On Oct. 25, a mere three weeks ago, Michigan quarterback J.J. McCarthy was the +260-co-favorite in the Heisman Trophy odds market. McCarthy was joined by Washington QB Michael Penix Jr. as the two leaders on the oddsboard.
That same day, news broke that the NCAA was looking into sign-stealing allegations against Michigan. Those allegations and subsequent actions have enveloped the Wolverines program and the Michigan QB’s Heisman odds.
His Heisman campaign is now a long-shot one, even with Michigan a perfect 10-0 and right in the thick of the College Football Playoff chase.
McCarthy’s Multifaceted Fall
On Nov. 1, McCarthy was still +300 in odds to win the Heisman Trophy. The modest step back could partly be attributed to Michigan having a bye over Halloween weekend. But a week later, even after throwing for 335 yards — but no TDs — in a 41-13 home rout of Purdue, McCarthy moved out to +800.
“An article came out from a Heisman voter, who said he was not going to vote for McCarthy because of this scandal,” Feazel said. “That certainly hurt McCarthy’s chances. That article spread like wildfire. McCarthy hasn’t gotten much attention from bettors the past couple of weeks.”
Then, this past weekend, Michigan finally played a worthy opponent, traveling to Penn State — a day after coach Jim Harbaugh was hit with a three-game suspension by the Big Ten. The Wolverines won 24-15 but hardly threw the ball at all, including zero passes in the second half.
So McCarthy had very un-Heisman-like stats in the biggest game thus far, completing 7-of-8 for 60 yards. Subsequently, he dropped from an in-contention +800 to a miles-away +7500 in Caesars’ Heisman odds market.
“The scandal definitely contributed, but it was more the performance on Saturday,” Feazel said. “You want to perform well in big games, which he did not. Michigan finally played somebody good, and he didn’t show up. There was a lot of running, which certainly worked out for Michigan.”
But it didn’t work out for McCarthy’s Heisman campaign.
Bo Knows Favorites
On the flip side of McCarthy, Oregon QB Bo Nix has seen his Heisman star rise over the last month. Following the Ducks’ 36-33 loss at Washington on Oct. 14 — which vaulted Huskies QB Michael Penix Jr. to the Heisman favorite — Nix fell from the +450 third choice to +2500.
Following a 63-18 home thumping of California, in which Nix threw for 386 yards, four touchdowns and ran for two more TDs, he became the +180 Heisman favorite at Caesars. Then, on Saturday, Nix fueled a 36-27 win over USC, throwing for 412 yards and four TDs.
Now, Nix is Caesars’ even-money favorite at +100. He’s thrown for 3,135 yards (sixth nationally) and has 29 TD passes, tied for second with 2022 Heisman winner Caleb Williams of USC.
“The past couple of weeks, Oregon hasn’t skipped a beat. That’s why Nix is leading the pack at this point,” Feazel said. “When he was at those longer odds, there was bigger interest, but he’s still getting tickets.”
Penix is the +350 co-second choice with Daniels — more on him in a moment — and the Pac-12 championship game looms large, presuming it’s a Washington-Oregon rematch.
“The wisdom of the crowd the last couple of weeks, what everybody believes, is that this Oregon team is better than Washington,” he said. “That’s why Oregon’s College Football Playoff and Pac-12 championship odds are shorter. Oregon would be -6 vs. Washington on a hypothetical spread.
“The Pac-12 championship game is lining up to be the deciding factor for the Heisman.”
Not to be overlooked is LSU’s Daniels, a human highlight machine. In the Tigers’ biggest game of the year, he showed up at Alabama in Week 10. Daniels had LSU very much in the game, up 28-21 in the fourth quarter. He went 15 of 24 for a seemingly modest 214 yards and two TDs, but he also ran 11 times for 163 yards and a TD.
However, Daniels left with a concussion in the fourth quarter, and Alabama scored the final 21 points to win 42-28.
That left LSU at 6-3, and it was thought to be the end of not only Daniels’ Heisman hopes but perhaps the end of his season. He’s a likely NFL first-round pick whose stock is on the rise. And with the Tigers out of the SEC/CFP races, there’s not much incentive to play.
But play he did. Emerging from concussion protocol to play just a few days later against Florida, Daniels put up a masterpiece: 17-of-26 passing for 372 yards and three TDs, and 12 rushes for a whopping 234 yards and two TDs in LSU’s 52-35 home victory. That’s 606 yards of production.
“He has a concussion. Alabama basically ended LSU’s season. The thought was that Jayden Daniels was gonna pack it in,” Feazel said. “He came out this weekend and put up Lamar Jackson-type numbers. He’s the current darling, and it’s well deserved. He’s certainly getting the attention of bettors this week.”
Those bettors probably wished they’d gotten on Daniels last week. After the Alabama loss, he dropped from a +300 serious contender to +3500. A $100 bet would have the potential for a $3,500 profit.
A week later, after the insanely great performance vs. Florida, Daniels vaulted back to +425, then shortened even more to +350. So that $100 bet would only net $350 now.
“With the Heisman Trophy, you usually have to be in playoff contention. But there are exceptions, like Lamar Jackson and Robert Griffin III,” Feazel said.
Daniels has thrown for 3,164 yards, third in the nation, and a nation-leading 30 TDs. On the ground, he’s run for 918 yards and eight TDs.
But there’s one big element beyond Daniels’ control: an appearance on conference championship weekend. He won’t get that one extra chance to make an impression on Heisman voters.
“Conference title weekend counts. Heisman voters will be watching, and he’ll be sitting on the sidelines watching,” Feazel said. “But you can certainly make a case for him.”
A Short Long Shot
“He’s the best non-QB of this college football year. But this is a much more talented QB year than last,” Feazel said. “Harrison has got an outside shot. His time to shine will be in the Michigan game. But he’s gonna need some help from the QBs not playing well.”
Feazel doesn’t foresee all three QBs failing to meet the moment in the coming weeks. But bettors, who were able to get Harrison – and, for that matter, Daniels – at attractive longer odds, certainly hope one of those two lifts the trophy next month.
“Out of the top four, Jayden Daniels and Marvin Harrison Jr. had the longest odds that were bet on,” Feazel said, noting Daniels and Harrison are liabilities in the Heisman market. “What we’re hoping for is that the Pac-12 title game decides it. Those two, Nix and Penix, are the best results for the book.”
Patrick Everson is a sports betting analyst for FOX Sports and senior reporter for VegasInsider.com. He is a distinguished journalist in the national sports betting space. He’s based in Las Vegas, where he enjoys golfing in 110-degree heat. Follow him on Twitter: @PatrickE_Vegas.