For the first time since 2012, there isn't a Heisman winner returning to college football this coming season as Oregon's Marcus Mariota is now a Tennessee Titan. Does that mean a wide-open race this fall? Let's examine current Heisman odds.
Sportsbooks Differ On Favorites
The sportsbooks have various opinions on the 2015 favorite. For example, 5Dimes lists TCU quarterback Trevone Boykin as the +800 favorite on the college football odds and Ohio State running back Ezekiel Elliott No. 2 at +825. Bovada has Elliott as the +600 favorite, Mississippi State quarterback Dak Prescott second at +700 and Boykin third at +750. BetOnline has Boykin and Elliott at +650 and Prescott at +900.
TCU hasn't had a Heisman winner since Davey O'Brien in 1938. That Frogs offense was No. 2 in the country in scoring last season and shouldn't have much if any drop off with Boykin among nine returning starters. Boykin was the Big 12 Offensive Player of the Year and finished fourth in the Heisman voting, getting only eight first-place nods. Now a senior, Boykin threw for 3,901 yards (school record) and 33 touchdowns (also a school record) with 10 interceptions. He set another school record with seven touchdown passes in an 82-27 destruction of Texas Tech on Oct. 25. Boykin threw for 433 yards, one of three games on the season in which he had at least 410. Boykin had one multiple interception game and that was in the Peach Bowl rout of Ole Miss in which he was picked off three times but also threw three touchdowns. Boykin was no slouch with his feet, either, rushing 152 times for 707 yards and eight scores. He ranked third in the nation in total offense at 354.5 yards per game. Boykin was only the third quarterback since 2009 to average at least 300 yards per game passing (300.1) and 50 rushing (54.4). The others were Heisman Trophy winners Robert Griffin III and Johnny Manziel.
As for Elliott, he might have been the country's best player by the end of last season for the national champion Buckeyes. His sophomore year didn't start all that well. He had just 12 carries for 44 yards and a score in Week 1 against Navy, eight carries for 32 yards and a score in the Week 2 upset loss to Virginia Tech and then seven carries for 65 yards in the Week 3 rout of Kent State. But then Elliott broke out with a 182-yard day against Cincinnati. His final three games of the season: 220 yards and two touchdowns in the Big Ten title game against Wisconsin, 230 yards and two scores in the Sugar Bowl upset of Alabama and then 36 carries for 246 yards and four touchdowns in the national title game win over Oregon. He clearly took a bigger role in the offense when starting quarterback J.T. Barrett was lost to a broken ankle.
What Elliott has in his favor is that he plays at a marquee school like Ohio State, something you can't say about TCU or Mississippi State. The Buckeyes are also the betting favorites to repeat as the national champs. But what may work against Elliott is that his starting quarterback may siphon off Heisman votes, whether it's Cardale Jones (+900), Barrett (+2500) or Braxton Miller (+2500). Barrett was having a monster season before he was hurt against Michigan in the regular-season finale. He was the Big Ten Freshman and Quarterback of the Year, finishing the season with a Big Ten-record 45 total touchdowns and OSU record 3,772 total yards. And he may not even beat out Jones!
I'm not a huge fan of Prescott as I believe Mississippi State takes a big step back this season with only nine starters back overall. He also had a few shaky games in 2014, with three picks against Alabama in a loss and two against both Auburn and Arkansas.
The guy I would recommend for your college football picks right now? USC's Cody Kessler at +1200. Obviously he plays at a marquee school as well and the Trojans are a potential national title contender. Kessler threw for 3,826 yards and 39 scores against only five picks last season. He will be in plenty of high-profile games -- Notre Dame and Oregon to name two -- that could raise his stock in the eyes of Heisman voters if he plays well and the Trojans win.