After his sensational freshman season, Johnny "Football" Manziel of Texas A&M is the current holder of the trophy named after John Heisman, and has been a source of amusement and bemusement during the off-season. His antics have taken him from one of the Top 4 favorites, to the next rung below in the pecking order at +1200 sports betting odds.
SEC defensive coaches had the entire off-season to breakdown the Aggies' schemes and learn about Manziel’s tendencies in certain situations. The sophomore can expect to still post very good numbers this season, however, there is a benchmark comparison for voters to review and it is not a coincidence only Archie Griffin (1974-75) has repeated.
After South Carolina’s Outback Bowl victory over Michigan, defensive end Jadeveon Clowney declared winning the Heisman was among his personal goals for the 2013 season. Clowney is now among the favorites (+400) and with a super season, he can fit in the mix with defensive studs like Manti Te’o (2nd last year) and Ndamukong Suh (4th in 2010), being invited to the awards ceremony recently.
Also in this group are AJ MaCarron (+800) of Alabama and Teddy Bridgewater (+800) of Louisville. Both quarterbacks are on teams which many feel have a legitimate chance to go undefeated and a decent chance to face each other in the last BCS championship contest. McCarron will receive more publicity playing for the talented Crimson Tide, yet Bridgewater will not have to share votes like the 'Bama QB might with TJ Yeldon (+1800) toting the pigskin.
The current favorite is Braxton Miller (+300) of Ohio State. He helped a club which had no business being unbeaten to unimaginable heights last year. Miller is a skillful gliding runner (5.6 yards a carry) and really improved as passer last season. The junior is on the nation’s No. 2 team according to pollsters and will be seen weekly on a Buckeyes team facing a very manageable schedule.
The Next Batch
Also at +1200 with Manziel are two other quarterbacks, Tajh Boyd of Clemson and Marcus Mariota of Oregon. Each is in an explosive offensive system and will have no shortage of opportunities to ring up big numbers, especially against lesser opponents. Boyd could have a slight edge with fewer voters in the West part of the country.
It is hard to call the eighth choice according to college football odds makers a long shot, nevertheless, Aaron Murray of Georgia at +1500 offers value. The Bulldogs are in the Top 5 of both major polls and they will play in several marquee contests, allowing Murray to standout and hopefully match his No. 2 finish last year in pass efficiency ratings.
The Other Contenders
Quarterback Taylor Martinez (+1800) of Nebraska and running back DeAnthony Thomas round out the Top 10. Martinez has the best crop of receivers he’s played with, but ironically it might be the defense which could also help him with the Cornhuskers winning 10 or more games. Thomas (+1800) is long shot playing with Mariota in Eugene.
Marqise Lee (+2500) is the best receiver in college football (Biletnikoff winner), yet will need a still unproven QB Max Wittek to get him the ball for USC.
QB Jordan Lynch (+3000) of Northern Illinois is a fantastic dual threat and will receive more notice then presumed after his MAC team played in the Orange Bowl last season.
The Pac-12 trio of Kevin Hogan (+4000) of Stanford, Brett Hundley (+5000) of UCLA and Ka’Deem Carey (+5000) will all secure early attention and would need major bust out seasons to be taken seriously by voters.
A lot would have to break their way, but here are players not currently on too many Heisman boards, yet could be this year’s Manziel. Keep a watchful eye on Sammy Watkins (Clemson) Lache Sistrunk (Baylor), Todd Gurley (Georgia), Zach Mettenberger (LSU), Logan Thomas (Virginia Tech) and Tommy Reese (Notre Dame).
Heisman Preseason Ballot Picks: 1) McCarron 2) Miller 3) Murray
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