Heisman Trophy Betting: Top RB/WR Candidates Hope To Score Upset

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

In this pass-heavy era of college football, it’s become difficult for running backs to juke their way into the Heisman Trophy conversation. Not only must they put up monster rushing numbers week after week, but they have to be superb pass-catchers, electrifying punt/kickoff returners, or the primary playmaking option on a glamour team—and sometimes a combination of all that.

Take, for instance, USC’s Reggie Bush, who in 2005 compiled 2,218 total yards (including 1,740 rushing) and 19 total TDs (including one kickoff-return score), all while a member of one of the most storied teams in college football history.

Sure, the Trojans fell short of capturing the national championship that season, and off-field controversy forced Bush to return his Heisman. But neither event detracts from the reality that Bush’s remarkable 2005 season wowed voters.

Aside from Bush, only four other tailbacks have joined the Heisman fraternity since 1998—Alabama’s Derrick Henry (2015) and Mark Ingram (2009), Wisconsin’s Ron Dayne (1999) and Texas’ Ricky Williams (1998). How dominant was that quartet? During their Heisman seasons, Henry, Ingram, Dayne and Williams combined to average 358 total touches, 2,185 total yards (6.1 yards per touch) and 24 touchdowns.

It would require a similarly historic season for a running back to outrun this year’s Heisman field. Props.com looks at the most likely candidates, with odds provided by WynnBet:

RB BRIAN ROBINSON JR. (ALABAMA)

Image Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Heisman Odds: +5000

2020 Stats (in limited action): 509 scrimmage yards, 6 TDs

Why he could win it:

  • Going back to Williams’ Heisman season in 1998, running backs have a slightly better than 20 percent chance of taking home college football’s top annual award. Unlikely, right? Not if you consider that two of the last five running backs to win it played for Alabama (Ingram and Henry).
  • Considering the Crimson Tide are working in a new starting quarterback, Robinson figures to get a lot of opportunities—especially early in the season—to post impressive stats. If he shoulders most of the rushing load all season and can come close to last year’s 6.2 yards-per-carry average, Robinson figures to be Heisman finalist … at least.

RB ISAIAH SPILLER (TEXAS A&M)

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Heisman Odds: +6000

2020 Stats: 1,229 total yards, 9 TDs

Why he could win it:

  • Spiller has the skills to flirt with 2,000 rushing yards, and any SEC running back who does that should warrant instant Heisman consideration. It’s a just reward for crushing some of the country’s most physically demanding and athletically gifted defenses.
  • Spiller carved up those SEC defenses last year to the tune of 5.9 yards per carry. That’s noteworthy because Alabama’s Henry averaged 5.7 yards per carry during his 2015 Heisman campaign. Of course, for Spiller to generate consistent Heisman buzz this fall, his coaches will need to ride him for at least 300 total touches in the first 12-13 games.
  • Just like former A&M star Johnny Manziel in 2012, Spiller would do wonders for his Heisman campaign by saving some of his most electric moments for when the Aggies host Alabama on October 9. The recipe for success in that game: Something in the neighborhood of 200-plus scrimmage yards, at least one signature play and an iconic Aggies upset.

RB BREECE HALL (IOWA STATE)

Image Credit: Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

Heisman Odds: +8000

2020 Stats: 1,752 total yards, 23 TDs

Why he could win it:

  • There’s a good news/bad news proposition involving an Iowa State running back garnering serious Heisman Trophy consideration: In 1995-96, fellow Cyclone tailback Troy Davis became the first player in NCAA history to rush for 2,000 yards in back-to-back seasons, tallying 37 touchdowns along the way. Despite making history, though, Davis failed to take home the Heisman in either season, finishing fifth in 1995 and second in 1996.
  • Now for the Hall-related upside: Unlike Davis, whose Cyclones won a grand total of five games from 1994-96, Hall has a realistic chance at helping Iowa State to the Big 12 championship and a spot in the four-team College Football Playoff. So what must Hall do to cash a long-shot ticket? Probably make history like Davis … and rush for 2,000 yards … beat Oklahoma twice … and hope the Cyclones dispatch every other regular-season opponent by at least two touchdowns.

WIDE RECEIVER CONTENDERS

With only three primary receivers snagging the Heisman in the last 50 years—Notre Dame’s Tim Brown in 1987, Michigan’s Desmond Howard in 1991 and Alabama’s DeVonta Smith last year—it’s implausible to expect a wideout to earn the hallowed award in back-to-back campaigns.

So in that respect, there should be no undue pressure on this season’s crop of Heisman-hopeful wideouts. Below is a list of the wide receivers who have the best chance of catching the attention of Heisman voters — if they go out and amass eye-popping statistics in the range of 90 catches and 18-plus touchdowns … plus a handful of special-teams TDs, preferably in high-visibility matchups.

It also won’t hurt if these uber-athletic studs occasionally line up on the other side of the ball and make a few highlight-reel plays—you know, the reverse Charles Woodson.

JOHN METCHIE III (ALABAMA)

Image Credit: Gary Crosby Jr-Tuscaloosa News

Heisman Odds: +8000

2020 Stats: 55 receptions, 916 yards, 6 TDs
 

In a perfect world … Metchie channels his inner DeVonta Smith and cruises for 100-plus catches, 1,700 yards and 20-plus touchdowns for a retooled (and reloaded) Crimson Tide offense. Think it’s impossible? Remember Smith shared the spotlight last season with three other eventual first-round NFL draft picks (quarterback Mac Jones, running back Najee Harris and fellow wideout Jaylen Waddle).

CHRIS OLAVE (OHIO STATE)

Image Credit: Adam Cairns/Columbus Dispatch

Heisman Odds: +15000

2020 Stats: 50 receptions, 729 yards, 7 TDs

In a perfect world … Olave nearly doubles last season’s output and rolls for 80-plus catches, 1,300-plus yards and double-digit touchdowns, cements himself as the most prolific receiver in Buckeyes’ history and helps Ohio State to another Big Ten title.

JUSTYN ROSS (CLEMSON)

Image Credit: Jim Dedmon-USA TODAY Sports

Heisman Odds: Not offered

2020 Stats: DNP (injury)

In a perfect world … Ross bounces back from a spinal issue that cost him the 2020 season and regains the form that saw him catch 112 passes for 1,865 yards and 17 touchdowns during his first two seasons with the Tigers in 2018-19.

TY FRYFOGLE (INDIANA)

Image Credit: Joseph Maiorana-USA TODAY Sports

Heisman Odds: Not offered

2020 Stats: 37 receptions, 721 yards, 7 TDs

 In a perfect world  Fryfogle puts up crazy numbers over the first five weeks, then repeats last season’s feat of carving up Michigan State (11 catches, 200 yards, 2 TDs) and Ohio State (7 catches, 218 yards, 3 TDs) in consecutive weekends. He’ll need to do that and dominate ranked teams such as Iowa, Penn State and Cincinnati—plus probably lead the Hoosiers to their first Rose Bowl berth since the late 1960s—to earn an invite to the Downtown Athletic Club in December.

Tomorrow: A look at the top long-shot defensive contenders for the 2021 Heisman Trophy.

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