Heisman Trophy Betting: A Passing Look At QB Favorites

Image Credit: Bryan Terry/The Oklahoman

Editor’s note: This is the first in a position-by-position series of articles previewing the 2021 Heisman Trophy betting race. 

Quarterbacks comprise the largest chunk of viable contenders for the 2021 Heisman Trophy, which only makes sense given that QBs have taken home college football’s most prestigious award nine times since 2010.

If a gunslinger is to hoist this year’s Heisman, he almost certainly will have to do two things: put up video game-like passing numbers and a bunch of victories.

Don’t believe so? Check out the cumulative season averages of the last six quarterbacks—LSU’s Joe Burrow, Oklahoma’s Kyler Murray and Baker Mayfield, Louisville’s Lamar Jackson, Oregon’s Marcus Mariota and Florida State’s Jameis Winston—to win the Heisman:

4,552 passing yards, 53 total touchdowns, seven interceptions. Those quarterbacks also averaged 12.5 victories per season.

The lesson: It’s been 20 years since Nebraska QB Eric Crouch claimed Heisman honors with less than 3,000 total yards and only 25 combined touchdowns. Don’t expect that streak to end this season.

Props.com looks at the quarterbacks favored to win this year’s Heisman Trophy, with odds provided by WynnBet.

SPENCER RATTLER (OKLAHOMA)

Image Credit: Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

Heisman Odds: +450

2020 Stats: 3,031 yards passing, 34 total TDs, 7 INTs, 67.5% completion rate

Why he could win it:

  • Rattler enters the 2021 campaign as a popular choice to be the No. 1 overall pick in next year’s NFL draft. He’s also blessed with a cluster of NFL-caliber wideouts, including Marvin Mims, Theo Wease, Jadon Haselwood, Mike Woods and Mario Williams. Those playmakers should help Rattler in his quest to post gaudy passing numbers. However, none are likely to upstage their quarterback’s Heisman candidacy.
  • Rattler will face a slew of porous Big 12 defenses, so if he remains healthy, he should be a lock for 4,000 passing yards by season’s end.
  • The Sooners, who are ranked No. 2 in the preseason AP poll, are prohibitive favorites to win the Big 12 championship, with their stiffest challenge expected to come from preseason No. 7 Iowa State. However, Oklahoma doesn’t encounter the Cyclones until Nov. 20, a time when Heisman voters bring laser-like focus to the balloting process.

D.J. UIAGALELEI (CLEMSON)

Image Credit: Ken Ruinard-USA TODAY Sports

Heisman Odds: +900

2020 Stats: 914 yards passing, 9 total TDs, 0 INTs, 66.7% completion rate

Why he could win it:

  • The biggest game on the college football’s Week 1 docket is Saturday night’s neutral-site clash between No. 3 Clemson and No. 5 Georgia. If Uiagalelei brings his A-game to Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte, North Carolina, and guides the Tigers to a victory, the true sophomore likely will vault to the top of the (very early) Heisman ladder.
  • In his final start last year as Clemson’s interim quarterback (Trevor Lawrence was embroiled in COVID-19 protocols), Uiagalelei went to Notre Dame and racked up 439 passing yards and three touchdowns (one rushing). The Tigers fell in overtime to the Irish, but the performance bolstered Uiagalelei’s standing as a premier playmaker entering 2021.
  • A potential top-five selection in the 2023 NFL draft, Uiagalelei arguably has a stronger arm than the remarkable Lawrence (now property of the NFL’s Jacksonville Jaguars). As such, he might possess an outside shot at 4,000 passing yards this season — a feat equaled by just one other quarterback in Clemson history (Deshaun Watson).

BRYCE YOUNG (ALABAMA)

Image Credit: Caitie McMekin/Pool via News Sentinel

Heisman Odds: +1000

2020 Stats (limited action): 156 yards passing, 1 TD

Why he could win it:

• At first blush, it’s tough to imagine Young capturing Heisman honors in his initial starting campaign. However, here’s something to consider: Alabama’s last three starting quarterbacks (Mac Jones, Tua Tagovailoa and Jalen Hurts) averaged 3,749 passing yards and 42 total touchdowns … in their first seasons under center!
• When you’re putting up big numbers on the best team in the country—and coach Nick Saban’s squad is the preseason No. 1 and clear favorite to repeat as national champions—there’s always a seat at the Heisman table for the Crimson Tide’s quarterback.

SAM HOWELL (NORTH CAROLINA)

Image Credit: Sam Navarro-USA TODAY Sports

Heisman Odds: +1500

2020 Stats: 3,586 yards passing, 36 total TDs, 7 INTs, 68.1% completion rate

Why he could win it:

  • Howell may be this fall’s East Coast equivalent to Rattler. Both are a decent bet to pass for more than 4,000 yards and 35 touchdowns; be among the short list of candidates for the No. 1 overall pick in next year’s NFL draft; and be a finalist for the Davey O’Brien Award, which is bestowed annually to college football’s best quarterback.
  •  The one potential advantage for Howell over Rattler? If he puts together a Heisman-worthy campaign and leads North Carolina to an undefeated regular season, Howell likely will have a chance to topple powerhouse Clemson in the ACC title game in early December—just hours before Heisman voting closes.

D’ERIQ KING (MIAMI, FLA.)

Image Credit: Douglas DeFelice-USA TODAY Sports

Heisman Odds: +2000

2020 Stats: 2,686 yards passing, 27 total TDs, 5 INTs, 64.1% completion rate

Why he could win it:

  • King has the passing/rushing prowess to be college football’s most explosive quarterback this fall, while possibly restoring Miami to its once-bankable greatness of the 1980s, 1990s and 2000s. With Houston in 2018, he amassed a staggering 50 touchdowns (36 passing) while playing in the American Athletic Conference. Just think of how similar numbers would be viewed at Miami when facing ACC competition.
  • If the Hurricanes can shock top-ranked Alabama as a near three-touchdown underdog Saturday in Atlanta, it would go a long way toward solidifying King’s Heisman standing. Obviously, that’s a tough ask of any quarterback—especially one who is less than eight months removed from surgery to repair a severely injured right knee.


MATT CORRAL (OLE MISS)

Image Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Heisman Odds: +2000

2020 Stats: 3,337 yards passing, 33 total TDs, 70.9% completion rate

Why he could win it:

  • There’s a certain gravitas that comes with playing for Ole Miss coach Lane Kiffin, a frenetic play-caller and one of college football’s biggest lightning rods for attention. In other words, Corral is going to have plenty of opportunities to post huge numbers.
  • In a full season of 13-plus games, Corral has the upside for 4,000 passing yards and 30-plus touchdowns. Those numbers definitely would put Corral in the Heisman neighborhood. And if he can somehow guide Ole Miss to an upset of Alabama on October 2, he’d boost his candidacy in a big way (otherwise known as the “Johnny Manziel Bounce”).

BROCK PURDY (IOWA STATE)

Image Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Heisman Odds: +3000

2020 Stats: 2,750 yards passing, 24 total TDs, 9 INTs, 66.6% completion rate

Why he could win it:

  • Despite the long odds, WynnBet senior trader Motoi Pearson is somewhat keen on Purdy impacting this year’s Heisman voting. If the fourth-year starter and potential first-round NFL pick is to beat those odds, he’ll have to first beat two of the Cyclones’ marquee opponents: Iowa (Sept. 11 at home) and Oklahoma (Nov. 20 on the road)—and play flawlessly in the process.
  • Iowa State went 2-1 in marquee matchups against Oklahoma (two games) and Oregon last season, but Purdy only produced a combined five total touchdowns (three passing, two rushing). That screams more “game manager” than “Heisman contender with staying power”.

DESMOND RIDDER (CINCINNATI)

Image Credit: Sam Greene-The Enquirer

Heisman Odds: +5000

2020 Stats: 2,296 yards passing, 31 total TDs, 6 INTs, 66.2% completion rate

 Why he could win it:

  • If Lamar Jackson can capture a Heisman with one breakthrough campaign for a non-marquee program (51 total TDs for Louisville in 2016), then Ridder has a shot to do the same for the rising Bearcats. Perhaps the nation’s most electrifying dual-threat quarterback, Ridder last year tossed multiple touchdowns in five games and rushed for multiple scores in four. With a full slate of contests in 2021, it’s conceivable Ridder could finish with 45 TDs this season.
  • Cincinnati’s American Athletic Conference doesn’t have the depth of the SEC, Big Ten or Pac-12, but the likes of Central Florida, Tulsa and SMU are formidable foes. Throw in the specter of the Bearcats coming away victorious in consecutive trips to Indiana (Sept. 18) and Notre Dame (Oct. 2)—two potential top-10 teams at the time of kickoff—and Ridder could shape the Heisman narrative early in the season the same way Jackson did six years ago.

Tomorrow: A look at the top running back and wide receiver contenders for the 2021 Heisman Trophy.

NCAA Football Prop Betting Guide