Alabama quarterback Bryce Young enters the 2022 college football season with a chance to become the second two-time Heisman Trophy winner in history. Only Ohio State running back Archie Griffin was able to accomplish the feat when he won back-to-back Heisman’s in 1974 and 1975. However, the competition for college football’s most coveted award appears to be more stout than ever. Two of the top five finishers from last year’s Heisman voting — Ohio State quarterback C.J. Stroud and Alabama linebacker Will Anderson Jr. — have returned to school, and USC QB Caleb Williams and Texas RB Bijan Robinson are also in the mix.
Our betting experts answer some of the most pressing questions surrounding this year’s Heisman race and where you can find the best value ahead of the season.
College Football futures week schedule
Monday: Heisman trophy race
Tuesday: Win Totals
Wednesday: Conference title races
Thursday: Week 0/1 tips
Friday: National title odds
C.J. Stroud (+200) and Bryce Young (+350) are the current odds-on favorites to win the Heisman in 2022. Is there any betting value on either quarterback?
David Hale, ESPN College Football Writer: It’s not that I’m not high on Young, but the return-on-investment simply isn’t there for a couple of reasons. For one, we don’t see repeat winners. As Jameis Winston or Lamar Jackson showed in past seasons, it’s often hard to match the high expectations the following year. However, the bigger issue for Young is Alabama’s receiving corps. Are we sure there are enough difference makers on the Crimson Tide’s offense? When Jameson Williams and John Metchie III were on the field last year, the Tide averaged 8.7 yards-per-dropback. When one or both were missing, that number dropped to 6.4. And this is just the second time in the Nick Saban era that Alabama hasn’t returned a wide receiver with at least 250 receiving yards for the Tide the previous year.
Doug Kezirian, ESPN Betting Analyst: There is absolutely no value. Even if one of these quarterbacks sees their moneyline decrease throughout the season and the current odds are the apex, then any remorse would solely stem from hindsight. When you factor in the combined probability of winning each game or (surviving with just one loss) and outlasting other candidates and avoiding injury, these current payouts are far too low.
“Stanford Steve” Coughlin, ESPN Betting Analyst: I think the expectations for both of these guys are starting to get a little unrealistic. Do people expect Bryce Young to be that much better? Plus, a repeat Heisman winner has never happened in my lifetime and only once in the history of the sport, so I do not see any value. Everything I have read this off-season about Ohio State and Ryan Day is that he wants his offense to have more balance. That means more touches for superstar running back, TreVeyon Henderson. So, both of these front runners are no plays for me.
Bill Connelly, ESPN Football Insider: I agree. Voters seem to raise the bar for defending champs, to the point where no one has cleared it since Archie Griffin in the 1970s. With Stroud getting Jaxon Smith-Njigba back, you have to figure he’s more likely to one-up last year’s stats. Stroud should be the favorite, but +200 isn’t particularly valuable either considering that, between Smith-Njigba and TreVeyon Henderson, Stroud could suffer from a “teammates steal his votes” situation.
Erin Dolan, ESPN Betting Analyst: Depends on how you interpret “value,” but I am not running to the window. What’s interesting here is that Bryce Young opened as the favorite at +250, followed by CJ Stroud at +350. But these two have flipped. Stroud is the current favorite at +200. The two reasons why: Young won the award last season, and it is extremely hard to repeat. Stroud is the most popular wager by tickets (10.5%) and dollars (13.8%) so far at Caesars Sportsbook. Meanwhile, Young is sixth in tickets and 12th in handle. And get this… Young is actually third in handle on his own team behind linebacker Will Anderson Jr and running back Jahmyr Gibbs.
QB Caleb Williams followed Lincoln Riley to USC. Williams made a splash last year and was at one point the Heisman favorite. What do you think of his outlook as a Trojan and the +900 price?
Connelly: I feel like Williams has been overhyped to a degree considering he suddenly started looking very much like a freshman late last season. His first four games as a primary contributor he had a 73% completion rate, 15.1 yards per completion, 1.0% INT rate and a 211.7 QB rating. In his last four games he had a 57% completion rate, 12.5 yards per completion, 2.9% INT rate and a 133.2 QB rating. There’s no question that he’s going to have a fantastic receiving corps out west, plus all the visibility in the world and fewer great defenses to face. Anything less than +900, and I would start to get worried, but I think that’s decent value.
Kezirian: I understand the appeal of +900 at first glance but ultimately it’s not enough return. For example, Young had those odds entering last season and Alabama had a legitimate chance to go undefeated — in addition to not having two distinct favorites like Stroud and Young are this year. So that’s the issue with Williams at +900. While I expect Riley to help USC improve this coming year, I do not think the Trojans are a national title contender. There will be some growing pains and if Riley does somehow work his magic, I do not think +900 is a fair number when you still have to overcome Stroud, Young and all the other variables.
Coughlin: I think Williams will put up more than impressive numbers, but the Trojans will have multiple losses on their schedule. That will probably be held against Williams (which I completely disagree with) and will hurt his chances for winning the Heisman trophy.
Recently, we’ve had seasons where the Heisman winner was a longshot in the summer. Anyone on the board fit that description?
Hale: If you can’t get good value on Young, why not invest in his new teammate, running back Jahmyr Gibbs? Sure, the Heisman tends to go to a QB, but that’s not true for Alabama players. The Tide have four of the last 13 Heisman winners and Young was the only QB. DeVonta Smith (2021), Derrick Henry (2015) and Mark Ingram (2009) represent 75% of the non-QBs to win the award since 2000. Gibbs will be the featured back in an offense without an established star at receiver. He’s also a threat out of the backfield and in the return game (he was third nationally in all-purpose yards per game last year). Add it all up — a versatile star on a great team likely to get a ton of touches with a potentially intriguing backstory — and you get a genuine recipe for a Heisman trophy winner.
Connelly: The surest way of figuring out a realistic set of Heisman candidates is to simply ask, “Who are the starting QBs of the highest-ranked teams?” Stroud and Young are obviously accounted for that way, as is Williams (though USC’s defense will probably be too shaky for the Trojans to actually contend). If you are looking for genuine longshots, what about Stetson Bennett at +12500 or so? I wouldn’t put him on the top favorites list, but he did finish third in Total QBR (ahead of a QB not named Stroud or Young) and won the national title. Utah is a potential top-10 team, and Cameron Rising (+8000) was sixth in Total QBR last year. It’s crazy to me that Will Anderson Jr. was far and away the best player in college football last year, and probably will be again in 2022, and he wasn’t even the highest vote-getter among defenders.
Kezirian: Two names pop out to me. One is a legitimate bet I have made and the other is a concept I want to convey that should generate some thought. Will Anderson Jr. is definitely worth a play at 40-1. He’s highly regarded as the nation’s best football player, and the voters have demonstrated an ability to break from the norm when DeVonta Smith won the award in 2021. Second, Texas quarterback Quinn Ewers intrigues me at 40-1 but ultimately I would not go for it. While he is playing for Steve Sarkisian on a blue blood program, he hasn’t won the starting gig yet, and Texas is not going to contend for the title. Keep in mind the Longhorns lost to Kansas last year. The Heisman has gone to some quarterbacks of teams that finished with multiple losses, but that requires several stars to be aligned.
Chris “The Bear” Fallica, ESPN Betting Analyst: Will Anderson Jr. is on everyone’s radar after a terrific 2021 season, and that gives him a huge start heading into 2022. There may be voters who are hesitant to give the Heisman to Young two years in a row, regardless of how he plays. Ohio State also has has three potential candidates who may split the vote. Aiden Hutchinson finished 2nd in the Heisman voting last year as a defender, and given the things Anderson has going for him he would be my play right now at 40-1.
Coughlin: I think Dillon Gabriel is worth a look. He reunited Jeff Lebby at Oklahoma, who was his offensive coordinator during his freshman season at UCF. In that year, Gabriel threw for over 3600 yards and 29 TDs. I think a more mature Gabriel will put up monster numbers with Lebby calling the shots in Norman.