Can Zach Wilson Win The Heisman Trophy?

Can Zach Wilson Win The Heisman Trophy?
Quarterback Zach Wilson #11 and Head Coach Kalani Sitake of the BYU Cougars. Loren Orr/Getty Images/AFP


Top sports betting sites like BetOnline have BYU quarterback Zach Wilson at +2800 to win the Heisman Trophy. Last week, BetOnline had him at +3300.

At +2800, Wilson is the fifth-most favored quarterback to win this award. He is well ahead of Texas A&M’s Kellen Mond, but he is a much bigger underdog compared to Florida’s Kyle Trask, Alabama’s Mac Jones, Ohio State’s Justin Fields, and Clemson’s Trevor Lawrence.

Basic Stats 

So far, Wilson has completed 75.1 percent of his passes while averaging 11.4 yards per attempt. He’s amassed 2,612 yards, 22 touchdowns, and two interceptions. He’s also good for the occasional 10-20 yard rushing gain. But if you compare his numbers with the two previous Heisman winners — Kyler Murray and Joe Burrow — then the result doesn’t seem too promising.

Whereas Burrow averaged 48 more yards and .93 touchdowns more per game, Wilson’s statistical passing averages are more in line with those of Murray. Wilson is throwing for three more yards per game than Murray did — 314 to 311. Whereas Murray averaged 3.08 touchdowns per game, Wilson is averaging 2.75. In terms of completion percentage, Wilson is just behind Burrow and well ahead of Murray, but he is ahead of Burrow in YPA and just behind Murray in the same category.

While Wilson’s passing numbers are approximately on par with Murray’s, Murray was also a hugely productive runner. He exceeded 1,000 yards on the ground while averaging 7.2 YPA. in contrast, Wilson averages just under 20 rushing yards per game on 3.2 YPC.

Quarterback Zach Wilson #11 of the BYU Cougars. Loren Orr/Getty Images/AFP

Comparison With Other Candidates

To stick to 2020, it turns out that there are other quarterbacks who are putting up bigger numbers, numbers that much more closely resemble Burrow’s than Wilson’s do. One example here is Alabama’s Mac Jones, who has exceeded 400 passing yards three times in six games. Conversely, Wilson has not exceeded that number a single time.

However, one advantage that Wilson does have over other quarterbacks is the number of games that he has played. Unlike Mac Jones, Clemson’s Trevor Lawrence, Ohio State’s Justin Fields, and others, Wilson has showcased his abilities over the course of eight games.

It’s hard to like Fields, for example, when he’s only played in three games. The Big Ten, by starting the season so late and by not rescheduling games that are not played due to COVID, is at a disadvantage in Heisman betting. Still, he has an overwhelming disadvantage in terms of which games he’s playing in. As a BYU Cougar, he does not face nationally recognizable teams, nor is he on a high-profile team that draws a lot of attention, television coverage, and the like.

With your College Football Betting Picks, you’ll want to note that the last player from a non-Power conference to win the Heisman was BYU’s Ty Detmer. Detmer won in 1990. Every winner since Detmer has been in a Power Five conference. Putting up strong numbers against the likes of Texas State, Louisiana Tech, and UT San Antonio is not going to impress people. Those opponents do not even compare in terms of profile to low-level Power Five squads like Florida State.

A lot of folks complain that the Heisman Trophy is just a popularity contest. It would be beyond me in this article to examine that notion. But if this cynical complaint does have merit, it’s hard to like a BYU player, even if Wilson did have Jones-like or Burrow-like passing numbers. Now you might consider that BYU is a strong team. The Cougars are 8-0. But they currently rank eighth. By all accounts, the statistical probability that even an undefeated BYU team makes the playoffs is low.

Like UCF formerly, the Cougars could be overlooked for similar reasons why Wilson would be overlooked for the Heisman. There is an overwhelming bias on college football’s decision committees towards Power Five schools.  And, again, Wilson needs to exceed Mac Jones’ numbers to start making up for the bias against smaller football programs. However, Jones is crushing him in several statistical respects, such as yards per game.

Quarterback Zach Wilson #11 of the Brigham Young Cougars. Photo by Gene Sweeney Jr/Getty Images/AFP

Betting Advice On Wilson

I do not think that Wilson has a legitimate chance of winning the Heisman.

His numbers are not impressive enough and his profile, his school’s profile, and his opponents’ profile are not large-scale as they would be in a Power Five conference.

There are other candidates — like Mac Jones — who I like more and who I find worthier and worthy of an investment