2023 Heisman Trophy Odds: Handicapping strategies

The college football season is just five Saturdays away. From the first kickoff between Navy and Notre Dame over in Dublin, Ireland to the final kickoff between Army and Navy Gillette Stadium on December 9th, one of the biggest wagers all season long is who will win the 89th Heisman Trophy. We’ll take a look at some of the potential candidates, talk a little handicapping strategy, and discuss why Caleb Willaims could become the first player to repeat since Archie Griffin did it in 1974-75 as a running back from Ohio State.


Heisman Trophy = Best Quarterback

Even though there is an award for the nation’s best quarterback in the Davey O’Brien Award, quarterbacks have dominated the Heisman landscape as well. Since 2000, there have only been four non-quarterback winners. Three running backs ( Reggie Bush-2005, Mark Ingram-2009, Derrick Henry-2015) and one wide receiver (DeVonta Smith-2020). 82.6% is a tough percentage to fade. Interestingly enough, three of those non-QB winners hailed from Alabama.

How important is being on a good team?

This seems obvious, but once you really examine the history of the Heisman, it becomes clear just how important. In the 88 years that the Heisman has been handed out, only Paul Hornung in 1956 played for a losing team (Notre Dame was 2-8 that season). Since 1990, only nine of the winners were on teams that lost two (5) games or three (4) games during the regular season. This trophy is very much of a front-runners trophy.

The jinx of the Heisman Trophy repeat

Most fans know that in the entire history of the Heisman, there has only been one repeat winner, Ohio State’s RB Archie Griffin in 1974 and 1975. But why has there never been another repeat winner?

The first reason is that 60 of the 88 winners have been seniors. Hard to repeat when you aren’t there the next year. Of those 28 remaining players, 13 left school early to enter the NFL draft. Of the final 15, some were on worse teams, some had good seasons but just not exceptional.

Every year that an underclassman wins the Heisman, Griffin and his repeat win is always mentioned. The saying goes “Those that forget history are doomed to repeat it”. Using that maxim, Williams will not win.

The Contenders

Embed from Getty Images

Caleb Williams  

With these low odds, oddsmakers are saying “History be damned”. Who’s to argue with them? Adding a year’s stability to a coaching staff will only help increase these video game numbers (333-500, 66.7%, 4,537 yards, 45 TDs, and 5 INTs). Barring injury, Williams by far has the best chance to repeat since Griffin to repeat.

Jayden Daniels

The Arizona State transfer had an amazing first season in Baton Rouge, throwing for 2,913 yards, 17 TDs to just 3 INTs, as well as leading the Tigers to a massive upset win over the hated Crimson Tide and winning the SEC West title. He has a corps of exciting receivers and if he can duplicate his 2022 stats, Daniels could become the first LSU Heisman winner since Joe Burrow in 2019.

Quinn Ewers

It will be interesting to watch how the Texas QB situation pans out, with uber-recruit Arch Manning waiting in the wings. QB Quinn Ewers is a phenomenal talent but honestly, I’m not sure he finishes out the season as the starter, especially if the Longhorns pick up a couple of early losses. Ewers has the 2nd-shortest odds on the market but is a clear fade.

Embed from Getty Images

Jordan Travis

Cade Klubnik declared his candidacy for the 2023 Heisman last year in the ACC Championship game when he went 20-24 for 279 yards and one touchdown in a relief effort for ineffective DJ Uiagalelei. He was the number one dual-threat QB recruit in last year’s class and is surrounded by a bevy of offensive talent. The surest bet of the college season is ESPN Gameday’s location on September 23, as the Jordan Travis-led Florida State Seminoles play Klubnik’s Clemson Tigers in the ORIGINAL Death Valley.

The Darkhorses

Embed from Getty Images

Tanner Mordecai

While Deion Sanders being hired at Colorado may have made more news, Wisconsin’s hiring of head coach Luke Fickell is a more-impactful move. He was able to lure offensive coordinator Phil Longo away from UNC and the floodgates of impressive transfers followed. None more so than former Oklahoma and SMU QB Tanner Mordecai. In two seasons at SMU, Mordecai threw for over 7,100 yards and 72 TDs. He will now be running an offense whose plays are called by Longo, who is widely regarded as one of the great offensive minds of the day. A favorable schedule should allow the Badgers to be 7-0 when Ohio State visits Madison on October 28th. If Mordecai has a big day there, that would go a long way to helping his Heisman cause. At +12000, he could be the next Joe Burrow, whose Heisman odds were +20000 at one point before the season started.

Cameron Rising

Utah’s Cameron Rising is a pivot from the more popular arch rival from USC. He’s led Utah to a share of two straight Pac-12 championships and USC visited Salt Lake City last season, Rising actually had more passing and rushing yardage, along with the all-important W, than USC’s Caleb Williams. The Utes make up for a laughable conference schedule with two huge out-of-conference games with Florida and Baylor. If Rising, who tore his ACL in the Rose Bowl against Penn State, is recovered and has big games against those two schools, he could be right in the mix of things when his Utes travel to the LA Memorial Coliseum on October 21st and square off against the Trojans.

Embed from Getty Images

Nicholas Singleton

As you can see, this list has been exclusively quarterbacks. Singleton isn’t even the favorite for the Heisman on his own team (QB Drew Allar’s odds are +2500). The other factor that hurts Singelton’s chances enormously is the fact that he equally shares the backfield with running back Kaytron Allen. But Singleton, a former 5-star recruit, rushed for over 1,000 yards and 12 TDs in his true freshman campaign. With Allar being a first-year starting QB, and Penn State returning its best offensive line in the James Franklin era, it stands to reason that offensive coordinator Mike Yurcich might lean on his stud running backs to pull the major load of the offense. If Penn State can get over the hump and finally beat one of the dreaded rivals in Michigan and Ohio State and reach the College Football Playoffs for the first time under James Franklin, Singleton will likely have had a fantastic year and could break the drought of running backs to win the Heisman, dating back to 2015 and Alabama’s Derrick Henry.


Related articles


Joey House, Philadephia Editor
Joey House, Philadephia Editor
Sports have always been a part of Joey's life. He grew up in a Penn State household and became a Phillies and Eagles fan the same year, 1980. Not just because of their runs to their championship games, but because all his friends were either Harold Carmichael or Pete Rose on the playground. Gambling came later, as he was anointed with the moniker "House" because he ran all of the gambling and poker operations on his Navy ship. Now he brings over 25 years of gambling activity, both from the bettor's and "bookies" perspective, to help you maximise both your financial and entertainment returns.

Latest articles