It’s January 10 and the first Heisman Trophy odds for 2019 have already been released by Bovada.
While I highly recommend avoiding betting this early on something that will be decided in 11 months, seeing real odds can give college football fans an idea of some of next year’s top contenders.
Here are the nine favorites and a value pick to consider at deeper odds:
Trevor Lawrence, QB, Clemson (+200)
Lawrence likely would’ve been the second favorite in the opening odds if they were released before the National Championship Game, but he outplayed Alabama’s Tua Tagovailoa in a 44-16 victory by throwing for three touchdowns and 347 yards.
Lawrence’s stock is at its peak and the momentum will continue through the summer. He’s only going to be a true sophomore next season in his first year as the full-time starter.
Clemson will bring back a loaded supporting cast that includes running back Travis Etienne, and wide receivers Tee Higgins and Justyn Ross. Expect Lawrence to be in the Heisman conversation all season, and remember that his presence makes it a huge risk to bet on anyone at deeper odds.
Tua Tagovailoa, QB, Alabama (+350)
Tagovailoa almost went wire-to-wire as the Heisman favorite in 2018 until the week before the ceremony in the Big Apple. His stock dropped after he struggled in the SEC Championship Game against Georgia, leading to Oklahoma QB Kyler Murray stealing the necessary votes away to win the coveted award.
Tua will be back for his junior season with no summer distractions now that fellow quarterback Jalen Hurts is set to transfer. He’ll be very motivated coming off of a runner-up finish in the Heisman race in addition to losing in the College Football Playoff title game.
Tagovailoa will have a new offensive coordinator to work with, but should be in the mix throughout the season. He didn’t take a snap in the fourth quarter until Alabama’s ninth game of the year because the Crimson Tide had such big leads. Maybe throwing more passes later in games will help his case, meaning there could be value on a player who was the odds-on favorite for most of the 2018 season.
Jake Fromm, QB, Georgia (+850)
Fromm is a tier behind Lawrence and Tagovailoa, and his Heisman chances will depend a lot on Georgia winning the SEC and/or making the College Football Playoff.
Fromm has had a very impressive college career in his two seasons — he’s been so good that two five-star quarterbacks, Jacob Eason and Justin Fields, have transferred from Georgia — but there isn’t enough value to consider him at this number.
Jonathan Taylor, RB, Wisconsin (+1000)
Although Wisconsin’s season didn’t go as planned in 2018, Taylor, who was a Heisman candidate for most of the year, did his part by rushing for 2,194 yards and 16 touchdowns for the Badgers.
Eight out of the last nine Heisman Trophy winners have been quarterbacks, so I would recommend staying away from betting on a running back for this award.
D’Andre Swift, RB, Georgia & Travis Etienne, RB, Clemson (+1000)
Both players have the same odds, play the same position and have quarterbacks on their team who are bigger favorites for the trophy.
I would prefer Taylor over these two, but you should pass on all three.
Sam Ehlinger, QB, Texas (+1200)
If you believe Texas is back, then I think Ehlinger is worth a bet. Texas’ Sugar Bowl win over Georgia will be talked about all offseason, so the national attention for Ehlinger will be there before the Longhorns take the field for the 2019 season.
Ehlinger’s Heisman campaign can be boosted early in the season when Texas has a marquee matchup against LSU in Week 2. A big game in front of a national audience is the perfect spot for a Heisman hopeful to make an early impression.
But the problem with betting Ehlinger is that 12/1 odds doesn’t feel like a fair price. Try to find a better number before the season, but the Longhorns’ quarterback is definitely in play.
Austin Kendall, QB, Oklahoma (+1600)
This is the bet to stay away from in the Heisman Trophy market. The reason Kendall is listed this high is because the last two Heisman winners were former Sooner QBs Baker Mayfield and Kyler Murray. Due to their success, any quarterback that Lincoln Riley coaches in college will receive preseason attention.
Kendall will be a junior next season and has only attempted 39 passes in his college career. It’s still early, so there’s a possibility he might not even end up as Oklahoma’s starter.
Remember that Murray was in the 20/1 range to win the Heisman right before the 2018 season kicked off, so 16/1 on a total unknown player isn’t a very smart investment.
Jerry Jeudy, WR, Alabama (+1600)
Jeudy had a fantastic season in 2018 by accumulating 1,315 receiving yards and 14 touchdowns. He averaged 19.3 yards per reception and was Tua’s favorite downfield target.
The main issue with betting on Jeudy here is that Alabama returns Jaylen Waddle, Henry Ruggs and DeVonta Smith at the wide receiver position. With many mouths to feed, it’s not worth betting Jeudy to have a season worthy of getting Heisman attention.
It’s also hard to see a scenario where Jeudy has a Heisman-caliber season without Tagovailoa putting up insane numbers. If you like Jeudy to do well next season, then just bet on Tua to receive the honor.
My pick: Adrian Martinez, QB, Nebraska (+3500)
Nebraska finished 4-8 last season, but the 2019 expectations are already high in Lincoln. They are 25/1 to win the national title and should be one of the favorites to win the Big Ten West in 2019.
Nebraska head coach Scott Frost led UCF to a 13-0 record in his second season in Orlando, so he has set a high bar for himself as he leads the Cornhuskers in his second year.
Most of Nebraska’s hopes will rely on QB Adrian Martinez next season. He accounted for 25 touchdowns as a true freshman for a team that was lacking serious talent around him. Martinez also battled an injury early in the season that caused him to miss one game, and it likely hobbled him in others.
At the end of the day, the best way to approach Heisman betting is to find a long-shot pick that could be in the conversation for the award in November. Johnny Manziel and Jameis Winston weren’t even listed in the odds in the respective preseasons before they won the award, so taking the favorites isn’t the best long-term strategy.
I like Martinez at this price because Nebraska has a shot at winning the Big Ten. Martinez and Nebraska will play Ohio State on September 28 and a strong performance in that game could put him on the radar of Heisman voters. If Frost can pull another miracle off in his second season at a program, Martinez will be a big reason why.