Heisman Trophy Watch and Odds: C.J. Stroud’s phenomenal first half makes him favorite

C.J. Stroud is the odds leader (-200) of the Heisman Trophy Watch after a sensational first-half display sunk the Michigan State Spartans.

As Ohio State routed Michigan State and Utah demolished Oregon, one of college football‘s biggest arguments — head-to-head record for the College Football Playoffs — became redundant. Additionally, the Buckeyes’ performance potentially closed the book on another race, as C.J. Stroud becomes the betting favorite (-200 odds) in the Heisman Trophy Watch with just two weeks of the season remaining.

Heisman Trophy odds following Week 12 of college football

  • C.J. Stroud, QB, Ohio State -200
  • Bryce Young, QB, Alabama +150
  • Matt Corral, QB, Ole Miss +2000
  • Kenneth Walker III, RB, Michigan State +2500
  • Kenny Pickett, QB, Pittsburgh +4000
  • Jordan Davis, DT, Georgia +6000
  • Desmond Ridder, QB, Cincinnati +7000
  • Will Anderson Jr., EDGE, Alabama +8000
  • TreVeyon Henderson, RB, Ohio State +9000
  • Sam Hartman, QB, Wake Forest +10000

C.J. Stroud becomes new Heisman Trophy odds favorite

It seems forever since Oregon came into “The Horseshoe” and laid waste to Ohio State. While it’s just two months since that Week 2 defeat, the Buckeyes are almost unrecognizable from that disjointed, dismal, season-defining defeat. Where Oregon had trampled all over them on the ground, they held Heisman Trophy hopeful Kenneth Walker III to just 25 yards.

Yet, it has been the emergence of Stroud that has been the catalyst to this Ohio State revival. As we mentioned last week, the young quarterback has battled injury and a benching, and he’s emerged as a true contender for college football’s highest individual honor. With a performance approaching perfection in Week 12, he ascended to the pole position of the Heisman Trophy odds for the first time this season.

It is often said that the Heisman Trophy is won in the dog days of November. Impressive performances down the stretch can seal the deal. It’s become known as “the Heisman Trophy moment.” If Stroud didn’t have that moment in front of a packed stadium, I’m not sure what that phrase means anymore.

Stroud’s stat line in the 56-7 win is impressive enough. The redshirt-freshman quarterback went 32-of-35 passing for 432 yards and 6 TDs. Yes, your read that right — SIX touchdowns. However, simply scanning the stat line doesn’t tell you the full story.

Stroud has “Heisman Trophy moment” in just one half of football

Stroud put together those impressive numbers in one half of football alone. Sure, the Michigan State defense is the worst in college football. Having a trio of wide receivers that rivals anything that we’ve seen in the game before is an advantage, obviously. Having the luxury of an offensive line containing a potential first-round 2022 NFL Draft prospect that gives you more time than an actual clock is a quarterback’s dream.

However, Stroud put together a consummate performance that combined all the characteristics of an exceptional quarterback. His deep ball to find Garrett Wilson for the second touchdown was delicious. His placement for Chris Olave‘s first score was perfection. He consistently threw with touch, timing, and anticipation.

Even after a big performance of his own, Bryce Young is in Stroud’s shadow

As a result, DraftKings reduced Stroud’s Heisman Trophy odds from +240 last week to -200, making him the favorite ahead of Alabama’s Bryce Young. Young is now +150, having seen his Heisman Trophy odds slightly slashed following a sensational showing of his own. Although the final score (a 42-35 win over Arkansas) doesn’t appear as impressive as Stroud’s commanding victory, Young continues to set records in his first season as the starter.

No quarterback has ever thrown more passing yards in a single game in Alabama program history. When you consider the passers that have come from that program, it’s an impressive achievement. His 559 yards and 5 touchdowns were the difference-maker for a Crimson Tide team that sealed a date with Georgia in the SEC Championship. They also surely sealed his place in New York as a Heisman Trophy finalist.

Who will join Stroud and Young in New York?

While traditionally there have been three finalists for the Heisman Trophy, the past two seasons have seen four finalists descend on New York. As the latest odds suggest that Stroud and Young will be two of the Heisman Trophy finalists, who might join them?

Despite some incredible performances and leading the nation in rushing yards and touchdowns prior to Week 12, Michigan State running back Walker’s Heisman Trophy odds took a battering this week. He was the third favorite last week (+280). However, his meager performance in the Spartans’ biggest game of the season saw DraftKings lengthen his Heisman Trophy odds to +2000.

Walker slipped behind Ole Miss quarterback Matt Corral, who is the third favorite as per DraftKings. The potential QB1 of the 2022 NFL Draft class threw for 326 yards and 2 touchdowns as the Rebels beat Vanderbilt 31-17. Despite this, Corral’s Heisman Trophy odds slipped to +2000 from +700 last week, perhaps demonstrating just how good Stroud and Young’s performances were in Week 12.

Just behind Walker and Corral sits Pitt quarterback Kenny Pickett. Although his 4 touchdowns and 340 passing yards helped Pitt to a 48-38 win over Virginia, Pickett’s 2 interceptions appear to have dented his chances of finishing a sensational season with some silverware. DraftKings lengthened the Pitt quarterback’s Heisman Trophy odds from +2500 before Week 12 to +4000 as we head into Week 13.

Georgia defensive tackle Jordan Davis leads defensive candidates

It’s been nearly 25 years since a defensive player hoisted the Heisman Trophy. When Charles Woodson scooped the award in 1997, he did so as a defensive back who also returned kicks and lined up on offense, scoring 3 touchdowns and compiling 251 yards of offense.

It has long been thought that if a defensive player were to win the Heisman Trophy again, they would need to replicate Woodson’s offensive exploits. Perhaps that was the thinking behind Georgia lining Jordan Davis up at fullback on Saturday afternoon.

The behemoth defensive tackle found the end zone for the first touchdown in a game against Georgia Southern that the Bulldogs won comfortably 56-7, as expected. Davis has been a dominant force at the heart of the Georgia defense all season long, and now he has an offensive score on his résumé. If the Heisman is meant to honor the most outstanding player and not just offensive player, Davis has every right to be on the stage in New York.

Alabama’s Will Anderson Jr. is finishing strong

Alabama pass rusher Will Anderson is making the case to be in New York, too. The sophomore outside linebacker has been an absolute game-wrecker for the Crimson Tide. He’s rightly being regarded as the best defensive player in the nation. He added another 3.5 tackles for loss and 1 sack as he consistently terrorized Arkansas’ offensive line. Anderson now has 13.5 sacks and 26.5 tackles for loss on the season. Both figures lead the nation.

As a result of their performances, both Davis and Anderson entered the top 10 of DraftKings’ Heisman Trophy odds for the first time this season. Davis is +6000 following Week 12, with Anderson hot on his heels at +8000.

Oliver Hodgkinson is an NFL Draft and College Football Analyst for Pro Football Network. Check out the rest of his work here, and you can find him on Twitter @ojhodgkinson.

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