.
He passed for 400 or more yards five times. (His 393-yard, six-touchdown first half against Michigan State was one of the greatest halves of football the sport has seen.)
Stroud appeared in line to win the award before the Buckeyes lost to Michigan. Young’s Superman effort against Georgia flipped the script, but Stroud was right there. He ultimately finished fourth in the voting.
He should be better this year. Although Ohio State had two wideouts taken in the first round of the NFL draft, the Buckeyes are loaded at the position. Wideout Jaxon Smith-Njigba (+ 2800) could even play his way into the Heisman discussion.
Beyond the individual talent of Stroud and an offensive that should allow him to thrive, Ohio State has a manageable schedule. The Buckeyes play their most important games of the season — Notre Dame, Wisconsin and Michigan — at home.
Everything, including an improved defense, seems to be pointing in Stroud’s favor.
He is the chalk for good reason. It’s hard to find reasons to bet against him beyond the randomness of the sport.
DOWN THE BOARD (SLIGHTLY)
Miami QB Tyler Van Dyke (+ 3500)
Amid the questions surrounding then-Hurricanes coach Manny Diaz, the brilliance of Van Dyke’s season was lost on many. Make no mistake, though, Van Dyke blossomed into one of the nation’s most intriguing QBs by the end of the year.
An injury to starter D’Eriq King catapulted Van Dyke into the starting lineup. He responded by eclipsing more than 300 yards passing in his final six games. He also accounted for 20 touchdowns in that stretch.
Perhaps more significantly, Miami closed the season by winning five of its final six matchups. That, more than anything, will dictate whether Van Dyke will garner Heisman consideration this year.
Miami can’t just score points. It has to win.
The addition of offensive coordinator Josh Gattis should do wonders for Van Dyke’s development and the performance of the offense as a whole. The numbers should be there, and the schedule is favorable.
Miami has road games against Texas A&M and Clemson, which will be a challenge. But no game looks unwinnable.
If the Hurricanes can win enough, Van Dyke should stay in the race. And if Miami finds a way to upset the Aggies on Sept. 17, + 3500 will likely be long gone.
LET’S PICK A NON-QB
Alabama RB Jahmyr Gibbs (+ 5500)
Only three running backs have won the Heisman since 2000. That’s one way of saying that it takes a magical season for a tailback to win the award.
Let’s be blunt: it takes the perfect football concoction for this scenario to transpire.
The last running back to win, Derrick Henry, played at Alabama. He accumulated huge yards for a title contender. That’s what it takes.
While Gibbs isn’t Henry’s size, his impact on Alabama’s season could be sizable.
The former Georgia Tech running back was one of the biggest transfer additions this offseason. Gibbs rushed for only 746 yards last season, partly because he carried the ball 20 times in a game only once. He also added 465 receiving yards, which is perhaps his most intriguing trait.
Playing for Alabama, he’ll likely be one of Young’s favorite targets. He’ll also have more success behind a bigger, better offensive line. Oh, and he’ll play for a team that is destined to be in the playoff mix until the very end.
The concern? He plays with last season’s Heisman winner, for starters. Young (+ 350) will likely post huge numbers, and even linebacker Will Anderson Jr. (+ 2200) could be a factor.
Still, at (+ 5500) Gibbs can become one of college football’s biggest stars early on. Whether that translates to a Heisman is tough to forecast, but the value is undeniable.
THE VALUE PLAY
NC State QB Devin Leary (+ 6000)
Oh, these odds are moving. I grabbed Leary at (+ 9000) earlier this offseason. As the NC State buzz has built, Leary’s odds have shrunk.
His numbers last season stack up. Leary produced 37 touchdowns and threw only five interceptions for North Carolina State. Perhaps more notably, he posted 18 touchdowns in his team’s final four games.
Oh, and the Wolfpack were awfully close to a special season. NC State finished 9-3, beat Clemson and lost its last two games by a combined four points.
Those results have made this team one of the more intriguing dark horses entering the fall.
The schedule is once again constructed to win plenty of games. NC State plays Clemson on the road and welcomes Wake Forest in November. That game last year generated 87 points, and this year’s point total might be similar.
It’ll likely take a dream season for Leary to catapult above other quarterbacks on likely playoff contenders playing for bigger football brands, but he has the ability and the path to make things interesting.
DEEP DARK HORSES WORTH MONITORING
Michigan QB J.J. McCarthy (+ 9000)
Will he start for the Wolverines? That’s a big question. But if he beats out Cade McNamara, McCarthy could be one to watch. The sophomore showcased his talent in small stretches last season.
Clemson RB Will Shipley (+ 10000)
I loved what I saw from Shipley as a freshman. He can catch, he can run, and he’ll likely be the focal point of an offense trying to find its way.