Sean Pendergast

2018 Heisman Odds: UH's Ed Oliver Is The Lone Star In Texas

The 2018 Ed Oliver Heisman campaign begins right now.
The 2018 Ed Oliver Heisman campaign begins right now. Photo by Jack Gorman
To say that, long term, the condition of college football in the state of Texas is at a crisis level would probably be overstating things. After all, the two linchpin programs in the state, Texas and Texas A&M, in the last 14 months have hired Tom Herman and Jimbo Fisher as their head coaches, so ultimately, things will probably be OK. However, in the near term, 2018 specifically, Texas — the state and the school — have some work to do, at least from a perception standpoint.

Here's how 2017 went for the state of Texas — TCU was the best program in the state, and they went to the Alamo Bowl, which is played a few days before New Year's. Texas Tech gained bowl eligibility in the final week of the season, Texas finished over .500 (barely) for the first time in four years, Texas A&M fired Kevin Sumlin, and Baylor bottomed out at 1-11. The University of Houston, while not a Power Five school, is still a relevant touchpoint when discussing college football in Texas, but they finished 7-5 and lost their bowl game to Fresno State.

Indeed, the head coaches at these Texas schools are probably a bigger cause for optimism than the actual players right now, and this is backed up by the first set of Heisman odds for next season. The Heisman Trophy is an interesting barometer, because it is an award that is largely based on actual individual performance, but it also has team performance and cultural relevance elements baked into it.

To that end, there is just ONE player from the state of Texas in Bovada's first set of Heisman odds for next season (a group of 23 players total), and it's Houston defensive tackle Ed Oliver, who is an absolute tour de force of a player, but he (a) plays for a non-Power Five school and (b) plays a position to which they just don't give the Heisman Trophy, interior defensive lineman. (Read: Oliver has NO chance to win the Heisman Trophy.)

We will take a look at the entire 2018 board in a second, but if you're wondering just how relevant odds in January can be for an award given out in eleven months, know that here was the top of last year's opening preseason odds board for the Heisman:

Baker Mayfield (QB Oklahoma) 11/2
JT Barrett (QB Ohio State) 6/1
Lamar Jackson (QB Louisville) 7/1
Sam Darnold (QB USC) 9/1
Saquon Barkley (RB Penn State) 10/1

If you're keeping track, the leader actually won the trophy, and the third place finisher was the third player on the board. Uncanny. Oddly enough, the only 2017 Heisman finalist that wasn't on the radar at the beginning of 2017 is the favorite to win it in 2018, and that would be 2017 runner-up Bryce Love, with comments along the way.

So let's take a look at this season's board...

Odds to Win the 2018 Heisman Trophy
Bryce Love (RB Stanford) 7/1
A lot of folks criticized Love for returning to school for another season, but he's a Stanford kid, so he is probably wired a bit differently. He's a human biology major, so there are probably bigger things awaiting him than worrying about 300 more carries on his tread before the NFL. I, for one, am glad he is back. Also, if he is a finalist again, that would give Stanford a finalist for the sixth time since 2009.

Johnathan Taylor (RB Wisconsin) 8/1
Great true freshman last season, who is almost assured to put up huge numbers on a really good team. I'll put him down for 2019, when it would be the 20th anniversary of Wisconsin's Ron Dayne taking home the hardware.

Khalil Tate (QB Arizona) 9/1
Tate wasn't even the starter for Arizona heading into last season, but burst on the scene with some monster games in the middle of the season. Now, with head coach Rich Rodriguez out, and Kevin Sumlin in, Tate will get to run the same offense that got Johnny Manziel the award in 2012. Also, Kevin Sumlin has now inherited Case Keenum, Manziel, and Tate at his three head coaching stops.

Tua Tagovailoa (QB Alabama) 10/1
The hero of the national title game, and probably the best passer that Nick Saban has coached at the collegiate level. Crazy to think what one bad half of Jalen Hurts football has done for this kid's profile.

J.K. Dobbins (RB Ohio State) 12/1
I don't have a strong feeling on Dobbins, other than he will probably put up some big numbers.

Jake Fromm (QB Georgia) 12/1
Jarrett Stidham (QB Auburn) 12/1
Will Grier (QB West Virginia) 12/1
Justin Herbert (QB Oregon) 15/1
Kelly Bryant (QB Clemson) 15/1
McKenzie Milton (QB UCF) 18/1
Trace McSorley (QB Penn State) 18/1
A gaggle of quarterbacks from 12/1 through 18/1. If you're looking for one to back out of this group, just keep in mind that Stidham beat both Alabama and Georgia last season, and has them both on the schedule in November again in 2018, so he will have the best chance to make emphatic closing arguments. Also, Auburn has a season opener against Washington in Atlanta. 2018 has no shortage of statement games for Stidham, and he's proven capable in those moments.

Cam Akers (RB Florida State) 22/1
Jake Browning (QB Washington) 22/1
Rodney Anderson (RB Oklahoma) 25/1
Ryan Finley (QB NC State) 25/1
In the "Odds between 20/1 and 30/1" category, the most intriguing one is Anderson, whose stats once he became the featured back for the final eight games of the season were Heisman worthy — 166 carries, 1,079 yards, 11 rushing touchdowns, 5 receiving touchdowns.

Brandon Winbush (QB Notre Dame) 35/1
Winbush might not even be the starter for Notre Dame next season. You've been warned.

D'Andre Swift (RB Georgia) 35/1
Nick Fitzgerald (QB Mississippi State) 35/1
Travis Etienne (RB Clemson) 35/1
David Sills (WR West Virginia) 45/1
Of this group, the most interesting story is Sills, who was widely known as the eighth grader who verbally committed to USC to play quarterback, wound up at West Virginia after Lane Kiffin was fired, and eventually, after leaving and coming back to Morgantown, was switched to wide receiver, where he has become an All American.

Ed Oliver (DL Houston) 55/1
While he's down here at 55 to 1, Oliver may be the best NFL prospect on this entire list. He's been a consensus All American from about the time he set foot on campus, and has piled up 39.5 tackles for loss in just 25 games, and has averaged over six tackles per game while basically playing nose tackle full time. HIs combination of power and quickness is scary, and so long as J.J. Watt is rehabbing an injury, and so long as we are calling Jadeveon Clowney an outside linebacker, Oliver is the best defensive lineman in the city of Houston, college or pro.

Nick Bosa (DL Ohio State) 75/1
Oh, and Nick Bosa is 75 to 1.

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Sean Pendergast is a contributing freelance writer who covers Houston area sports daily in the News section, with periodic columns and features, as well. He also hosts afternoon drive on SportsRadio 610, as well as the post game show for the Houston Texans.
Contact: Sean Pendergast