It is never too early to get excited about the 2019 college football season, and one of my favorite ways to do that is by taking a look at the 2019 Heisman Trophy odds. These odds are not only a great precursor to what the upcoming season could look like, but bettors can often find value.
History can give us a lot of clues for who may hoist the trophy come season’s end, but also, who should not be considered. If we go back all the way to 2000, a quarterback has taken home the award all but three times. Running backs Derrick Henry, Mark Ingram, and Reggie Bush, who had his win vacated, are exceptions to the rule. This isn’t to say a player who doesn’t play QB can’t win, but the odds of it happening are not great.
Narrowing our focus to recent history, making the College Football Playoff is basically a must to earn the Heisman Trophy. Since 2014, when the CFP started, only one player (Lamar Jackson) has taken home the honor without making the Playoff. Of the five players to take the trophy home in this era, four were QBs.
So, if we are working under the assumption that you either need to play QB or have your team make the College Football Playoff in order to have a good shot at winning the award, who can we realistically target?
*All odds per Bovada unless otherwise noted
Tua Tagovailoa (QB – Alabama) and Trevor Lawrence (QB – Clemson): 5/2
The two QBs from last season’s National Championship Game are co-favorites to win the Heisman Trophy, and it makes so much sense. Both Clemson (+175) and Alabama (+220) lead the pack when it comes to National Championship odds. Also, both QBs are extremely talented players who could be the top overall selection in the 2019 (Tagovailoa) and 2020 (Lawrence) NFL Drafts.
That said, there is zero value in taking either of these players to win the Heisman. Where can value be found?
Jake Fromm (QB – Georgia): 18/1
While Jake Fromm is not in the same class as Tagovailoa or Lawrence, getting him at 18/1 is a tremendous value. He leads Georgia, who is 9/1 to win the National Championship and has a 40% chance at making the College Football Playoff, per ESPN’s Playoff Predictor. Check and check; those are the two things we are looking for when targeting Heisman candidates.
Fromm has already shown his skills during his two seasons in Athens, including besting Baker Mayfield in the 2018 Rose Bowl and winning 11 games last season. He should have the opportunity to make his mark in the public eye again this season, with key matchups including Notre Dame at home, a road bout against Auburn, and if their season goes according to script, a shot against Bama for the SEC crown.
If Fromm navigates these treacherous waters, that 18/1 will become much shorter and you will be happy to be holding a ticket with his name on it.
Justin Herbert (QB – Oregon): 22/1
Justin Herbert was ahead of schedule last season in Mario Cristobal’s first season at the helm. After starting 3-0 and jumping to a 30-7 lead against Stanford, it looked like the Ducks might do big things. Unfortunately, they allowed 17 second-half points, including a TD after they seemingly had the game on ice thanks to a CJ Verdell fumble.
Oregon rebounded nicely with wins at Cal and home over Washington. However, the buzzsaw that is Gardner Minshew derailed its season, and Oregon ultimately ended up with four losses.
The Ducks will look to avoid last season’s missteps and make a run at the College Football Playoff. They will welcome the Auburn Tigers to Autzen and face both Stanford and Washington on the road. Assuming they can navigate the schedule and avoid any landmines, there is a good chance they end up undefeated come season’s end. If this happens, Herbert will be a big part of their success and should be putting up eye-popping numbers.
Oregon is 40/1 to win the national title, which is tied with LSU for the ninth-shortest odds. Combine that with ESPN’s Playoff Predictor giving the Ducks the eighth-best odds to make the final four, and the case for Herbert hoisting the Heisman Trophy come season’s end is a strong one.
Sam Ehlinger (QB – Texas): 23/1
Is Texas back? It’s hard to say, but it sure looks like that could be the case the way last season ended. While Ehlinger is not an NFL prospect on par with the other QBs already mentioned, he has a very real chance to hold the Heisman in New York.
Last season, Texas made an impressive run — notably defeating Oklahoma in the Red River Showdown — after losing an ugly game to Maryland. The 2019 schedule is daunting, and by mid-October, we will know if the Longhorns have a real chance at the College Football Playoff. Not only do they face their normal Big 12 schedule with bouts against Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, and a road trip to face West Virginia, but they also welcome LSU to Austin.
A win over the Tigers could vault the Longhorns into the playoff conversation. A loss would hurt, but the CFP wouldn’t be out of the question if it’s their only blemish.
Texas is 25/1 to win the national title, but ESPN’s Playoff Predictor only gives the school a 1 percent chance of reaching the four-team tournament. Its game against Oklahoma will be massive not only for Texas and Ehlinger but for the Sooners and Jalen Hurts. At 12/1, the value is not there for me to back the Alabama transfer. OU and Lincoln Riley are clearly doing something right, producing back-to-back Heisman Trophy winners. However, I don’t see enough value to bet on the Sooners making it three straight.
Adrian Martinez (QB – Nebraska): 12/1
Maybe I am too quick to write off Adrian Martinez and the Huskers, but this is not a bet I see cashing. That said, Scott Frost is a terrific coach and will build something special in Lincoln. I just don’t expect them to break through in year two.
At 12/1, the value isn’t there when you can get Hurts at the same price or Fromm, Herbert, and others at much more palatable numbers.
Despite going 4-8 last season, including an 0-6 start, Nebraska is 40/1 to win the National Championship, per BetOnline.AG. The schedule does set up nicely with a trip to Colorado being the only big out-of-conference matchup, and the Huskers get Ohio State at home.
If you love Nebraska this season and think Martinez has a shot at residing in the Heisman conversation all season long, I recommend looking into bets for Nebraska to win the Big 10 West, Big 10, and make the College Football Playoff. It would be almost impossible for Martinez to win the award without his team doing some or all of those things.