We’re just two weeks away from the first kickoff of the college football season, which means Bovada’s recently released Heisman Trophy odds will probably be completely irrelevant very soon. Of course this year’s race isn’t nearly as wide open as it was in 2012, when Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel came out of nowhere as early favorites—like USC’s Matt Barkley and Wisconsin‘s Montee Ball—fell by the wayside week-by-week.
Heading into this season there are already enough early favorites that last year’s winner barely cracked the Top 10. In addition to Manziel, rounding out the (bottom half of the) Top 10 are: Georgia’s Aaron Murray, Alabama’s T.J. Yeldon, Clemson’s Tajh Boyd and Oregon’s De’Anthony Thomas.
Bringing us to the Top 5:
This will be Ohio State QB Braxton Miller’s third season with the Buckeyes and the second year as a starter for the junior. It’s rare to see garish offensive numbers in the Big Ten, but if Miller continues the trajectory of his first two years, he’s going to be in very good shape.
This team was largely overlooked in 2012 because they were still operating under a postseason ban, stemming from sanctions incurred under former head coach Jim Tressel—pretty shocking considering they went undefeated. They did prove themselves to be legit contenders though. Last year Miller’s Buckeyes proved they can win every which way: Offensive shootouts, defensive slugfests, overtime thrillers and a few ridiculous blowouts.
The one thing they won’t have to worry about this year is being ignored. Miller has a 18.18 percent chance of winning the Heisman, meaning he’ll be all but impossible to beat if this team goes undefeated again.
- Name/School: Jadeveon Clowney, University of South Carolina
- Position: Defensive End
- Odds: 6:1
Then again, if anyone is going to make the impossible…possible…it’s South Carolina’s beastly defensive end Jadeveon Clowney. He’s been the buss of the college football world ever since delivering the hit heard ’round the world on an unsuspecting Michigan patsy in the Outback Bowl in January.
And it’s a good thing he’s got some kind of magic working for him these days, because he’s really going to have to pull a rabbit out of his helmet if he wants to be the first true defensive player in history to win the Heisman.
Clowney does have one thing going for him that none of the other offensive players do. His chances are not heavily dependent on his team going undefeated, or even making a run at a national championship. As long as Clowney performs to his ability and the Gamecocks don’t embarrass themselves, his 14.21 percent chance will just keep ticking upward as many others head the opposite direction.
- Name/School: Teddy Bridgewater, Louisville
- Position: Quarterback
- Odds: 9:1
Junior Teddy Bridgewater is entering his third season as Louisville’s starting QB. He put up solid numbers as a rookie, but the Cardinals still lost six games. What a difference a year makes…
Last season they lost just two games, one to a division rival in triple overtime. Bridgewater led them to an impressive 33-23 victory over Florida in the Sugar Bowl, which didn’t seem nearly that close if you actually watched the game. And if you actually watched the game, you were probably channel surfing by the second half.
Existing in the sad rubble formerly known as the Big East, there’s an excellent chance the Cardinals will go undefeated this season. As long this team remains in the conversation among the undefeated Bridgewater is going to get plenty of attention. If Ohio State stumbles early, his 10 percent Heisman chance could double.
- Name/School: A.J. McCarron, University of Alabama
- Position: Quarterback
- Odds: 10:1
Realistically speaking, there are few (if any) QBs among the Heisman frontrunners who will attempt and/or complete less passes than Alabama senior A.J. McCarron. Clearly oddsmakers aren’t faulting him because the Tide can Roll as well on the ground as they can in the air.
McCarron’s 9.09 percent chance to win the Heisman is just as much about the two BCS Championships he has under his belt as his production on the field as an individual. That being said…two BCS Championships (and he may well be playing for a third next January) speak pretty loudly.
- Name/School: Marcus Mariota, University of Oregon
- Position: Quarterback
- Odds: 12:1
Oregon sophomore Marcus Mariota is entering his second year as the Ducks starting QB. His numbers were impressive last season, having thrown for 32 touchdowns, just six interceptions and pass completion percentage of 68.5.
Mariota’s only loss came in a late season game against Stanford, who defeated them by a field goal in overtime. He’s got plenty to build on, but he’s going to have to do it without Chip Kelly, who set sail for the NFL in the offseason. Still…a 7.69 percent chance to win the Heisman? Not bad.