Lamar Jackson’s Heisman Odds Slip, Worth a Bet?

Jay Pryce

Thursday, September 21, 2017 7:41 PM UTC

Thursday, Sep. 21, 2017 7:41 PM UTC

Reigning Heisman Trophy winner Lamar Jackson slipped to third choice on the oddsboard following a pedestrian performance last week versus Clemson. Is he worth a bet to repeat? No way. Here’s why.

Louisville quarterback Lamar Jackson claimed 526 first-place votes in the final tabulation for the 2016 Heisman Trophy award, roughly double the number of second-place finisher former Clemson quarterback Deshaun Watson. Many felt Watson deserved the award after leading his team to consecutive ACC titles and a national championship. It is only fitting that the game in which Jackson’s chances for hoisting the Heisman trophy in consecutive seasons was derailed by the Tigers last week.

Jackson’s statline proved pedestrian for his standards in Louisville’s 47-21 defeat at Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium on Saturday. The dual-threat option threw for 3 TDs, 1 INT, and 317 yards on 21 of 42 passes, while rushing for 64 yards on 17 carries.  The performance slipped Jackson to third choice in Heisman betting at +550 odds after entering the contest top choice. Oklahoma quarterback Baker Mayfield (+275) and Oklahoma State signal-caller Mason Rudolph (+450) are 1-2 on the board as of Wednesday.

Here’s a look at Jackson’s odds to win the 2017 Heisman Trophy via Bovada as tracked since May with rank noted in parentheses:

May 23: +800 (3)

Aug. 28: +750 (4)

Sept. 7: +400 (1)

Sept. 11: +175 (1)

Sept. 20: +550 (2)

What bettors need to recognize here is that oddsmakers did not make Jackson the favorite from the get-go. Why? Chances at repeating seem as long as winning the Powerball.


Repeating is Rare

Repeating is extremely rare. Ohio State running back Archie Griffin is the only player to claim the award twice (1974, 1975). Since, nine players have attempted to win the award a second time with Oklahoma running back Billy Sims coming closest with 773 points in 1978. The number was good for second place behind USC running back Charles White. Four other hopefuls (Ty Detmer, Jason White, Matt Leinart, and Tim Tebow) finished third in voting, while four (Sam Bradford, Mark Ingram, Johnny Manziel, and Jameis Winston) ranked fifth or worse.

Two factors really hold the key to winning the award two times, and they are both difficult to achieve. First, players must sway a scrutinizing electorate already expecting big and better things. Voting is part subjective and winning over the group knowing the magnitude and rarity of hoisting the trophy twice in no easy feat. The electorate factors in “integrity,” “value” to one’s team, and other intangibles associated with the “mission” of the award. 

The more difficult hurdle, however, is outshining the season in which one claimed the award statistically. The player set the bar, and now they must break it. Jackson, perhaps more than any repeat hopefuls before him, has the toughest challenge in this regard. Last year was one of the greatest individual performances in the history of college football. In addition to 51 touchdowns, the dual-threat option became the first player to post more than 3,300 passing yards and 1,500 rushing yards in a single season. These are once-in-a-lifetime numbers.

Prior to the Clemson loss, Jackson was on pace to match last year’s heroics. In wins over Purdue and North Carolina, he tallied 1,010 total yards and 8 TDs. The prospects for eclipsing the numbers look dimmer with tough defenses like Florida State and Kentucky scheduled.

Typically, a clear-cut favorite for the award doesn’t emerge until halfway through the season, so there is time for Jackson to get back on track. He opened at +5000 odds to win the 2016 Heisman last season, slipping to +1800 after a 8 TD performance in a 70-14 win over Charlotte in the opener. Jackson did not emerge the betting favorite at -250 until Week 7. If any player in college football has the talent to do the unthinkable, it is Jackson. Nevertheless, the investor in me says very far away from betting on a repeat Heisman winner. The obstacles are too difficult to overcome. 

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