Only one player in college football history has won the Heisman Trophy back-to-back: Ohio State running back Archie Griffin. His record is safe this season as reigning Heisman winner Derrick Henry of Alabama is now a rookie second-round pick of the Tennessee Titans. The favorite for the coming season is one of the finalists from last year, Clemson quarterback Deshaun Watson at +500 on college football lines.
Taking a Look at the College Football Betting Lines to Win 2016 Heisman Trophy
In 2015, Watson led the Tigers to an undefeated 12-0 regular season record and a No. 1 ranking in the polls heading into the College Football Playoff, where the Tigers lost to Alabama in the national title game. Clemson finished with a 14-1 record and the 14 wins set a school record. Watson was selected as a finalist for the Heisman Trophy, marking the first time a Clemson player has been invited to attend the presentation. Watson earned the Davey O’Brien Award, which is awarded annually to the best college quarterback, and named the 2015 ACC Player of the Year. He also won the Manning Award as the nation’s top quarterback.
Watson returns to a Clemson offense that is jam-packed with top-tier talent. He loses Charone Peake, but he gets back a healthy Mike Williams. Jordan Leggett, Artavis Scott, Wayne Gallman, Hunter Renfrow and a host of other weapons. But gaining Heisman momentum the year after a top-five finish is actually pretty tough for a quarterback. Since 2000, only three QBs have increased their vote total the year after finishing in the top five: Ken Dorsey, Brady Quinn and Andrew Luck. Of that group, only Quinn improved his standing (going from fourth in 2005 to third in 2006), but his stats were actually down across the board.
LSU running back Leonard Fournette is a +600 second-favorite; he was the early front-runner last year before his Tigers started struggling. Last year, he led the SEC and nation in rushing with 162.8 yards a contest. He finished the season with 1,953 yards and 22 touchdowns – both LSU single-season records. Fournette has rare physical traits for the position. He is ultra-explosive and also has a natural gift as a runner. He has a feel for finding creases and attacks the hole with ferocity. While some runners stop their feet when met with contact, Fournette changes gears and explodes through defenders.
Stanford’s Christian McCaffrey is also at +600 and like Watson he was a finalist last year. He was the Associated Press Player of the Year, Pac-12 Offensive Player of the Year, Pac-12 title game MVP and Rose Bowl offensive MVP. McCaffrey finished with an NCAA-record 3,864 yards from scrimmage in 2015. McCaffrey was second to Henry in the Heisman voting. Last year was the first time backs finished 1-2 in Heisman voting since 2009 and only the second time since 1994.
Oklahoma QB Baker Mayfield is +1400. Mayfield was the Big 12 Offensive Player of the Year last season, passing for 3,700 yards and 36 touchdowns, finishing fourth in the Heisman voting. Mayfield was a walk-on at Texas Tech before he left after his freshman season in 2013, then had to sit out to a season to satisfy NCAA transfer rules. This was originally to be his final season, but the Big 12 approved a rule that will make him eligible in 2017 as well if Mayfield comes back. The new rule in the conference allows walk-ons without written scholarship offers from their original schools — Mayfield didn’t have one from Texas Tech — to transfer without losing a season of eligibility. If the walk-on elected to transfer after being offered a scholarship from the original school, then the player would face the league’s same eligibility restrictions that apply to scholarship players. Had the rule change not been adopted, Mayfield would have been out of Big 12 eligibility after this season but would have been able to play his final season elsewhere, including in another Power 5 conference.