Heisman Trophy Odds and Expert Picks for 2023

Heisman Trophy Odds and Expert Picks for 2023

This article is part of our College Football Picks series.

Heisman Watch: Handicapping the 2023 Heisman Trophy Race

The betting markets for this year's Heisman Trophy race have already started to take shape and RotoWire's staff of expert college football bettors are ready to break down the early odds.

Last year at this time, C.J. Stroud (+275) and Bryce Young (+400) were the odds-on favorites while eventual winner Caleb Williams sat at +800. There were some trendy longshots as well that ultimately did not pan out, such as Will Anderson and Jaxon Smith-Njigba. Hendon Hooker made a tremendous run and was near the top of the odds in-season after being listed at +6000 over the summer, but a loss to South Carolina and a torn ACL ended his candidacy.

This year's market is understandably quarterback-heavy for now with no obvious skill-position players or defenders carrying that level of national cachet, though things are sure to change during the season. Here's what our writers have to say about this year's race as of spring 2023.

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2023 Heisman Odds

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College Football Expert Picks: 2023 Heisman

Greg Vara's Heisman Breakdown

It's again that time of year, no, it's not time for football unfortunately, but it's time to look forward to next season and what better way to start than to look at the Heisman hopefuls for 2023? 

Before we look ahead though, let's take a quick look back to see if there's a pattern to any of this. The previous five winners of the Heisman trophy:

  • 2021 - Bryce Young
  • 2020 - DeVonta Smith
  • 2019 - Joe Burrow
  • 2018 - Kyler Murray
  • 2017 - Baker Mayfield

What do all of these players have in common? Well, for starters, they were all on good teams, with a highly productive offense. Note that I didn't mention a highly productive defense, which means that you don't necessarily need to be on the best team in the country, but you have to be on a winning team for certain.

It also doesn't hurt to be on a highly visible team. Notice that all five players above played on either Alabama, Oklahoma or LSU. 

So we know two things now, let's take a look at the list of Heisman candidates this season and see if anyone meets the criteria:

Okay, so the top-5 are all QBs, which is no surprise. Only two of the past 12 winners were non-QBs, which means it's possible a non-QB wins, but not likely.

Let's take a quick look at each of the candidates:

Caleb Williams, USC

The clear front-runner not only because of his dynamic game, but because he plays for USC which should be better this season and in the hunt for a spot in the playoff. There's no reason to think that Williams will regress this year, but the big question is how good will the Trojans be? Williams was able to win this award in 2022 with a good, not great USC team, but it will be tough to repeat if the Trojans don't improve. Williams will put up the numbers, but the voters aren't going to vote for him if the status quo doesn't change. He needs to be better this season to win and that's a tough ask. 

Drake Maye, UNC

Maye needs more wins, that's it. The numbers should be there, but unless his team is a lot better this season, the hype will fade. Maye is also the darling of the NFL scouts and a lot of times it feels like voters shy away from that guy for whatever reason (notice how many winners of this award have failed at the NFL level, this is a college award, not an award to project the best NFL player). 

Michael Penix Jr., Washington 

He's a good QB and he's going to put up big numbers this season, but he's just not playing in the right spot. Penix Jr. would have to put up some crazy numbers to even get into the conversation, and the Huskies would need to get off to a perfect start for the buzz to get going. 

Bo Nix, Oregon 

Nix had a nice comeback season this past year and he did enough to erase his failures at Auburn. He's now known as the starting QB at Oregon and he can start to build upon what he did this past season. Nix plays in the same conference as Penix Jr., but Oregon seems to draw much more national attention than the Huskies.

Jordan Travis, Florida State 

This is an interesting one. Travis is the dual-threat QB like Williams, but his numbers haven't been quite as good. Travis plays for a highly visible school, so that's not an issue. He's also a fresh name, unlike Williams, so he won't have to worry about battling the ghost of this past season. The biggest problem for Travis is his team. FSU is currently anywhere from 20-1 to 25-1 to win the championship, definitely outside the "serious threat" range. However, it's notable that FSU plays LSU in its opener and Clemson a few weeks later, if the 'Noles win both of those games largely due to Travis, he's going to be a frontrunner heading into the 2nd half of the season.

So who is the pick? When considering value and likelihood of winning, I'm leaning toward Bo Nix. The Ducks have an easy start to the season, which will allow Nix to put up huge numbers before matchups against UW and USC. If Nix can outplay Penix Jr. and Williams and win those games, he'll be the frontrunner at that point. 

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Ryan Wollersheim's Heisman Breakdown

The list of players with a realistic opportunity to take home the Heisman seems to grow shorter and shorter with each passing year. There's always the dark horse candidate that no one saw coming heading into the season, but the ultimate winner almost always tends to be an extremely productive quarterback who plays in one of the nation's best offenses. It also significantly helps to play for a team that is still in the College Football Playoff picture during conference championship weekend. Therefore, I'll highlight three signal-callers who fit this archetype outside of preseason favorites Caleb Williams (+500) and Drake Maye (+1200). 

Jordan Travis, QB, Florida State (+1,200)

Travis made one of the bigger jumps of any Power 5 quarterback last season. The second-year starter went from trying to keep a faltering 5-7 Seminoles squad afloat in 2021 to piloting a 10-3 campaign in 2022, as he completed 64 percent of his passes for 3,214 yards and a 24:5 TD:INT ratio to go along with 417 yards and seven touchdowns on the ground. Travis also managed to accumulate these numbers without much consistent support at the receiver positions. That should change after the Seminoles hit some home runs in the transfer portal at tight end, including highly-coveted playmaker Kyle Morlock from Division II Shorter University as well as do-it-all tight end Jaheim Bell, the latter of whom lined up at both tight end and running back for South Carolina last year. 

Games against LSU and Clemson in the first four weeks of the season will be make-or-break showcases for Travis. That said, if he can lead one of college football's most prominent programs back into playoff and conference relevance, it would vault Travis to the forefront of the national conversation. 

Drew Allar, QB, Penn State (+2,500)

Allar is in place to take over under center for the Nittany Lions following the graduation of longtime quarterback Sean Clifford. The sophomore quarterback will benefit from stepping into an offense already loaded with returning offensive playmakers. This includes a pair of up-and-coming stars at running back in Nicholas Singleton and Kaytron Allen as well as a solid core of returning pass catchers. This latter group should only be heightened by the addition of notable Kent State transfer Dante Cephas. Penn State fans have been waiting to see Allar take this offense to the next level since the moment he was named Ohio Mr. Football in 2021. The 6-foot-5, 238-pounder certainly has the physical profile and athleticism to back up these hopes, as he tallied 4,850 total yards and 57 total touchdowns during his senior campaign at Medina High School. Ohio State is also transitioning to a new, unproven quarterback and Michigan is scheduled to play at Happy Valley next season. This could lay the foundation for Penn State's most feasible path to the Big Ten title since 2016, which would also provide Allar with the platform needed to capture the national spotlight. 

Dante Moore, QB, UCLA (+15000)

Moore's odds are pretty extreme even by longshot standards, but, if enough falls into the place for the true freshman, he could very well be the party crasher of this year's final four in New York. Moore achieved legendary status as a four-year starter for Detroit powerhouse Martin Luther High School, setting school records for passing yards (3,050) and passing touchdowns (40) in 2021. On top of two Michigan state titles, he was also named the MVP of the 2023 All-American Bowl. As a result, the 6-foot-3 pocket passer is expected to be the most college-ready prospect in this incoming recruiting class. 

Bruins head coach Chip Kelly once again engineered a top-10 offense in terms of scoring and total yards in 2022, and there's expected to be an open competition for UCLA's starting quarterback spot this spring after the departure of Dorian Thompson-Robinson. Moore's early-enrollee status will give him the chance to go toe-to-toe with Kent State transfer Collin Schlee for this job. It will be worth monitoring this position battle when considering the Heisman hopefuls in the PAC-12 not named Michael Penix (1,300), Bo Nix (+1,600) or last season's winner Caleb Williams

Chris Bennett's Heisman Breakdown

Returning Heisman Trophy winner Caleb Williams (+500) opens as the betting favorite to again hoist the trophy in mid-December, but only Ohio State RB Archie Griffin has won the award multiple times in their career. While the favorite, the odds here aren't a slam dunk, making a bet on Williams likely still worth the wait. Given the explosive nature of the Trojans' attack, and their lack of defense, Williams feels like a very safe option to at least be a finalist again. He certainly gets my endorsement. 

The award has been handed out 86 times previously, with quarterbacks winning it 39 times. If we go back into historic times and include halfbacks, fullbacks and more modern running backs, a ball carrier has won 46 times. So we're really only considering two positions for this. Ohio State's Marvin Harrison (+5000) has the lowest odds from any other position. And with quarterback battles looming at Georgia, Alabama and Ohio State, it's difficult to simply fall back on recently standard options, though once those competitions are won, there will certainly be choices.

I expect new Notre Dame QB Sam Hartman (+1500) and Florida State's Jordan Travis (+1000) to be trendy, so lets be different and see where we could find some sneaky choices. I don't want to have too much overlap from our National Championship options, but if you find any validity to those picks, Jayden Daniels (+2000), Cade Klubnik (+3000) and Tanner Mordecai (+10000) should be on the radar.

Michael Penix, QB, Washington (+1200)

Penix threw for more yards than Williams last season, it was just the rushing disparity that set them apart. He'll return his top two receivers in Rome Odunze and Jalen McMillan, so there's minimal reason to expect regression. Further, the Huskies will host both Utah and Oregon, giving Penix the chance at some big numbers in upset spots. I expect plenty of points to be scored on west during the season, putting Penix in multiple shootout opportunities. Penix finished eighth in voting last year, so he's clearly already on voting radars.

Joe Milton, QB, Tennessee (+1800)

Hendon Hooker finished fifth in voting last season despite missing one game due to injury. There are plenty of warts to Milton; his accuracy isn't superb and he's shown willing to take unnecessary risks that could lead to a hook in favor of NIL champion Nico Iamaleava should Milton get less than desirable results early. But Milton has the strongest arm in the nation, and talented receivers in Bru McCoy and Squirrel White, the latter of which has as much speed as Milton has distance in his arm. The system is certainly in place for Milton to put up massive numbers, and the schedule means he'll be front and center most Saturdays.

Quinshon Judkins, RB, Mississippi (+5000)

To be clear, I like Blake Corum (+3000) and TreVeyon Henderson (+3000) arguably more than Judkins, but both have health questions and are likely to share carries. Judkins was a nice surprise find for the Rebels last season, finishing with 1,699 total yards and 17 touchdowns while sharing carries with Zach Evans, who also tallied 1,055 total yards and 10 scores. Evans is off to the NFL now, and while we don't assume Judkins simply absorbs all of that departed work, there's at least more available to think his numbers can grow. It's anyone's guess who Lane Kiffin will choose to highlight in his offense, but Judkins is a stud that's got some nice juice in this number.

Tyler Shough, QB, Texas Tech (+15000)

For a long shot, Shough looks to be in a great spot to put up Heisman-like statistics. It's all about the system here with offensive coordinator Zach Kittley. His system produced Bailey Zappe's 5,967 yards and 62 touchdowns at Western Kentucky. Shough looks like he'll get all of the Red Raiders QB snaps this season after sharing snaps in 2022. He did show us a glimpse of potential with 436 yards against Oklahoma. The struggle I have is I doubt Texas Tech wins enough games to make Shough's candidacy viable. But the opportunity is there, and we don't need to waste more than a couple bucks to get a major return if the stars align.

Jake Blanchard's Heisman Breakdown

It is no shock that the current Heisman Trophy winner Caleb Williams is the odds-on favorite going into 2023 at +500 and there are surely some interesting names that follow as well. 

Jordan Travis is certainly a guy that could make some waves as he is the main reason I had Florida State listed as a National Title contender, but at +1000 the allure is just not quite there. Sam Hartman at +1500 may also be a trendy play as he comes to a very good Notre Dame team after becoming the ACC's second all-time passer behind just Phillip Rivers. However, I have slight concerns about the workload Hartman will have in Notre Dame as he transitions into a more prototypical offense that will put an equal emphasis on the running game as they do the passing game. 

Cade Klubnik, QB, Clemson (+3000)

Although I left Clemson off my list of National Championship hopefuls they will likely be right in the mix as their schedule doesn't look to be overly difficult. This could bode well for Klubnik who is entering his sophomore season after playing in a relief role to starter DJ Uiagalelei last season. With Uiagalelei transferring to Oregon State, Klubnik will fully take the reigns of the Clemson offense. Klubnik didn't see much action in 2022 until the ACC championship game where he came in to replace a struggling Uiagalelei and finished the game completing 20-of-24 passes for 279 yards and a touchdown along with seven carries for 30 yards and a touchdown. Klubnik will have lots of opportunities to put up big numbers against some dismal competition in the ACC while also having a few opportunities to really prove his Heisman worthiness as he will faceoff with Sam Hartman and Notre Dame as well as Drake Maye and North Carolina down the stretch. If Klubnik can live up to his recruiting hype and deliver a few big plays in big moments down the stretch against a few quality opponents he could find himself holding some new hardware on a podium come December.

Jayden Daniels, QB, LSU (+2000)

While I already touched on Daniels during my National Championship article, the Tigers quarterback holds great Heisman odds as well. As opposed to Sam Hartman or Jordan Travis, one of the reasons I really like Jayden Daniels at +2000 is because the entirety of the LSU offense will run through him. Daniels put up nearly 3,800 yards of total offense last year as the team's leading passer and rusher, Daniels received more than double the amount of carries any other player on the team received last year. With another year in Brian Kelly's offense, these numbers could increase and be extremely gaudy despite playing in the SEC.

Michael Penix Jr., QB, Washington (+1400)

After transferring from Indiana last season, the uber-talented Penix burst back onto the scene putting up 4,641 yards, 31 touchdowns with just 8 interceptions through the air and also added four touchdowns on the ground. The Huskies will be bringing back two 1,000-yard receivers from last year in top pass catchers Rome Odunze and Jalen McMillan but they lose leading rusher Wayne Taulapapa. While Penix did not produce much on the ground last season the loss of a big contributor at running back could open things up for Penix to use his legs a bit more. Despite putting up only 92 yards rushing last season Penix has a great ability to run as he was a high school track standout and has shown great lateral agility as well as the ability to extend plays with his feet. With a lack of top-notch defense in the PAC-12 as a whole, Penix could again put up huge numbers. Washington could be in the mix for a conference title and possible playoff berth down the stretch and with big games against USC and Utah at the end of the season, Penix could cement his Heisman hopes with a big win and big moment against a PAC-12 elite.

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Chris Bennett
Bennett covers baseball, college football and college basketball for RotoWire. Before turning to fantasy writing, he worked in scouting/player development for the Atlanta Braves and Montreal Expos. He's also a fan of the ACC.
Jake Blanchard
Jake attended college at the University of Alabama, where a childhood love for college football truly blossomed. During his time in college, Jake started his own blog, where he wrote about all sports, but it mainly focused on college football, NFL and MLB while also giving gambling advice. Jake now covers college football for RotoWire.
Greg Vara
Vara is the lead golf writer at RotoWire. He was named the FSWA Golf Writer of the Year in 2005 and 2013. He also picks college football games against the spread in his "College Capper" article.
Ryan Wollersheim
2022 University of Wisconsin graduate and blind lover of all things college football. Also an unbiased observer of NFL, CFB, NBA and CBB for all teams not located in the cheese capital of the world.
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