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Giving Away Money: Heisman Analysis — Three Alabama Players In The Top Five, But Take the Buckeye

And the best player in the country has the worst odds of the five

NCAA Football: Alabama Spring Game Gary Cosby Jr.-USA TODAY Sports

This is...something.

The 2022 Heisman Futures have been released, and three of the top five all wear Crimson and White. They include the reigning Heisman champion, the best player in the nation (who just so happens to be a defender), and a guy from the Portal who’s never played a live-game snap in an Alabama uniform.

How’s that for a diverse group?

For those new to the wagering game, the numbers to the left are the Bet ID. The one to the right, with + numbers, are called the money line. They are expressed in terms of payouts-per-$100. So, a $100 bet on Bryce that sees a back-to-back Heisman winning campaign, will earn you $650. If you throw a Benjie on Will Anderson — and voters realize that he is in fact the best player in the country (and who had a season measured in decades last year) — then you’ll take home $1400.

Here are the top dozen or so from SportsBetting AG (good through 4 July 2022, when lines update again).

65102 CJ Stroud +275
65101 Bryce Young +650
65104 Caleb Williams +900
65143 Jahmyr Gibbs +1400
65111 Will Anderson Jr +1400
65146 Jaxon Smith-Njigba +2200
65112 Tyler Van Dyke +2500
65122 Anthony Richardson +2800
65108 Bijan Robinson +2800
65134 Dillon Gabriel +2800
65131 Jaxson Dart +2800
65107 DJ Uiagalelei +3300
65139 Will Levis +3300
65132 Jordan Addison +4000
65130 Quinn Ewers +4000
65103 Spencer Rattler +4000

As you would expect, QBs lead the way, with nine seeing action in the Top 16.

Stroud is at the top of the list, and again you’d expect to see that given that the award often comes down to “best offensive statistics on a national title contending team” rather than the listed criteria of “most outstanding player.” Stroud should have a big year too, just as the Bucks will: OSU has an absolute joke of a schedule, playing their first five games at home. Four of the five competitive games are all at home too. And there are some defensive stinkers on here that are sure to be stat-padders — Arkansas State, Michigan State, Rutgers. Maryland, Indiana, and Toledo all come to mind. Even the marquee OOC game, Notre Dame, figures to see a reeling and rebuilding Irish team.

Last season, Stroud was 3rd in YPG, 3rd in completion percentage, 5th in yards, 2nd in YPA, 3rd in TDs, and 2nd in passer rating. As the season went along, and especially in meaningful conference games, he got better too. Stroud is set up to win this thing. His one deficiency is ball security: his INT rate is higher than some other contenders, and he threw one more than Bryce did — on over 100 fewer tosses.

And that brings me to his slot man, who very well may have to be WR1 this season, Jaxon Smith-Njigba. JSN did reel in 95 catches last season for 16.9 YPA with 9 touchdowns. But he was a feast-or-famine player. He only had double-digit catches in four of the Buckeyes 13 games, and all four of those were in the last month-plus. Fully one-third of his catches (30) and yards (587/1609) came against a bad Nebraska team and the Utes’ overmatched, three-star secondary. Those 9 touchdowns? One third came against Utah alone.

This is a sucker’s bet, particularly without the security blanket of Garrett Wilson and Chris Olave to draw off the best defenders: Jaxon will be seeing DB1 every week.

The USC ‘bots are out, expecting Caleb Williams to be anything other than what he is: a mobile QB and an erratic passer in a scheme that runs it up. But he’s just a 64.5% passer, with an interception rate double that of Bryce and Stroud. The PAC 12 may be crap, but it’s not much worse than the bottom of the B12, where Williams put up respectable but not overwhelming numbers.

Remember: Casuals bet on perceptions, not on realities. And the way ESPN is going to flog the Trojans so gratuitously this year that it will make the Flagellants wince. Still, it’s a bad bet. Stay away.

Speaking of perceptions, there is a lot to like about this Alabama team — including three Heisman leaders at the top. But that is the same double-edged sword that has afflicted Alabama in years past — as well as other talented teams, like the 2000s Trojans. It requires such a jawdropping, singularly-dominant season from one guy that it often splits votes. In 2020, Smitty had such a season that it even made voters ignore the fact that Mac Jones had an historic season on his own: He is the nation’s all-time single-season pass efficiency leader; led the nation in yards; YPA; TDs; INT rate; and efficiency. And that guy got buried.

Do you see such a season emerging from Bryce this year? Who knows, but the odds are against it, especially since Alabama has spent the offseason retooling its offense to work more underneath, be more physical, and lean more on a healthy cadre of backs. The odds are good that 75% of the RB corps won’t be injured this season, necessitating almost 600 passes; nor are the odds good that the run blocking will be as abysmal as 2021.

But nor does that mean that Alabama will abandon its pass-first offense, either. And despite Jahmyr Gibbs being the best ‘back on the roster, and the piece missing since Najee’s departure, it would be hard to figure on him getting a Derrick Henry-type workload. How good was Najee in 2020 versus how good the offensive guys getting awards are now? He had 1900 yards from scrimmage, led the nation with 30 scores, averaged 6.4 yards every time he looked at the ball — and was just a 2nd team All-American. He wasn’t even a Maxwell or Heisman finalist.

And if not even Saquon Barkley or Najee can win the Heisman, then odds are very slim Gibbs will either, and certainly not with ‘Bama’s passing game. This, too, is a sucker’s bet. (And for that reason, scratch Texas’s dynamic Bijan Robinson off the list).

Unfortunately, the ‘Bama player with the best chance to have a historical season, also has the worst odds to take home the trophy — for a reason. Not only is Will Anderson a defender, he comes into his own as a heavy Heisman favorite in a year when QB play looks to be markedly improved: Texas and USC both believe they have a step up in production; South Carolina did get one; Bryce will be more efficient, but you don’t see almost 6000 yards and a one-dimensional offense again; and so on down the line — everyone from Will Levis (KY) to Tyler Van Dyke (Miami) should be playing at a much higher level.

Last season was the one where Will should have taken home the trophy, in a season where the Buckeyes were struggling and offensive play was down across the country. Yet he didn’t even make the stage, despite being the clearly best player in America. In 2022, with improved offenses, if Will “just” improbably repeats last year’s historic season, expect the same shafting.

So, our bottom line here? The two at the top do look to be the best fit, with a huge caveat: What will Stroud look like without two senior NFL WRs on the roster? Can Jaxson alone carry the passing game? Can those other roster match Olave and Smith’s production? The schedule is there, but the talent on the outside needs to be shown. Unfortunately, against this schedule, we may not know until mid-October or so whether this OSU team is a fraud or not. And even if it is, should the Buckeyes run to the Playoffs with a B1G title and a 12-1 record or something, won’t that be enough?

It probably will, but I’d hold off until at least a week or two into the season to assess the WR depth.

So, for now, because I don’t trust the offensive line and I don’t trust Failson in the booth, I think Bryce may still have a great shot at a repeat, but I trust Ohio State’s unproven wideouts more than I trust Alabama’s question marks.

Poll

Who’s your Heisman favorite?

This poll is closed

  • 18%
    CJ Stroud
    (91 votes)
  • 32%
    Bryce Young
    (161 votes)
  • 41%
    Will Anderson
    (208 votes)
  • 0%
    Jaxon Smith-Njigba
    (4 votes)
  • 3%
    Jahmyr Gibbs
    (18 votes)
  • 3%
    Other, below
    (17 votes)
499 votes total Vote Now