The Ohio State Buckeyes have been listed by Bovada as 13/4 favorites to win this season's National Championship, and if they end up achieving this lofty goal you would have to think that Ezekiel Elliott had a lot to do with it much in the same way he was an integral part of last year's championship run.
The junior running back is coming off a monster season in 2014, and Bovada has listed him at 7/1 odds to win this year's Heisman Trophy as the best college football player in the nation. Elliott probably should have received some strong consideration for last season's award given the numbers he put up, but he was completely shut out in the voting. That will not be the case in 2015 as one of the top two or three hopefuls in most of the Heisman voter's eyes.
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He ended 2014 ranked third in the nation in total rushing yards with 1,878 while averaging 6.9 yards a carry on 273 attempts. One of the reasons he was not on anyone's radar screen when it came to the 2014 Heisman award was a relatively slow start that included fewer than 100 yards rushing in four of his first six games. Elliott got stronger and stronger as the regular season wore on, and he made a huge statement in the Big Ten Championship by racking up 220 yards on 20 carries in the Buckeyes' 59-0 rout of Wisconsin.
His postseason heroics didn't end there in Ohio State's two-game run to a national title. In a semifinal matchup against Alabama in the Sugar Bowl, Elliott ended the day with 230 yards and two trips to the end zone on 20 carries to help the Buckeyes outlast the Tide 42-35. He saved his best performance of the season for last by gaining 246 yards on 36 carries in the National Championship Game against Oregon. His four touchdowns in that game helped pace Ohio State's impressive 42-20 victory.
Much was made about the play of quarterback Cardale Jones in a relief role through the Buckeyes final three games, but I would not be alone in saying that Ohio State fans owe much of the credit for last year's title run to the play of Elliott in those three contests. The quarterback situation in Columbus may still be up in the air, but you can count on Elliott to once again be the center piece of the running game.
The opportunity to put up some even bigger numbers in 2015 should be there. While Ohio State ended last season ranked 52nd in the nation in passing yards with 247.1 a game, it was ranked ninth in rushing with an average of 264.5 yards a game. Elliott led the way, with quarterback JT Barrett second on the team with 938 total rushing yards. The numbers really fall off from there, so you would have to believe that the bulk of the carries in 2015 will once again go Elliot's way.
The other big positive surrounding Elliott's chance to have another huge year in 2015 is his pro-style size and speed. At 6-foot-0 and 225 lbs., he has the frame to be a downhill runner. However, he also has the speed to run the ball outside the tackles with his 4.42 time in the 40.
Ohio State's 2015 schedule appears to be favorable to Elliott's Heisman chances. He should be able to make an immediate impression on the voters in nonconference games against Virginia Tech on the road in the season opener and two weeks later at home against Northern Illinois, with both contests broadcast nationally. He should also be able to end the regular season with a bang against both Michigan State at home and Michigan on the road in the Buckeyes' final two games.
There is some solid value in Elliott's betting odds to win this year's Heisman given his upside potential, but the main thing working against his chances to win is the simple fact that going back to 2000 there has only been one running back to win this award: Mark Ingram from Alabama in 2009.
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