Seth Russell is priced at +3000 odds to win the Heisman Trophy. A QB from a Texas University has already won the title twice this decade, will Russell make it a 3rd?
Baylor Arrived 4 Years Ago
Baylor, a small private school located in the middle-of-nowhere Waco, Texas, really appeared on the national scene for the first time in 2011, attracting the attention of College Football handicappers nationwide. The Bears hadn't won double-digit games since 1980 back in the old Southwest Conference. Current College Football odds have them priced at -120 to go over 10 wins this season. But thanks to Heisman Trophy winner Robert Griffin III, Baylor went 10-3 four seasons ago and started its ascent as a national power thanks to the brilliant offensive schemes of head coach Art Briles, who already has resisted overtures from bigger Power 5 Conference teams as well as NFL clubs. He's Texas through-and-through and might be in Waco to stay, which is a great thing in my opinion.
The program clearly isn't going anywhere anytime soon as a power because the football team's success has led to a huge boost in admissions to the program as well as a ton of booster money. McLane Stadium already has been totally renovated and is now one of the cooler stadiums in college football. With the University of Texas still down, the Lone Star State is there for the keeping for Briles and Co.
Petty was the team's starter the past two seasons, in both of which Baylor went 11-2 in and played in a major bowl game (but lost both). Petty left Waco with a 26-1 home record and the owner of 12 conference and 31 school marks. Petty set the Big 12 record for career yards per attempt at 9.7, for example, and holds Baylor marks for most attempts without interception (229 in 2013), most 300-yard passing games (10 in 2013) and rushing TDs by a quarterback (14 in 2013). His career interception percentage of 1.18 set an NCAA record. Overall, Petty threw for 8,195 yards and 62 TDs in 36 career games (25 starts) and ran for 338 yards and 21 touchdowns.
But in my opinion, Briles' system makes the quarterback and not the other way around. After all, in the bridge year between RGIII and Petty, Nick Florence put up huge numbers in 2012, throwing for 3,309 yards and 33 touchdowns.
"Bryce's situation in following Nick was a lot different than Seth following Bryce just because of where our program is now as opposed to what it was three years ago," Briles said recently to ESPN. "The mistakes he makes are going to be a lot more magnified."
Russell Better Athlete Than Petty
Russell is a fourth-year junior from Garland, Texas. He played in eight games last year as Petty's backup, including one start when Petty was hurt, and led the Big 12 with a 164.4 pass efficiency rating, Russell was 48-for-85 passing for 804 yards and eight touchdowns while adding 185 yards and three touchdowns rushing. That one start came against Northwestern State and Baylor put up 70 points, with Russell throwing for five scores and rushing for another. Lousy opponent, I know. But still. Russell also got into seven games in 2013 behind Petty. So knowing the system won't be a problem. And he's a better runner than Petty was with a bigger arm.
Russell has some stellar skill-position talent around him in junior receiver Corey Coleman (64 catches, 1,119 yards, 11 TDs), sophomore receiver KD Cannon (58 catches for 1,030 yards and eight TDs), senior receiver Jay Lee (15.4 yards per reception) and junior running back Shock Linwood (1,252 yards and 16 TDs on 251 carries).
And for what it's worth, Russell beat 38 other contestants to win the Air It Out competition at the Manning Passing Academy this summer. The competition is intended to measure quarterback accuracy. Some big names who competed against Russell included players with short odds in the Heisman Trophy betting market Trevone Boykin of TCU, Southern Cal's Cody Kessler, Penn State's Christian Hackenberg and Cal's Jared Goff.
Baylor plays as fast as anyone so Russell is going to put up some numbers. He also faces some of the worst defenses in college football against the likes of SMU, Lamar, Rice, Texas Tech, Kansas and Iowa State. Games against Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and TCU also should be shootouts.
Free College Football Pick
For Russell to win the Heisman, Baylor probably has to run the table. I believe they will be unbeaten when visiting TCU on Nov. 27 in the Big 12 game of the year. I'm not sure I see Russell winning the award, but do see him earning a trip to New York as a finalist.