NCAAF
April 30, 2020
BY Jay Sanin

2020 Heisman Trophy Odds

The Heisman Trophy is not just the most prestigious award in college football. It might be the most prestigious individual award in all of sports. With its iconic design and its ability to further boost the draft stock of any player talented enough to win it, the Heisman is a trophy that is worth the effort to obtain.

Last year, Joe Burrow shocked the world by putting together one of the greatest college football seasons ever on his way to winning the Heisman Trophy. Who are the contenders this year? There's, of course, Clemson's Trevor Lawrence and Ohio State's Justin Field, but don't count out newcomers like Georgia's Jamie Newman, Oklahoma's Spencer Rattler and Alabama's Mac Jones.

In 2020, these top Heisman Trophy contenders will have to bring their best performances throughout the season, in what is one of the more wide-open fields in recent memory. Without one clear national title favorite this season, the trophy could go to a player from any number of schools.

These are the nine college football players with the best Heisman Trophy odds in 2020. 

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Mac Jones: +2500

Alabama is not a school that has typically boasted the best quarterback play in the country. But Tua Tagovailoa did a lot to change that perception during his time in Tuscaloosa, and Mac Jones laid the groundwork to continue Alabama’s new quarterback tradition. Jones, filling in for the injured Tagovailoa last season, threw 14 touchdowns with just three interceptions.

It will be interesting to see if Jones can keep up a similar pace as a full-time quarterback going against some of the best teams in the SEC all season. But he'll have some serious talent surrounding him at Alabama — including Jaylen Waddle, Najee Harris and Devonta Smith.

If Jones can continue his strong play over the course of the 2020 campaign, the 'Bama quarterback could be a strong value play at 25/1 odds.

Ian Book: +2000

Notre Dame quarterback Ian Book took a huge step forward in the 2019 season, throwing 34 touchdown passes against just six interceptions for the Fighting Irish. Book threw for over 3,000 yards during an 11-win campaign last year, a win total that Notre Dame could improve on in 2020. 

Notre Dame’s schedule features games against Wisconsin, USC and Clemson. Wisconsin will be without star running back Jonathan Taylor. It remains to be seen whether USC can grow with quarterback Kedon Slovis under center. And, depending on how the early portion of the season goes, the Notre Dame-Clemson battle could be a Heisman Trophy elimination game between Book and Trevor Lawrence.

Travis Etienne: +1800

Heading into his senior season, Etienne has proven that he has a nose for the end zone. The Clemson running back has tallied over 20 total touchdowns in each of the last two seasons. In 2020, a statistical output similar to that of last year could put Etienne in New York as a Heisman finalist.

There are a couple of factors working against Etienne, in addition to the recent quarterback-heavy Heisman voting history. The first of those concerns is the fact that Clemson has another Heisman contender on their roster in Trevor Lawrence. Clemson’s offense is much more balanced than many of the teams with Heisman contenders on this list, which could work against both of the individual competitors from the school.

Clemson might just be too good to support two Heisman Trophy finalists. The Tigers are so good at blowing other teams out that they might sit Etienne (and Lawrence) for substantial parts of games. That'll hurt their statistical output. 

Chuba Hubbard: +1600

Oklahoma State running back Chuba Hubbard has averaged over eight yards per carry in each of his first two seasons at Oklahoma State. In fact, he was one of the most heavily used players in all of college football in 2019. Hubbard carried the ball 328 times last season, racking up over 2,000 yards on the ground and 21 rushing touchdowns. Working against Hubbard, though, is the recent history of the award.

Nine of the last 10 Heisman Trophy winners have been quarterbacks, as the voters for the award have heavily favored quarterback play over the performance of other positions. The one player in the last decade to win the Heisman was running back Derrick Henry in 2015, though, so it is at least possible that a running back could claim the award with a dominant enough season.

Jamie Newman: +1400

Newman will be the new starting quarterback for the University of Georgia, joining the Bulldogs after spending time as the signal-caller for the Wake Forest Demon Deacons. The massive upgrade in his supporting cast, combined with Newman’s considerable talents, has put him on the shortlist of Heisman hopefuls heading into the 2020 season.

Newman threw 26 touchdown passes and 11 interceptions last season at the leader of the Demon Deacons offense. With a better offense around him, Newman will hope to cut down on turnovers, after a season where he threw an interception in eight of his team’s 12 games.

Fortunately for Newman, there is plenty of history of transfers competing for the Heisman Trophy. Just last season, Joe Burrow and Jalen Hurts finished first and second, respectively, both of whom played for schools they did not start their careers with.

Sam Ehlinger: +1200

One of the more surprising names to see on the list of favorites for the 2020 Heisman Trophy is that of Texas quarterback Sam Ehlinger. His 32 touchdowns and 10 interceptions are nothing to be ashamed of, even if they are substantially behind players like Trevor Lawrence and Justin Fields, two Heisman favorites. 

The biggest concern for Ehlinger the number of losses that his Longhorns have racked up during his career. Ehlinger and the Longhorns have lost at least four games in each of his three seasons.

Like it or not, the Heisman Trophy is about two things: putting up big numbers and winning football games. Even if Ehlinger puts up bigger numbers than he has in the past, his team will need to win more games than they have in order to give him a chance to be a Heisman finalist.

Spencer Rattler: +1000

Oklahoma has been something of a hotbed for Heisman Trophy winners under head coach Lincoln Riley. The Sooners have been responsible for two out of the last three Heisman winners, with quarterbacks Kyler Murray and Baker Mayfield taking home the award in recent seasons. Rattler is looking to join Murray and Mayfield and make it three out of four years with a Sooner quarterback taking the award.

There are distinct pros and cons to backing a player like Rattler to come out on top of the Heisman race. On the plus side, Rattler is certainly going to have the opportunity to put up big numbers in Lincoln Riley’s offense in a Big 12 where defense feels optional most of the time. However, Rattler is inexperienced at this level, having only attempted 11 passes while sitting behind Jalen Hurts last year.

As much as Rattler’s performance will determine his Heisman chances, the Oklahoma defense might play a significant role as well. If the Sooners can avoid giving up huge point totals in a loss at some point during the season, Rattler might be able to claim the award simply by being the quarterback of an undefeated team. Only time will tell if Rattler can live up to the hype and lead Oklahoma to a perfect season to earn the award, though.

Trevor Lawrence: +475

Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence had an interesting 2019 season. On one hand, he helped his Tigers reach the National Championship Game, where they lost to the LSU Tigers. On the other hand, his season was viewed as underwhelming, despite Lawrence tossing 36 touchdowns and eight interceptions over the course of the campaign.

The turnover numbers have to get better from Lawrence this season, there is no doubt about that. But the real issue for Lawrence may be the strength of schedule that he faces over the course of the season in the ACC.

Clemson does have Notre Dame on its schedule in 2020, but the Tigers might not face another ranked team this season depending on how the season plays out. That conference schedule could hurt Lawrence, who will need to play near-flawless football to make up for any scheduling shortcomings.

Justin Fields: +400

Ohio State quarterback Justin Fields made the most of his first season as the signal-caller for the Buckeyes, throwing an eye-popping 41 touchdowns to just three interceptions. With a year of experience under his belt, Fields is looking to put up similar numbers in 2020 to improve on his third-place finish in last year’s Heisman voting.

Fields finds himself as the early favorite to win the Heisman, thanks in large part to the fact that he is simply still in school. Of the top six finishers in last season’s Heisman voting, Fields is the only one still in college, with the other five finding new homes in the NFL Draft.

If Fields can replicate last season’s numbers, he could run away with the Heisman.

Photo: Getty Images