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Heisman Watch: Kenneth Walker III’s odds improve as he waltzes over the Wolverines in Week 9

Kenneth Walker III waltzed over the Michigan Wolverines and put his name in the Week 9 Heisman watch list. Can he actually win it?

It is often said that the Heisman watch is made interesting down the stretch of the college football season. As we wave goodbye to Week 9, the Heisman Trophy odds begin to solidify as players separate themselves from the competition. It’s during the waning weeks of the college football season that we so often see that “Heisman moment” that seals a player’s candidacy for the award. Did we witness Kenneth Walker III’s moment of wonder this Saturday?

Heisman Watch: Odds following Week 9 of college football 

  • Bryce Young, QB, Alabama +180
  • C.J. Stroud, QB, Ohio State +450
  • Kenneth Walker III, RB, Michigan State +500
  • Matt Corral, QB, Ole Miss +500
  • Caleb Williams, QB, Oklahoma +800
  • Kenny Pickett, QB, Pittsburgh +1800
  • TreVeyon Henderson, RB, Ohio State +3000
  • Sam Hartman, QB, Wake Forest +4000
  • Desmond Ridder, QB, Cincinnati +4000
  • Brian Robinson Jr., RB, Alabama +4000

Heisman Trophy odds slashed as Kenneth Walker III waltzes over Wolverines

On the eve of Halloween, a dream start for #6 Michigan Wolverines turned into a nightmare in East Lansing. With College GameDay in attendance and the eyes of the college football world on the all-unbeaten Big Ten clash, Jim Harbaugh’s Michigan team raced out to a seemingly unassailable 30-14 lead over “little brother” Michigan State. 

Visions of a Big Ten Championship appearance and a spot in the initial College Football Playoffs seedings (set to be announced on Tuesday night) loomed in the eyes of Michigan fans everywhere. 

Then, like something out of a horror movie, Kenneth Walker III waltzed in and killed those dreams with one of the standout performances of the 2021 college football season. His performance cemented him in this week’s Heisman watch. That’s not to say he hadn’t already left his mark on a potent Michigan defense. Michigan State’s running back had almost single-handedly been responsible for the 14 elements of the 30-14 Michigan lead. 

However, with cuts and vision and speed and power, Walker repeatedly gashed the Wolverines’ defense on the ground. Touchdown runs on either side of the break between the third and fourth quarter brought Michigan State level. His 23-yard score with just over five minutes to play was the final nail in Michigan’s coffin. 

Can Walker become the first running back Heisman winner since Derrick Henry?

Walker finished the game with a remarkable 5 touchdowns and 197 rushing yards. As a result of his performance, DraftKings slashed his Heisman Trophy odds from +2000 before the clash to +500. The Michigan State running back is now the third favorite to lift the trophy in December. 

There hasn’t been a running back winner of the Heisman since Derrick Henry in 2016. Is there a possibility that Walker can hoist the Heisman and make running backs relevant again?

It’s unlikely that Walker matches Henry’s gaudy numbers from that 2016 campaign. However, the Michigan State RB averages more yards per carry than the former Alabama running back did during his Heisman campaign. If Michigan State makes a run at the playoffs, Walker will approach Henry’s 28 touchdowns from his Heisman campaign. 

Crucially, Walker is every bit as important to Michigan State’s success as Henry was to Alabama’s. In the ultimate team sport, one individual being such a critical factor to their team’s success is undoubtedly worthy of the sport’s highest individual accolade.

Young quarterbacks throw their hat into the Heisman watch in Week 9

Can you remember when Spencer Rattler was the Heisman Trophy odds favorite? The Oklahoma Sooners quarterback reminded college football fans, NFL Draft analysts, and NFL teams that he has the physical tools to play at a high level with a 42-yard touchdown pass to Brian Darby to seal a 52-21 Oklahoma win over Texas Tech.

However, it’s Caleb Williams’ world now, and we’re all just living in it. The true-freshman phenom has rejuvenated this Oklahoma team since being named the starter following the Red River Rivalry. Williams threw for 6 touchdowns on Saturday afternoon, equalling the second-most single-game touchdowns for the Sooners. Only Baker Mayfield has thrown more touchdowns in a game for Oklahoma (whose 7-score record also came against Texas Tech). 

Oklahoma hasn’t been anywhere near as convincing as their now 9-0 record suggests. However, Williams showed he has star talent against the Red Raiders. He made gasp-inducing throws on his way to 402 passing yards. He might be the best quarterback in college football right now. Subsequently, DraftKings has made him the fifth favorite to lift the Heisman Trophy with odds of +800.

C.J. Stroud is the biggest challenger to Bryce Young in the Heisman Trophy odds

Having watched Williams state his case against Texas Tech, C.J. Stroud took to the field against Penn State with his own point to prove. While Williams picked apart a poor Texas Tech program, Penn State was a more formidable foe. However, Stroud prevailed as Ohio State advanced to 7-1 and appear to be a playoff contender despite the early-season defeat to Oregon.

Ohio State’s quarterback didn’t put up the gaudy numbers that Williams did for Oklahoma. Stroud only threw 1 touchdown and 305 yards. However, he showcased his star talent with a delightful ball on the money for a Chris Olave touchdown after buying the highly rated 2022 NFL Draft prospect time with some impressive pocket manipulation. 

While praising Stroud, however, let’s not forget another young star helping make running backs matter alongside Michigan State’s Walker. True-freshman rusher TreVeyon Henderson is enjoying a magnificent introduction to college football. The Ohio State RB rushed for 152 yards and a touchdown in Saturday night’s win. 

Although DraftKings lengthened his Heisman Trophy odds from +2500 to +3000 overnight, Henderson is still a sneaky bet if Ohio State has to lean on his rushing ability down the stretch of the season and into the playoffs.

Defense wins championships, but can a defensive player win the Heisman?

Like the NFL MVP, the Heisman Trophy is a heavily quarterback-driven award, and that’s pretty evident in the latest DraftKings odds. Seven of the top 10 contenders following Week 9 of the college football season are quarterbacks. While DeVonta Smith and Derrick Henry have shown that other offensive players can challenge for the title of most outstanding player, defensive winners of the award are an absolute rarity. 

You have to go back to Michigan’s Charles Woodson in 1997 for a defensive recipient of the award. Even then, Woodson was a unique weapon on both sides of the ball. It’s almost an unwritten rule that for a defensive player to be considered, they need to be a playmaker of the highest caliber on defense and contribute either offensively or on special teams. 

Which makes what Jordan Davis is doing this season for the Georgia Bulldogs even more special and is why he is in our Heisman watch for this week. On this Halloween edition of Heisman Trophy odds, there isn’t a bigger nightmare for opposing offenses than the 6’6″, 340-pound defensive tackle. He eats up double-teams for breakfast. This season, he’s proven unstoppable in getting into the backfield. 

Davis vs. Young in SEC Championship?

Georgia shut down the Florida Gators on Saturday, allowing just 7 points and forcing 3 turnovers. The defense has allowed no more than 13 points to any team this season. The Bulldogs are on a collision course with a national championship, and they’re doing it by dominating on defense. 

No player has been more dominant than Davis. As a result, DraftKings offers odds of +8000 on the Georgia defensive tackle to lift the Heisman Trophy in December. Suppose he keeps Heisman Trophy odds favorite Bryce Young in check in the presumptive SEC Championship between Alabama and Georgia. In that case, Davis could very well find himself in New York on December 11.

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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