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Bovada’s Way-Too-Early Heisman Trophy odds for 2017

It may not be wise to place a bet on an early Heisman Trophy favorite right now, if history is any indication.

The 2016 Heisman Trophy winner, Louisville quarterback Lamar Jackson, is not the favorite to win the Heisman Trophy in 2017.

Be cautious when you see betting odds for an award like the Heisman Trophy come out this time of the year, because you may be more likely to get burned by picking an early favorite in the long run. I have no scientific data or research to back that statement up, so I chalk it up to being an alternative fact if you can prove otherwise, but there does seem to be some recent history to suggest a strong Heisman Trophy contender will rise from out of relatively nowhere to make a run at the most iconic individual award there is in sports in this country.

Bovada released their first batch of Heisman Trophy odds on Monday, and to the surprise of almost nobody there were some very familiar names listed at the top of the odds. 2016 Heisman Trophy winner Lamar Jackson, quarterback for Louisville, was among the favorites with 7/1 odds to win a second Heisman Trophy. Seeing as there has only been one two-time Heisman Trophy winner, history would suggest you would be foolish to place any bets on Jackson even if he is expected to rack up massive video game numbers early on again next fall. Oklahoma quarterback Baker Mayfield, a 2016 Heisman finalist, is the early favorite according to the initial odds from Bovada. Mayfield is listed at 11/2 on top of the Heisman odds board. Ohio State quarterback J.T. Barrett is listed second with a 6/1 shot to win Ohio State’s eighth Heisman Trophy (which would put the Buckeyes in sole possession of first place for most Heisman Trophies won; currently tied with seven overall with Notre Dame).

2017 Heisman Trophy Odds as of Jan. 24, 2017 (per Bovada)

  • Baker Mayfield (QB Oklahoma) 11/2
  • JT Barrett (QB Ohio State) 6/1
  • Lamar Jackson (QB Louisville) 7/1
  • Sam Darnold (QB USC) 9/1
  • Saquon Barkley (RB Penn State) 10/1
  • Jake Browning (QB Washington) 10/1
  • Trace McSorley (QB Penn State) 10/1
  • Deondre Francois (QB Florida State) 12/1
  • Josh Rosen (QB UCLA) 12/1
  • Mason Rudolph (QB Oklahoma State) 12/1
  • Jalen Hurts (QB Alabama) 12/1
  • Derrius Guice (RB LSU) 15/1
  • Bo Scarbrough (RB Alabama) 15/1
  • Nick Fitzgerald (QB Mississippi State) 22/1
  • Nick Chubb (RB Georgia) 25/1
  • Kamryn Pettway (RB Auburn) 25/1
  • Shane Buechele (QB Texas) 35/1
  • Luke Falk (QB Washington State) 35/1

A couple of quick thoughts…

🏈 The Heisman Trophy continues to be an award dominated by quarterbacks since the turn of the century. Quarterbacks have won the Heisman Trophy 14 times since 2000. The only running backs to win the award in that time have been USC’s Reggie Bush and Alabama’s Mark Ingram and Derrick Henry.

🏈 The Big Ten has not had a Heisman Trophy winner since Ohio State quarterback Troy Smith won the award in 2006. The Big Ten’s decade-long Heisman drought is currently the longest among power conferences. Since then, the SEC has 1 Heisman Trophy winners, the Big 12 and ACC each have two and the Pac-12 has one.

🏈 The last senior to win the Heisman Trophy was Troy Smith of Ohio State in 2006. Since then, four sophomores, four juniors and two freshmen have won the Heisman Trophy.

🏈 Last year’s Heisman Trophy race was essentially a one-man competition with others vying for second place in the voting behind Jackson. Mayfield finished in third in the voting despite splitting some of the votes with his Oklahoma teammate and wide receiver Dede Westbrook. With Jackson going up against a historical trend and No. 2 runnerup Deshaun Watson turning pro, Mayfield could potentially make up some ground in the voting with a good season.

🏈 Two Penn State players have respectable preseason Heisman odds with running back Saquon Barkley and quarterback Trace McSorley receiving identical 10/1 odds from Bovada. If Penn State’s offense continues to perform to the level it showed down the stretch of the 2016 season, then the debate over which one of them is more worthy of Heisman consideration could eventually hurt their chances in the Heisman conversation similar to 1994 when Kerry Collins and Ki-Jana Carter potentially held each other back against Colorado’s Rashaan Salaam (although Salaam as a 2,000-yard rusher made it difficult to pass by at the time).

🏈 Of the players currently receiving Heisman odds, LSU running back Derrius Guice is one to watch. Guice finished the 2016 season as the SEC’s leading rusher with 1,387 yards with the second-most rushing touchdowns (15). Expect to see similar production in 2017 and likely improvement on those numbers as he takes on even more of a leading role in LSU’s running game in 2017.

I should mention I have been burned each of the past two years by taking an LSU running back to win the Heisman Trophy (Leonard Fournette), so please excuse any hesitation I may have in tabbing Grice as my Heisman pick in 2017 when I get to that point.

So, who are you picking?

If you had to make a bet right now, who would you take? Will you take one of the favorites or take a shot with a more rewarding payout down the list? I’ll reserve the right to change my official Heisman Trophy pick for later in the summer when I dive into my season preview material, but I feel like Saquon Barkley has a chance to really do some damage this season. If Penn State can get off to a faster start this fall than they did a year ago (Penn State gets home games against the only two teams to beat them in the regular season, Pitt and Michigan), then the Barkley Heisman talk will spike. The key game will be a road trip to Ohio State to match up with JT Barrett.

Barkley put on a show the last time Penn State visited Columbus, but so did Barrett. History is also against Barkley (and McSorley), as Penn State has just one Heisman Trophy winner in school history, and the split between Barkley and McSorley could potentially be a problem. That’s why my way-too-early Heisman Trophy pick might be Barrett, who will get potentially key Heisman Showdown games against Mayfield (Oklahoma) and Barkley/McSorley (Penn State) at home this season.

Let me know who you are picking in the comments below.

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About the Author

Kevin McGuire
Contributor to College Football Talk on Also a contributor to Athlon Sports and The Comeback. Member of Football Writers Association of America and National Football Foundation. Follow on Twitter @KevinOnCFB.