Michael Penix Jr. even with Caleb Williams in Heisman Trophy race heading into Week 5
Caleb Williams was the favorite to win the Heisman Trophy before the 2023 season began, but the USC star is no longer alone in front. Michael Penix Jr. is now even with him in the race, and there are some other big name quarterbacks gaining on them. With that in mind, keep reading for some of the risers and fallers in the Heisman mix heading into Week 5. Each week, I’ll dive into the prices and analyze how I’d play this market for the remainder of the season. It’s important to see what type of stats a player has racked up already, but how will they do the rest of the way? I’ll get into that — and a lot more — here!
Washington QB Michael Penix Jr. +400 (was +500)
Last week, I wrote that you are quickly running out of time to back Penix Jr. to win the Heisman Trophy. The lefty then threw for 304 yards with four touchdowns and only one pick against a good California defense. He has now thrown for 1,636 yards with 16 touchdowns and only two picks this year, and he has also completed 76.0% of his passes. Penix Jr. also has the second highest PFF passing grade in the nation. And the impressive part about lighting up the Golden Bears is that Penix Jr. has now proven that he can be trusted in big matchups moving forward. Sure, there are some better defenses than Cal in the Pac-12, but there aren’t many. And it isn’t by a wide margin. With that said, look for Penix Jr. to continue to play well. But just know that it will only lower his odds. He has overtaken Williams for the top spot on some books, so we’re in the endgame now. You’re not getting much value from here.
USC QB Caleb Williams +400 (was +360)
Williams is coming off a game in which he threw for 322 yards with three touchdowns and no picks, while also adding another two scores on the ground. Despite that big performance, Williams saw Penix Jr. leap in front of him in the race — at least in the eyes of some. That probably speaks a little to the voter fatigue I mentioned when I first started writing this column — and was something I touched on in our 2023 VSiN College Football Betting Guide. People are hungry to see somebody else win this award, even with Williams playing some flawless football this season. Williams has thrown for 1,200 yards with 15 touchdowns and no picks this year, and he has also rushed for 71 yards and three touchdowns. Having said that, it doesn’t feel like there’s much value in backing him. Despite his outrageous numbers, others are gaining on him. And Williams is going to face a lot of good defenses down the stretch.
Texas QB Quinn Ewers +600 (was +700)
Ewers has put up pedestrian numbers since lighting up Alabama in Week 2. He has thrown for just 424 yards with three touchdowns and no picks since then, but he did add another two scores on the ground. But those were games against Rice and Baylor. Despite that, Ewers is still at +600 after having been +700 last week. So, there still seems to be a real chance he’ll win this thing. But I would go in another direction if you’re looking to bet this market. As I said last week, Texas is perfectly fine with running the football and Jonathon Brooks’ 270 yards and two rushing touchdowns over the last two weeks if proof of that. That will make life on Ewers rather difficult. Fortunately for those that do have him, Ewers does get to face some weak Big 12 defenses the rest of the season.
Oregon QB Bo Nix +1000 (was +2500)
Nix was something of a longer shot heading into last week’s meeting with Colorado, but he’s now one of the true favorites after having thrown for 276 yards with three touchdowns and only one pick against the Buffaloes. Nix also rushed for a touchdown in that game and he has been playing ridiculously well all year. This season, Nix has thrown for 1,169 yards with 11 touchdowns and only one pick, while also completing 79.4% of his passes. And I don’t think Nix will slow down very much the rest of the way. He has a great offensive line and is surrounded by talented players at the skill positions. With that in mind, there’s still a little value to be had here. But this is probably your last chance to bet Nix, and I’d still slightly prefer some of the guys after him on this list.
Florida State QB Jordan Travis +1200 (was +1500)
I mentioned last week that Travis is still one of my favorite Heisman plays. He was +1500 heading into Week 4, but his 289 passing yards and three total touchdowns in a road win over Clemson have him back to his pre-season odds of +1200 to win the award. And I still think he’s a guy you should be looking to bet. Travis is one of the most talented dual-threat quarterbacks in football, so some more big performances are likely coming. And the ACC is now clearly Florida State’s to lose, which means the Seminoles will have a real shot at making the College Football Playoff. That will go a long way in the minds of the voters if Travis continues to put up numbers. And all it will take is one huge performance to see him shoot up the board. Don’t be surprised if that comes against Virginia Tech this week or Syracuse next week.
LSU QB Jayden Daniels +1800 (was +2200)
I wrote last week that Daniels was now a value to win the Heisman Trophy and he responded by throwing for 320 yards with four touchdowns in a win over Mississippi State in Week 4. Daniels will now have a real chance to skyrocket up the board, as he’s going on the road to take on Ole Miss in Week 5. If Daniels has a big game and the Tigers beat the Rebels, it’s likely that all will be forgotten in regard to LSU losing to Florida State in Week 1. The catch with backing Daniels is that the Tigers really can’t afford to lose more than one game the rest of the season. And the Tigers do have road games against Ole Miss, Missouri and Alabama. And home games against Florida and Texas A&M won’t be easy either. But I do think Daniels will continue to put up numbers, and a strong rest of the season isn’t out of the realm of possibility for LSU. So, I think this is still worth a small dart throw.
Oklahoma QB Dillon Gabriel +2500 (was +3000)
Gabriel only threw for one touchdown against Cincinnati last week, but he threw for 322 yards in that game, and he rushed for a score. But the reason I believe Gabriel’s odds went down to +2500 is that the Sooners answered a lot of questions last week. They gave up only six points in a road game against a solid Cincinnati team, so it’s now easy to believe that Oklahoma has turned things around defensively in Year 2 under Brent Venables. Gabriel has thrown for 1,227 yards with 12 touchdowns and only one interception this year. And he’s going to continue to put up numbers, as he’s a very accurate passer and is playing in an explosive offense. And if Gabriel continues to light it up and Oklahoma wins 10 or 11 games, you’re going to wish you were holding a Heisman ticket on him. That said, I still think +2500 is a good number for Gabriel. And I’d play him down to +2000.
Washington State QB Cameron Ward +4500 (was +20000)
Nobody in the country made a week-over-week leap in the odds like Ward did. The star quarterback threw for 404 yards with four touchdowns and no picks against Oregon State last week, and he also rushed for a touchdown in that game. Ward has now thrown for 1,390 yards with 13 touchdowns and no interceptions this year, and he has also thrown for 109 yards and three touchdowns. The Cougars also sit at 4-0 on the year and have earned wins over Wisconsin and Oregon State. The question now is whether Washington State can keep it up. It will likely take 10 wins in order for Ward to be in serious consideration for this thing, which probably means winning a road game against UCLA, Oregon or Washington. Ward is going to continue to put up massive numbers in this offense, but will the team success be there? That’s what you have to figure out if you’re looking to bet this. But it’s not the worst idea in the world at +4500.
Colorado QB Shedeur Sanders +8000 (was +1800)
Sanders’ Heisman hopes are pretty much dead after the loss to Oregon. This has still been a very impressive season from the junior quarterback, and his 1,410 yards and 11 touchdowns through the air are nothing to sneeze at. But he threw for only 159 yards with a touchdown against the Ducks last week. And Colorado got blown out in that game. It now seems very likely that this Buffaloes team will win something like eight or fewer games, which will make it nearly impossible for him to be in contention here.