How do we know the college football season is almost here?
Well, not all that long ago, it would have been because the best of the preview magazines were hitting the stands -- Athlon, Lindy's, Street & Smith's. When you saw the cover with the best player of whichever the hottest team in your region was, you knew that it was almost time. (This still applies today, but magazines have slid to the back burner.)
Certainly, in 2014, we know the season is almost here when a new network-that-owes-its-existence-to-college-football launches. A few years ago, it was the Big Ten Network. A couple years after that, it was the Longhorn Network. The Pac-12 Network closely followed LHN, and finally, just a few days ago, the most highly anticipated of all of them -- the SEC Network -- launched as an adjunct to ESPN's family of networks.
Me, I prefer to see the proliferation of prop bets on the board in Vegas as the sign that college football is almost here.
To that end, bovada.lv has announced the big board for the 2014 Heisman Trophy.
Here are the top 30 candidates for this year's trophy given to the "most outstanding player" in college football:
Jameis Winston (QB Florida State) 5/1 Marcus Mariota (QB Oregon) 11/2 Braxton Miller (QB Ohio State) 15/2 Bryce Petty (QB Baylor) 12/1 Brett Hundley (QB UCLA) 14/1 Todd Gurley (RB Georgia) 14/1 Melvin Gordon (RB Wisconsin) 16/1 Nick Marshall (QB Auburn) 16/1 Trevor Knight (QB Oklahoma) 18/1 Everett Golson (QB Notre Dame) 20/1 T.J. Yeldon (RB Alabama) 20/1 Derrick Henry (RB Alabama) 25/1 Mike Davis (RB South Carolina) 28/1 Ameer Abdullah (RB Nebraska) 33/1 Duke Johnson (RB Miami) 33/1 Karlos Williams (RB Florida State) 33/1 Leonard Fournette (RB LSU) 33/1 Connor Cook (QB Michigan State) 40/1 Myles Jack (LB UCLA) 40/1 Sean Mannion (QB Oregon State) 40/1 Dak Prescott (QB Mississippi State) 50/1 Jacob Coker (QB Alabama) 50/1 Christian Hackenberg (QB Penn State) 66/1 Cody Kessler (QB USC) 66/1 Javorius Allen (RB USC) 66/1 Thomas Tyner (RB Oregon) 66/1 Rakeem Cato (QB Marshall) 75/1 Kyle Allen (QB Texas A&M) 100/1 Matt Johnson (QB Bowling Green) 100/1 Taylor Kelly (QB Arizona State) 100/1
Observations on this list (and hopefully some helpful tips that will allow you to make an educated selection):
1. Let's get this out of the way -- Braxton Miller is likely to be moved off the list, sadly. Shoulder injury, might be done. Moving on...
2. Unless you're a quarterback, running back, or Myles Jack, the oddsmakers see no need for you to make any travel plans to New York City during the second week of December. The list is entirely comprised of those three categories. Jack is the only non-QB/non-RB on the list, and even he is on the list in part because he is able to play both ways (known mostly for his linebacker skills, though).
2a. By the way, the actual tally -- 18 quarterbacks, 11 running backs, 1 Myles Jack.
3. Not only does it pay to be a quarterback, but you almost have to be a quarterback for a good team. Yes, eye popping stats matter, but for purposes of the Heisman, your team needs to be prominent in the rankings in order to get in the door. Team performance is the cover charge to be allowed into the Heisman conversation, from there individual performance decides what part of the club you get to hang out in. (For purposes of this analogy, being a finalist is the VIP level, and the winner is the champagne room. When Johnny Manziel won it, this may have been more literal than metaphor.)
4. Starting with the 2013 winner (and 2014 favorite), quarterback Jameis Winston of top ranked Florida State, the starting quarterback for the top eight teams in the AP poll are all on the board.
5. If you're looking for a flyer, stay away from Kyle Allen at 100/1 for Texas A&M. Kenny Hill was announced as the starter over the weekend. You kind of need to start if you're going to have a chance to win the Heisman.
6. Ok, here's the biggest thing you need to know -- if recent history is any indicator, the 2014 Heisman Trophy winner is not on the list above. As crazy as it may feel to think that you could have been handed the top 30 candidates heading into most of the last five seasons and still lost your bet, that is indeed the case.
Check out the last five winners:
2009 - Mark Ingram, RB Alabama 2010 - Cam Newton, QB Auburn 2011 - Robert Griffin III, QB Baylor 2012 - Johnny Manziel, QB Texas A&M 2013 - Jameis Winston, QB Florida State
Of the names listed above, the only one on the betting board the beginning of his respective Heisman winning season was Griffin, and he was around 20/1, far from a favorite.
So if we are looking for a potential winner this season that isn't on the board, but whose name you can drop into a conversation with your college football watching friends in the next week or so as your "sleeper" to win the Heisman, and maybe look really smart at the end of the season, here are three names:
Bo Wallace, QB Ole Miss Care to take a guess who was second in total offense behind Johnny Manziel in the SEC last season? I'll save you the effort. It's Wallace, who finished with 3,701 total yards of offense. Now with a young, talented team who is starting the season in the Top 25, Wallace will have ample opportunity in the SEC West to build equity with voters, in particular a five game stretch during October (ending November 1) that goes vs Alabama, at A&M, vs Tennessee, at LSU, and vs Auburn.
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Maty Mauk, QB Missouri As long as we are on SEC quarterbacks for fringe Top 25 teams, let's talk Missouri. Let's talk Maty Mauk. Mauk got significant playing time last season for a Missouri team that went to the SEC Title Game. This year, he has the keys to the offense full time, an offense that under Gary Pinkel has allowed for gaudy stats from the likes of Chase Daniel, Blaine Gabbert, and James Franklin.
Cole Stoudt, QB Clemson If you're looking for a non-SEC quarterback sleeper, Stoudt is a decent name to back. He's taking over for longtime starter Tajh Boyd in what should still be a pretty prolific offense despite the loss of Sammy Watkins at wide receiver. Stoudt's candidacy can get a huge jumpstart early with road games at Georgia and at Florida State in the first three weeks of the season.
7. Favorite play on the board: Bryce Petty (QB Baylor) at 12/1. He will put up monster numbers and has just enough juice on his schedule to get respect without having a wicked gauntlet he needs to run in order to stay in the race.