How Caleb Williams’ Heisman odds moved this season; surprising historical trends

With the regular season wrapped up and Bowl games upon us, its officially award season. This Saturday at 8 pm ET, the Heisman Trophy winner, the most prestigious award of them all, will be declared.

One thing is certain, the Heisman winner will be a quarterback.

The finalists to win the hardware are USC sophomore Caleb Williams, TCU senior Max Duggan, Georgia senior Stetson Bennett and Ohio State junior C.J. Stroud

Williams is the current heavy favorite to win, sitting at -2000 at FOX Bet.

But that wasn’t always the case, as the signal caller’s odds flip-flopped throughout the season. Considering that, along with the fact that finalists such as Duggan weren’t even given odds in Week 1 to win the award, FOX Sports Research decided to do a historical deep dive on the award from a betting perspective.

Let’s jump in.

Let’s start off with Williams, who opened the season at +1000 to win the award at FOX Bet, the third-shortest odds of any player entering Week 1. The only players with better odds to start the season were last year’s winner in Alabama quarterback Bryce Young (+375) and fellow 2022 Finalist C.J. Stroud (+200). 

Williams never got above +1000 until Weeks 9 and 10, when most sportsbooks, including FOX Bet, had him in the +1200 to +1400 range. In those weeks, USC scraped off single-digit wins against unranked opponents in Arizona and California. 

By the time the Pac-12  Championship Game rolled around, Williams became the heavy favorite to win the award, sitting at -2000 at most books. Despite the loss to Utah, his 363 pass yards and three touchdowns through the air cemented his spot, especially considering he was visibly injured in the game. 

Should he win the award as the oddsmakers predict, he’ll be the eighth USC player to win (including Reggie Bush’s vacated Heisman). Williams would also be the third Trojan quarterback to do so, joining Carson Palmer (2002) and Matt Leinart (2004).

Fun fact, since 2000, 18 of the 22 Heisman winners have been quarterbacks.

In that same span, only three running backs have won the award — Derrick Henry (2015), Mark Ingram (2009), and Reggie Bush (2005, vacated). Perhaps the most surprising winner since 2000 is DeVonta Smith in 2020 — the first wide receiver to win the award since Desmond Howard in 1991. Smith’s odds to win were +10000 prior to the season starting, before coming down all the way to +200 by the SEC championship game. Since 2000, an SEC player has won the award eight times, more than any conference in that span. How is that for SEC domination? 

We’d also be remiss not to mention the 2016 Heisman winner, Lamar Jackson, as he was a massive underdog to win entering the season. Like Smith, “Action Jackson” was tabbed at +10000 in the preseason before skyrocketing to a -5000 favorite by Week 12. He was just the third ACC player to win the award since 2000, joining Florida State quarterbacks Jameis Winston (2013) and Chris Weinke (2000). 

Speaking of Winston, he was one of four Heisman winners over the last 14 seasons who weren’t even on the board across most sportsbooks before Week 1! Since 2009, Winston (2013), Johnny Manziel (2012), Cam Newton  (2010) and Mark Ingram (2009) were not listed on the oddsboards prior to Week 1 at most books across the country. 

What’s even more surprising is that If you exclude these four, the average opening odds of the other nine Heisman winners since 2009 come out to a whopping +3836. For perspective on this trend, Duggan was not on most boards entering Week 1, and Bennett was +5000. 

In that same span, the only preseason favorite to win the award was Marcus Mariota in 2014, who opened the season at +425 and was -1500 by the Pac-12 Championship Game. Another interesting anomaly we want to mention is the 2012 Heisman ceremony, in which all three finalists were not listed on the oddsboard prior to Week 1. Texas A&M’s Manziel, Notre Dame’s Manti Te’o and Kansas State’s Collin Klein were not listed at most sportsbooks before the season started. Since 2009, of the 39 players who finished in the top three of the Heisman voting, the average preseason odds come out to +1797 (players with no odds were given a value of 0). 

With that being said, we hope this information helps you when next season rolls around, as the Heisman Trophy winner is often won by the least expected players. Are you ready to place some bets on Caleb Williams or maybe a dark horse? Head over to FOX Bet now for all your wagers before Saturday! 

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