Heisman Watch: 2024 Heisman Odds, Picks, and Best Bets

Heisman Watch: 2024 Heisman Odds, Picks, and Best Bets

This article is part of our College Football Picks series.

Heisman Trophy Odds: Expert 2024 Heisman Best Bets

Betting on Heisman Trophy odds opens up far more possibilities for a winning bet than betting on the CFP National Champion, where only a handful of teams can realistically bring home the hardware in a given year. 

In years past, looking at the favorites was a fine enough strategy. This year, the favorites don't stand out as much as they have in recent seasons. Carson Beck and Quinn Ewers opened and have held as the favorites throughout the offseason with odds anywhere between +800 and +1000. The +1200 price on Beck at Caesars Sportsbook is eye-catching, but that's the only shop I'd consider firing on the Georgia quarterback. 

Another interesting wrinkle in this year's Heisman race is the expanded playoff picture. There were exceptions to the rule during the four-team playoff era like Lamar Jackson and Jayden Daniels but, for the most part, Heisman winners were at least playing for a spot in the CFP and oftentimes did punch their team's ticket to the playoff. Let's look at the Heisman winners during that era along with their team performance.

Heisman Winners: Four-Team CFP Era

YearPlayerTeamSeason Result
2014Marcus MariotaOregonLost in CFP Championship
2015Derrick HenryAlabamaWon CFP Championship
2016Lamar JacksonLouisvilleMissed CFP
2017Baker MayfieldOklahomaLost in CFP Semifinal
2018Kyler MurrayOklahomaLost in CFP Semifinal
2019Joe BurrowLSUWon CFP Championship
2020DeVonta SmithAlabamaWon CFP Championship
2021Bryce YoungAlabamaLost in CFP Championship
2022Caleb WilliamsUSCMissed CFP
2023Jayden DanielsLSUMissed CFP

Sure, the last two Heisman winners did not play in the CFP, but again that is more an exception than a rule. Generally, you still want to target key players on teams with national title aspirations. How that changes with a 12-team playoff will be fascinating. 

Will a player who willed a second-tier program to a playoff berth get the same amount of respect from voters as a high performer from a blue blood? Does this open the door more for non-quarterbacks, especially in cases of dark horse teams, crashing the playoff party?

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2024 Heisman Favorites

I mentioned my skepticism on Beck and Ewers as good bets at the top, but I'll dig in a little further.

In Beck's case, I'm just not sold that the statistics will be there. We can be confident in expecting Beck to have excellent efficiency metrics. He completed 72 percent of his passes at 9.5 YPA in his first year as the starter in 2023 and we can expect more of the same, or even some improvement, this season.

However, he only threw 24 touchdown passes and didn't offer much as a runner. His rushing numbers aren't going to spike much, so he will need to post some of the loudest passing production in the country in order to be in Heisman consideration. 

That said, there is a path for Beck to stay in the race this year. Georgia's schedule is a gauntlet with multiple marquee road games along with big games against Clemson and Tennessee either at a neutral site or at home. If Beck pilots the Bulldogs to wins at Tuscaloosa, Austin and Oxford, his resume will be beyond reproach almost regardless of his statistics. 

If you're buying Georgia as a team that can run the table in the regular season, then betting Beck for Heisman is a good way to get more equity in that outcome.

With Ewers, I simply cannot make up my mind. Is he talented? Yes. Is Texas going to make the playoff? Yes. Do the Longhorns have the schedule that will provide Ewers opportunities for Heisman moments? Absolutely -- a road game at Michigan plus games against Oklahoma, Georgia and Texas A&M will allow Ewers to bolster his Heisman bonafides. 

And yet, I'm still not sure I'm completely sold. Yes, Texas has a great team around him. And I'm not a big enough hater to suggest that last year was entirely a function of Xavier Worthy, A.D. Mitchell, Ja'Tavion Sanders and Jonathon Brooks and no credit is due to Ewers. And yet, I do worry that things won't be quite as easy for him this year. 

Ewers will need to take a step forward in his own development to make this all work. A loss to Michigan early in the year would put him behind the eight ball in the Heisman race and make even one more loss absolutely crushing to his Heisman chances. 

An interesting wrinkle with the Ewers vs Beck debate at the top of the odds list is the fact that they go head-to-head in October. The outcome of that game will sway things one way or the other in the SEC Championship odds and the Heisman odds.

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2024 Heisman Candidates To Consider

Jaxson Dart, QB, Ole Miss (+2000 at BetMGM)

This correlates to my bet on Ole Miss as a worthwhile National Championship futures ticket as the Rebs sit at +1600 in the CFP National Championship odds. Dart is entering his third year as the starter in Lane Kiffin's QB-friendly system, and that level of experience can't be underestimated. Older and more experienced quarterbacks tend to be great Heisman bets. Look at Jayden Daniels last year, who erupted as a fifth-year senior.

Dart himself is more accomplished through two seasons than Daniels was through four. And he'll have a stellar supporting cast to work with, headlined by Tre Harris, Antwane Wells and Caden Prieskorn. Ole Miss' offense may veer more towards the pass this season with Quinshon Judkins out of the picture, too. This would put more on Dart's plate and therefore give him more opportunities to produce.

Finally, Ole Miss being -130 to make the playoff is a nice little context clue. We can anticipate Dart quarterbacking the Rebs to their first College Football Playoff berth. If the production is as good as I'm expecting from Dart, +2000 is going to look like a steal by October.

Will Howard, QB, Ohio State (+1600 at Caesars)

This is another instance where line shopping is important. Howard's odds at other books are as low as +1200 and it's hard to find anything better than +1400. Caesars luckily has this tantalizing number for Howard and I'm in. I'm in at +1300, to be clear, but +1600 is excellent value.

Quarterbacks famously get deferential treatment in Heisman voting and Howard steps into a great situation in Columbus as he takes over a team with legitimate national title aspirations. 

Whereas Howard had to do a lot of the heavy lifting at Kansas State especially last year without Deuce Vaughn, he'll be playing on easy mode this year. The backfield is loaded with TreVeyon Henderson and Quinshon Judkins, and with Chip Kelly as the OC scheming up the run, defenses are going to have their hands full. Loaded boxes and defenses having to expend a ton of mental energy on slowing the run will put Howard in favorable setups nearly every time he drops back.

Now, skeptics of this pick can rightly point to Howard's production at K-State and determine that he doesn't have the goods as a passer to be a Heisman candidate. The numbers back that up, but if your thinking stops there, you're doing yourself a disservice.

These are Howard's numbers across four seasons (33 games) at Kansas State. His career highs in passing attempts (357), yards (2,643) and touchdowns (24) all came in his lone full season in 2023. None of those are all that eye-popping, nor are his career-bests for completion percentage (61.3) or YPA (8.2 in 2022). 

Think about the differences between the K-State offense and personnel vs what Howard will be surrounded by in Columbus. Believe me, Howard wouldn't remotely be on my Heisman radar if he was still at Kansas State. But now that he's going to be a fifth-year senior piloting an elite offense, Howard will be in the Heisman mix.

His passing volume may not be much higher than it was at Kansas State, but everything is there for the efficiency to take a massive leap. A completion rate in the mid-60s with a high 8's or low 9's YPA should generate well over 3,000 passing yards and upwards of 30 passing touchdowns. Tether that to solid rushing production and double-digit rushing touchdowns and we have a pretty good recipe for a Heisman candidate.

Lastly, I'm not worried about Howard losing Heisman steam to Henderson or Judkins. By virtue of them splitting work, I'm dubious that either put up the type of Derrick Henry-level production required of a running back to have legitimate Heisman candidacy.

Nico Iamaleava, QB, Tennessee (+1800 at Caesars Sportsbook)

Sure it's dicey to place a Heisman bet on a guy with 45 career pass attempts. But again, I'm of the opinion that the Heisman race is wide open this year and I'm skeptical of the favorites, so this is a bet on talent winning out. 

Bryce Young had 22 pass attempts in mop-up duty behind Mac Jones as a freshman before taking over in 2021 and running away with the Heisman. There's precedent for a player like Iamaleava doing the dang thing this year.

For the uninitiated, Iamaleava was the No.2 overall player in the 2023 recruiting cycle behind only Arch Manning. You may remember him making waves when he was set up with an NIL deal worth upwards of $8 million when he committed. Or you may remember watching him tear up Iowa for four touchdowns while you were nursing your New Year's Day hangover. Either way, Iamaleava is a big deal even if you don't know it yet.

Iamaleava checks the boxes in terms of talent and recruiting pedigree. He's already had a year to get acclimated to the offense and practice against an SEC defense. Iamaleava is ready to roll. 

Toss in the fact that Tennessee is a year removed from having the No.1 scoring offense in the country and has the same structure in place with Josh Heupel running the show and we see the runway for monstrous production out of Iamaleava.

The schedule sets up very similarly to 2022 in that the Vols have a great chance at going at least 11-1 with a possibility of running the table if they're able to win in Athens in November. That season, Hendon Hooker was very much in the Heisman race until he tore his ACL in the regular season finale, which ended in a fairly stunning loss to South Carolina. 

If everything clicks for Iamaleava this year, it's hard to imagine him not making it to New York as a Heisman finalist.

Dark Horse Heisman Candidates 2024

Avery Johnson, QB, Kansas State (+4000 at Caesars)

This is where the rubber meets the road with my theory that the scope of Heisman candidates could widen this year with the expanded playoff. Wouldn't elevating a program like Kansas State to the College Football Playoff be more impressive than Dillon Gabriel getting Oregon into the CFP when they're already priced at -240 to do so? And we know that if Kansas State is getting in, it's likely going to be fueled by a Herculean effort from its quarterback.

Johnson has a bit more track record than Tennessee's Iamaleava, but not by much. He appeared in eight games last season, completing 37 of 66 passes for 479 yards with five touchdowns to go with 52 rushes for 296 yards and seven touchdowns on the ground. 

He has the potential to be a 1,000-yard rusher as a quarterback and we can envision upwards of 15 rushing touchdowns if he hits that yardage threshold. That type of rushing production certainly helped Jayden Daniels' candidacy just last season. 

I'm not drawing a direct parallel to Daniels with Johnson -- the passing production won't nearly be as good. But if Johnson can generate 35+ total touchdowns and ~4,000 yards of total offense while delivering a Big 12 Championship (+360) to the Little Apple, that's a strong foundation for a legit Heisman candidate. At 40/1 at Caesars, he's worth more than just a sprinkle. Other shops have Johnson at +2500, for what it's worth. 

Kyron Drones, QB, Virginia Tech (+15000)

This one is just worth a sprinkle in the preseason, but the path is there for Drones to get himself into the Heisman race even with the presently long odds. 

Drones looked the part after taking over down the stretch last season, delivering a 13:3 TD:INT to go with 613 rushing yards and a rushing touchdown over the last eight games of the season. With an average of nearly 6.0 yards per rush in that sample and just one touchdown, it's fair to expect the touchdown luck to swing back massively in his favor, especially with a full offseason of being the guy in Blacksburg as opposed to working with the backups last year. 

Adding on, Virginia Tech might be sneaky good this year. I always liked the Brent Pry hire, and it's not surprising it took some time for the Hokies to clean up the mess left behind by Justin Fuente. Now in Year 3, we might see the vision take shape. 

The Hokies have the fourth-most returning production in the country going into this season according to ESPN's Bill Connelly. Combine that with a down ACC and a strength of schedule that ranks 69th in FBS and we have the makings of a team that should rank inside the Top 20 by season's end. We'd need a little more than that for Drones to garner real Heisman consideration of course, but a few good breaks and the candidacy becomes more serious.

The odds are crazy long for a reason and I'm not advising going heavy at Drones, but I urge you to put him on your shortlist as someone to either grab a small ticket on before the season or keep on your shortlist of bets to consider once the season gets underway.

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Luther Burden, WR, Missouri (+10000 at FanDuel)

Burden has been known to hardcore college football fans since his days as a recruit. After an up-and-down freshman season in 2022, the nation was put on notice last year when Burden racked up 86 grabs for 1,212 yards and nine touchdowns while sustaining a 9.9 YPT mark on 122 targets. Burden is now firmly on the NFL Draft radar as a first-round pick next spring, and this season will dictate just how high he will go.

The Burden bet follows a similar logic to what sprung DeVonta Smith to the podium in 2020. He is going to be the engine of the offense, and the nation's attention will likely be more turned to Burden than it will Brady Cook, our Mac Jones analog for this parallel. 

You might say, "Well, Alabama was the best team in the country that year and Missouri ain't that." Fair, but shortsighted. If you weren't paying attention, Missouri went 11-2 last year and brings back the 18th-most returning production in the country. They will open the season in the Top 10 and the schedule isn't a gauntlet, so it's fair to expect to stay in the CFP hunt all year. 

Burden has the ability to have a Smith-esque season. His winning the Heisman will also take some of the high-profile quarterbacks stumbling a bit or at least not lighting it up, but we've seen that happen before. 

2024 Heisman Best Bets

Heisman Trophy Odds 2024

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
John McKechnie
John is the 2016 and 2021 FSWA College Writer of the Year winner. He is a Maryland native and graduate of the University of Georgia. He's been writing for RotoWire since 2014.
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