Heisman Trophy Betting: Handicapping the Race
by Trevor Whenham - 12/11/2008
It has not been a good month for Texas Tech. Their blowout loss to Oklahoma not only knocked them out of the BCS and the public consciousness, but it also turned Graham Harrell from the Heisman front-runner to a guy who didn't even get invited to the ceremony in New York on Saturday. That's got to be especially hard to take considering only three players were invited - the smallest possible number, and fewer than most years.
Harrell won't be lifting the big trophy on Saturday, but one of three other quarterbacks will - Harrell's co-Big 12 winners Colt McCoy and Sam Bradford, and defending champion Tim Tebow. The three-player field is relatively wide open, though Bradford is emerging as a clear favorite. Here's a look at who has the chances of taking the hardware home, and where the value might lie (odds are from Sportsbook.com):
Sam Bradford, QB, Oklahoma (-400) - Bradford has opened up a lead in the last few weeks that might be insurmountable, and that's yet another thing that will drive Longhorns' fans insane. Bradford had a special year, but he also played his biggest games after Texas was through their gauntlet, and he had the extra opportunity in the Big 12 Championship against an outmatched opponent to get some attention. The issue here, in my mind, isn't whether Bradford is deserving - he clearly is - but rather he is so much more deserving that McCoy and Tebow, as the odds suggest.
First, let's look at what Bradford did. He had the third most passing yards in the country - 1,000 more than McCoy, and nearly 2,000 more than Tebow. He also threw five more touchdowns than any pivot in the country, and he averaged eight touchdowns for every interception. His team had the third best offense in the country by yards gained, and averaged 6.6 more points than any other team. Essentially, Oklahoma was a ruthless killing machine, and Bradford was the pilot.
So what knocks does he have against him? His price for start - there is absolutely no value in the odds he is facing. There is also sure to be some backlash from the people who don't think that Oklahoma deserves to be where they are. He might also get some grief from the critics who will suggest that Oklahoma's no-huddle offense is gimmicky. That has hurt other quarterbacks with video game numbers in the past. Despite all that, this is clearly Bradford's game to lose.
Colt McCoy, QB, Texas (+500) - It only seems fair that we talk about Bradford's Big 12 rival next. I am the furthest thing from a Texas fan. I unquestionably cheer for Oklahoma every year in the Red River Showdown. It's really saying something, then, that I would vote for McCoy if I had a vote. His numbers aren't quite as gaudy as Bradford's, though they are still more than acceptable. There are four reasons I give McCoy the edge, though.
First, he was a lone man running. McCoy didn't have a very good running game to rely on, so he had to be his own - he led the team in rushing yards, and he added 10 TDs on the ground. That's an extra dimension to the game that he had over Bradford, and an extra crutch that Bradford had to make his life easier. In that same vein, Bradford played behind a far superior offensive line. He had all the time he needed most of the time, while McCoy often had to run for his life. Third, I was more impressed by the difficulty of the Texas schedule, especially their run of death. I keep coming back to the image of McCoy being knocked down and bloodied in the Texas Tech game and still coming back to score what almost always would have been the winning TD. McCoy faced tremendous challenges, and he looked good facing them. Finally, I like McCoy because he is a year older. That might not seem like a good reason, but when everything else is pretty equal I believe in rewarding the college player who has put in more time.
So why is McCoy the longest in the field? Hard to tell, really. He's going to split Big 12 votes, and it makes sense that Bradford will get the edge there because of his increased exposure. He may also have hurt his chances a bit because he let it be known early on that he was coming back for another year. That will make it easier for voters to go against him this year because they know he'll be back next year. Whatever theories you come up with, I have to believe that McCoy represents solid value at this price in this field.
Tim Tebow, QB, Florida (+300) - I left Tebow to last because he would be a distant third on my ballot (actually fourth after Harrell, but that's another story). The reasons are simple - Tebow wasn't nearly as dominant as he was last year. He still had a heck of a year, but he was down in yards passing, completion percentage, passing TDs, rushing yards, and he was way down in rushing TDs. A lot of that is due to the system he played under and the team he had around him this year. Still, I just think it's harder to make a case for Tebow than it is the other two - especially since the SEC had an off year while the Big 12 was so tough.
So could Tebow win? Absolutely. He has the big advantage of being the non - Big 12 guy, and that will gain him many votes. He has been especially impressive down the stretch, and he had a very good SEC Championship Game that was watched by most voters. He also has the chance to be only the second repeat winner ever. That chance at history will be attractive for many voters. I don't think that Tebow represents much value at this price, but he's not a significant underlay, either.