The Heisman Trophy is the most famous individual award in college football, if not all of North American sports itself. Initially awarded to University of Chicago halfback Jay Berwanger in 1935, the award was created by New York's famed Downtown Athletic Club. That first year the Heisman Trophy was designated for "the best player east of the Mississippi." But that changed the next year when the trophy was officially named after the Downtown Athletic Club's Athletic Director John Heisman, who died in 1936. Heisman himself was an all-around college athlete, coach, and administrator. The Heisman Trophy is the oldest award of its kind in college football.
Betting Odds on the Heisman Trophy
Most of the season, wagering on the Heisman Trophy is considered a "futures" bet. Online sportsbooks will post opening futures odds on who will win the Heisman in the summer and continuously update those odds throughout the year. As with any other type of bet, big-name brands significantly affect the betting lines. Media hype plays a significant role in shaping the Heisman Trophy conversation. Of course, the media is almost always proven wrong in the end. That was certainly the case in the 2020 campaign.
2020 Heisman Trophy Race Offered Profound Lesson
The 2020 Heisman Trophy path was excellent remedial training in how there are no locks. And that conventional wisdom is usually no wisdom at all. Gamblers should take heed from what happened in 2020 and apply the lesson for years to come. Many individuals suffered bad or needless losses on the Heisman Trophy because of what was considered a fait accompli. The 2020 Heisman Trophy race is an excellent illustration of how betting dynamics will change with the ebb and flow of a season and how a great player can emerge out of nowhere to end up as the awardee.
The overwhelming favorite to win the 2020 Heisman Trophy was Clemson Tigers quarterback Trevor Lawrence. Lawrence earned early college football fame by quarterbacking the Tigers to the 2018 national championship as a true freshman. Lawrence had great numbers in 2019 but seemed to be a bit off the mark compared to 2018. The standard theory was that as a senior and playing in the relatively weak Atlantic Coast Conference, Lawrence would sail to the Heisman Trophy Award.
Unfortunately for Lawrence, he missed games due to the pandemic. And while he was out of action, other players stepped into the forefront. In particular, the Alabama Crimson Tide boasted the Heisman Trophy candidate triplets that featured quarterback Mac Jones, wide receiver DeVonta Smith, and running back Najee Harris. And then Florida Gators quarterback Kyle Trask was another top tier contender that generated a lot of betting handle.
To Lawrence's credit, he was dominant after his return from COVID. And he continued to bring in betting action with the contenders mentioned above. But by November, the race blew wide open, which leads to an essential handicapping factor to consider regarding the Heisman Trophy.
Low Information Voters
A significant reason why gamblers must be careful with their Heisman Trophy votes is many voters' ignorance. The Downtown Athletic Club sends out ballots for the Heisman Trophy to whoever they choose. Unfortunately, many of these voters are former college football media members who no longer cover the sport. Or, even worse, voters that are sports media generalists that aren't engaged full time, if at all, with college football. Some media members overtly brag about and admit to not knowing who they are voting for. The process has disgusted many other college football writers to the point where they refuse to vote for the Heisman Trophy and quit.
The Last Thing Voters Remember
Kyle Trask had the inside track to the Heisman Trophy before his team lost its final two games. Clemson finished strong to put Lawrence back in the top tier. But Alabama's dominant consistency proved to be the difference. Many of the voters didn't know who DeVonta Smith was. But Smith's strong performance at the end of the season proved advantageous. And that put Smith over the top to win the award. Smith became the first non-quarterback to win the prize since 2015 and the first wide receiver to win it since Desmond Howard in 1991.