Alabama second-year freshman quarterback Bryce Young reportedly became a millionaire before he took his first snap as Mac Jones’ replacement this season, so he can definitely afford to take out the entire defense – everyone on the two-deep – and treat them all to an expensive “thank you” dinner.
After putting him in a prime spot to win the 2021 Heisman Trophy come December, the Tide defense has earned all the steak and lobster they can eat. Young has been one of the biggest beneficiaries to the new NCAA changes that went into effect on July 1 and allowed student-athletes to capitalize on their name, image and likeness for the first time. Represented by CAA, the 20-year-old star QB struck a deal with Cash App and has other partnerships in the works.
As October began, Young and Ole Miss QB Matt Corral were considered the favorites to become the next recipient of college football’s most coveted individual trophy. The first month of action saw preseason Heisman favorite Spencer Rattler from Oklahoma slip from his pedestal despite the Sooners remaining undefeated. His draft stock has taken a hit too. We’ll get to the why down in the body below, but the fact is that it’s looking like the SEC is likely to become the first conference to ever produce three consecutive winners.
LSU quarterback Joe Burrow and Alabama receiver DeVonta Smith are the most recent Heisman recipients, and although the SEC, Big 12, Big Ten and Pac-12 have produced winners in back-to-back years, we’ve never seen players from the same league honored three years in a row.
Young is in the driver’s seat to change that. For the rest of the season, we’re going to handicap the Heisman race weekly and let you know who the best futures bet is on that will give you the most bang for you buck from a wagering standpoint. With the first weekend of October in the books, here’s where the Heisman Trophy race stands.
Alabama’s Young Ascends to Favorite’s Role
Corral was +150 at DraftKings entering the Rebels’ visit to Tuscaloosa on Saturday, while Young was fetching +175 as the No. 2 option. Corral led Ole Miss on an 83-yard opening drive that ended on fourth down before reaching the Alabama end zone, leaving his team without points. The Crimson Tide then harassed him into sacks, incompletions and negative plays, limiting the Rebel offense to just 26 yards the rest of the half after that initial productive drive.
Alabama led 28-0 at halftime and pulled out a 42-21 victory to remain ahead of No. 2 Georgia as the teams appear to be on a collision course to play a “game of the century” for the SEC Championship before potentially squaring off again in the college football playoffs.
Young finished 20-for-26 with two TD passes but was picked off for the second time this season, forcing a ball into traffic in a rare mistake. After throwing no interceptions in wins over Miami, Mercer, and Florida, Young has turned it over against Southern Miss and Ole Miss. He’s still managed to spread the ball around nicely and makes excellent decisions. He looks awfully comfortable and hasn’t been rattled except for a second-half stretch in Gainesville against the Gators.
Young is now +120 at DraftKings and +125 at BetMGM and FanDuel to win the Heisman Trophy, making him the heavy favorite for the first time. Before the season, Rattler, Corral, UNC QB Sam Howell, Iowa State RB Breece Hall, Clemson QB DJ Uiagalelei, USC QB J.T. Daniels and his former teammate, USC QB Kedon Slovis, were among the names most often rattled off as front-runners.
It’s now Young’s to lose. Alabama will still have to visit Texas A&M, Mississippi State and Auburn while hosting LSU, but it will be a double-digit favorite against all those teams. The SEC Championship game is set for Dec. 4 and Heisman ballots are due in on Dec. 6, so there’s no question that if Georgia and Alabama do square off as undefeated division champs, whoever plays best in that game has a huge advantage.
Young will face arguably the toughest defense he’ll see until that likely showdown with the Bulldogs when he matches up with A&M this weekend in College Station, but the Tide is close to a 20-point favorite. We could be in the midst of the final week where you can still bet Young at plus-money to win the Heisman Trophy. Laying at least $110 to win $100 seems like it’s just around the corner.
Crimson Tide RB Robinson Offers Best Value
Young’s stiffest competition to win the Heisman may reside in his own backfield. Similar to how Smith has to overcome Jones and RB Najee Harris being in the mix before emerging due to a spectacular close to the season in helping replace injured teammate Jaylen Waddle’s production, Alabama has another contender worth watching.
Brian Robinson Jr., a Tuscaloosa product who played at the local high school, has served in a backup role since arriving on campus in 2017. He had his coming out party against Ole Miss. The 6-foot-1 running back isn’t flashy, but he’s a load to bring down and comes off a four-touchdown game that gives him six on the season. The 230-pounder dealt with some injuries in 2021 but now looks to be in line for a significant number of carries since second-year freshman Jase McClellan has been lost for the season due to a knee injury.
Robinson carried the ball 36 times against Ole Miss, a career-high that surprised the running back himself. He’d never even topped 30 carries at the high school level. The fifth-year senior ran the ball 274 times for 1,361 yards over his first four seasons while working behind Damien Harris (Patriots), Josh Jacobs (Raiders) and Najee Harris (Steelers), all of whom are first-string backs in the NFL right now. Robinson now has 21 career touchdowns and an impressive clip of five yards per carry and is poised to improve on those numbers.
Freshmen Roydell Williams and Trey Sanders will see increased workloads with McClellan out, but if the Ole Miss game is an indication, it’s about to be Robinson’s show. New offensive coordinator Bill O’Brien and offensive line coach Doug Marrone are going to trust the big guys up front and the ground game more often than predecessor Steve Sarkisian, now the head coach at Texas. Sarkisian preferred a faster tempo and a pass-happy approach considering he had a veteran quarterback and elite receivers in addition to Harris. Although Young is poised beyond his years, he lacks experience. There’s a good chance that Robinson will gain a significant share of the spotlight going forward.
Robinson is currently +10000 at FanDuel and +8000 at BetMGM, so act fast on this one. DraftKings has already reduced their odds to +2500, recognizing the possibility that Robinson rises fast.
Corral Not Counted Out as Other QBs Line Up as Contenders
Despite Ole Miss’ blowout loss at Alabama, oddsmakers haven’t pulled the plug on Corral’s campaign. He was pressured all day on Oct. 2 but finished with 213 passing yards, throwing for a score and running for another. He finished 21-for-29 and wasn’t intercepted, so he’s now just below 70 percent for the season in completion percentage and has a TD-INT ratio of 10-0 on the season.
Corral threw 29 touchdown passes last season and ran for another four scores and over 600 yards, but he was intercepted 14 times. Limiting turnovers really helps his cause and he’ll have plenty of high-profile games ahead despite the Alabama opportunity not going his way. He’s at +200 at DraftKings and +250 at FanDuel and BetMGM, ranking second behind Young at all those sites.
Corral was +2500 to win the Heisman at BetMGM prior to the season and was favored at +210 by mid-September. His odds were better than Young’s prior to kickoff of Bama-Ole Miss on Saturday, so there’s no question the time to gamble on him was prior to that game but those who did now face an uphill climb as far as seeing their investment pay off goes.
From here on out, it’s all about value betting unless you’re all in on wagering on Young while plus money remains available.
Cincinnati QB Desmond Ridder is now the No. 3 option and also offers great value since he just passed his toughest test in leading the Bearcats past Notre Dame in South Bend. Challenges against UCF, unbeaten SMU and the American Athletic Conference Championship game remain, but Cincinnati is going to be favored to finish the season undefeated prior to however the college football playoff rankings shake out. He’s +1600 at FanDuel, +1400 at BetMGM and +1200 at DraftKings.
Oklahoma’s Rattler (+2000 FanDuel, +2500 BetMGM/DK), Ohio State’s CJ Stroud (+1600 FanDuel/BetMGM, +2000 DK), Pitt’s Kenny Pickett (+3500 BetMGM, +4000 FanDuel/DK) and Georgia’s Daniels (+10000 FanDuel, +8000 BetMGM, +4000 DK) are other quarterbacks who remain on the radar.
Rattler enters this weekend’s Red River Showdown having seen his draft stock slip significantly due to questionable decision-making and accuracy issues that have made Oklahoma’s run to 5-0 much closer than most expected. Outside of a 76-0 win over FCS member Western Carolina, the Sooners have failed to cover a single spread. They beat Tulane 40-35, Nebraska 23-16, West Virginia 16-13 and Kansas State 37-31 despite being a double-digit favorite in all those games. Only last week’s win in Manhattan has come outside of Norman, where fans have taken to booing Rattler and the inconsistent offense.
If you’re holding a ticket on him from the preseason, it may not be the worst idea in the world to double down. His Heisman hopes aren’t a lost cause like they are for UNC’s Sam Howell or Clemson’s Uiagalelei. Currently, Rattler has completed over 76 percent of his passes and has a 10-4 TD-INT ratio but half of his touchdown passes came in that rout against the Catamounts. Against FBS foes, it’s just 5-4. Rattler through 28 TD passes last season and will play massive games against Texas and TCU this month and Iowa State and Oklahoma State in November. If he’s able to rebound from this slow start, he can still emerge as a viable Heiman Trophy contender.
Stroud was at the controls for the Buckeyes’ upset loss to Oregon but has the top receiving trio in the nation at his disposal and already has a 13-3 TD-INT ratio and 1,293 yards accumulated over his four appearances. He sat out the Akron win due to injury but lit up Rutgers for five touchdown passes to open October, setting the stage for a big run after Ohio State’s mid-October bye where it will play games against Indiana, Penn State, Nebraska, Purdue, Michigan State and Michigan. In other words, there will be plenty of opportunities for him to shine and make a serious run.
With Clemson and UNC already having dropped a pair of games this season, the ACC is far more wide open than anticipated. Pitt’s Pickett, who already has broken some of Dan Marino’s school records, just completed a three-game stretch where he thew 15 TD passes, eclipsing Marino’s best run of 13 in that same span back in 1981. He now has 9,751 passing yards over a five-season career and has his sights set on Alex Van Pelt’s school record of 11,267 yards set from ’89-’92. Pitt is tied at 1-0 with Virginia Tech atop the ACC Coastal Division and visits Blacksburg on Oct. 16 following this week’s bye. They’ll play Clemson and Miami to close out the month, so eyeballs will definitely be on Pickett as he keeps climbing the charts. With a 19-1 TD-INT ratio working, Pickett’s odds of 40-to-1 are awfully tempting.
Georgia’s Daniels has sat behind Stetson Bennett a number of times this season due to a lat injury, but the hope is that he’ll be healthy for the Dawgs’ toughest games against Kentucky (Oct. 16), Florida (Oct. 30), Tennessee (Nov. 13), Georgia Tech (Nov. 27) and the SEC Championship (Dec. 4). If he gets out there and plays well, he’ll garner consideration. It’s tough to back him at this point due to concerns that he’ll remain hurt, but odds of 100-to-1 at FanDuel and 80-to-1 at Bet MGM are enticing when you consider he can change everything by conquering the Tide just before the votes are counted.