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An early look at 2020 Heisman betting odds

Live sporting events are starting to feel like a distant memory, but we will continue to take advantage of the lull by providing closer examinations of the future betting markets. The NFL anticipates a full 2020 season starting on time. With the NCAA likely to follow suit, we have turned our focus to the current 2020 Heisman odds that appear to be a two-horse race. But with recency bias always on the mind, we try to frame the context of past Heisman winners before highlighting good bets for the 2020 season.

Heisman Historicals

The last 20 Heisman winners have all played on the offensive side of the football. In fact, we haven’t seen a primarily defensive Heisman winner since Charles Woodson in 1997. As such, we can effectively eliminate defensive players from this discussion. Three running backs have won the Heisman in the past 20 years, with the rest of the winners representing the quarterback position. With the direction college football is heading, I would wager that we see a wide receiver win the Heisman before another running back does, but neither position offers any value despite impressive talent and odd pricing in 2020. 

Joe Burrow’s dramatic ascent to win the Heisman Trophy has recency bias highlighting under-the-radar prospects at longer odds to win the award. Taking a closer look at preseason odds for the Heisman shows how far off market makers have been at predicting the trophy's eventual winner. Only once in the past 10 years has a player listed with the lowest or second-lowest odds heading into the season won the Heisman. That player was Marcus Mariota in 2014. Outside of 2014 and Jameis Winston’s award-winning year prior, all eventual winners have gone into the season at greater than 10:1 odds to win the Heisman. This means that going mining for some potential value at longer odds could pay dividends come award season. 


Despite saying that value could easily exist outside of the front-runners for the Heisman, this is based on historical data points that have no bearing on this year's award. It does not take into account just how special both Justin Fields and Trevor Lawrence have been leading up to this point. They are 1A and 1B in our college to pro projections and could easily leap over the best quarterback prospects we have seen during the PFF era.

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