Heisman Watch 2022: 10 long shots worth a longer look

TreVeyon Henderson, Ohio State Buckeyes. Mandatory Credit: USA Today Sports/The Columbus Dispatch
TreVeyon Henderson, Ohio State Buckeyes. Mandatory Credit: USA Today Sports/The Columbus Dispatch /

Recent Heisman Trophy history hasn’t been with the favorites, so put your focus on these long-shot candidates for the 2022 season instead.

Go in search of a left-handed screwdriver, it would be less of a fool’s errand than betting on the Heisman Trophy.

USC’s Matt Leinart (2004) and Oregon’s Marcus Mariota (2014) are the last eventual winners that opened the season with favorite status, and while Alabama’s Bryce Young rode some of last summer’s best odds at +900 to the trophy, the award has been defined over the last 12 years by long shots.

And a number of them have been of the extreme variety.

Since 2009, eight winners have opened at +2000 or higher — none higher than Texas A&M’s Johnny Manziel, who wasn’t even getting odds in the summer of 2012 — and that run includes three of the last six in LSU’s Joe Burrow (+4000) and Louisville’s Lamar Jackson and Alabama’s DeVonta Smith, both of whom were at +10000 before Week 1.

While CJ Stroud (+200) enters college football’s opening weekend as Las Vegas’ darling, history isn’t on the Ohio State quarterback’s side. Stroud has his place in the 2022 Heisman preview (which can be found here), so instead fix your gaze further down the odds list, as we look at those long shots in that +2000 or higher range, whose hopes may not be as long as those in the desert would lead us to believe.

For this exercise, we’ll look at the latest consensus odds from shortest to longest.

Heisman Trophy: 10 long shots for the 2022 season

TreVeyon Henderson, Ohio State (+2000)

There will be a trend here that Henderson will get started. If the top contender on a team in the College Football Playoff hunt doesn’t live up to the hype, it could be to the benefit of another player on that same team. Jaxon Smith-Njigba could be an option here as well for No. 2 Ohio State, but it stands to reason that if that offense is delivering as expected through the air, it’s going to be Stroud that gets the love.

Henderson ran for 1,248 yards and 15 touchdowns last season, but only went over the century mark three times. Those 100-yard days would need to become the norm, a task considering Ohio State faces three teams that were in the top 15 in rush defense last season, including 2021’s best rush D in Wisconsin.

But the Buckeyes open vs. Notre Dame, which allowed 234 yards on the ground to Oklahoma State in the Fiesta Bowl and has Arkansas (130th last year vs. the rush) and Toledo (63rd) before facing the Badgers on Sept. 24. Henderson is primed for a fast start.

Quinn Ewers, Texas (+2000)

Bijan Robinson is Texas’ front-runner, but Ewers is intriguing. Steve Sarkisian brought in former Pitt wide receiver coach Brennan Marion, who was part of a Panthers’ passing game that ranked fifth in the nation last year, averaging 350.2 yards per game, and produced the Biletnikoff Award winner in Jordan Addison.

With Robinson as the centerpiece, it’s not as though Texas is going to become pass-centric, but the Longhorns were 71st nationally a year ago, averaging 225.4 yards per game. Ewers could take advantage, and there’s also a familiar storyline at play. Ewers began his career at Ohio State, but finding himself down the depth chart, opted to transfer. Joe Burrow, anyone?

Tyler Van Dyke, Miami (+2500)

Is this the year the Hurricanes finally break through? They have yet to win the ACC in 17 years of membership, making it to the championship game just once in 2017, which is also their only 10-win season since exiting the Big East. If Van Dyke’s play last Oct. 23-on, which included winning five of his last six games and averaging over 300 yards and three touchdowns — highlighted with 426 yards vs. Pitt — they’ll have one of the nation’s best arms in trying to prove Miami will be a force in the conference.

From a big-picture standpoint, we’ll know where they fit into the national conversation in a Sept. 17 trip to No. 6 Texas A&M, a matchup that has the potential to vault Van Dyke’s Heisman status.

Braelon Allen, Wisconsin (+3000)

Injuries to Isaac Guerendo and Chez Mellusi forced Allen into the workhorse back role for the Badgers last season, and he didn’t disappoint. As a 17-year-old true freshman, he averaged 126.7 yards per game over the last four weeks, including 228 vs. Nebraska and 159 yards against Arizona State in the Las Vegas Bowl. His season included seven straight 100-yard games as he finished with 1,268 yards and 12 scores.

Contact is part of the equation in the Badgers’ system, and Allen led the nation last year, averaging 4.5 yards per carry after contact. He’s trimmed weight, going from 240 pounds to 235 to add more explosiveness to his game, and could be even better. But his campaign will likely hinge on one date: Sept. 24 at No. 2 Ohio State. Steal the show from the Buckeyes’ host of trophy contenders, and he may well emerge as the Big Ten’s best hope.

Stetson Bennett IV, Georgia (+3000)

A returning starting quarterback on a national championship team is rarely this far down the pecking order, but that’s the reality with Bennett. He isn’t exactly the leading man (or more precisely men) when it comes to the Bulldogs, who were predicated by defense on that title run. He is the most logical contender, though, given Georgia is down its top two running backs after James Cook and Zamir White left for the NFL.

Bennett and his 2,862 yards and 29 scores has proven himself more than capable, leading the SEC in yards per attempt (10.0) and second in rating (176.6) last season and threw for 340 yards vs. Alabama in the SEC Championship Game and 313 against Michigan in the Orange Bowl semifinal. It helps there’s no more quarterback controversy in Athens, and if the Bulldogs follow expectations to another march to CFP contention, Bennett may be primed to build off last year’s late success.

Jahmyr Gibbs, Alabama (+3000)

Young faces a nearly impossible task in trying to win a second straight Heisman — which was detailed here — and linebacker Will Anderson Jr. is in a similar position considering no strictly defensive player has ever won. That scenario could turn voters’ attention to Gibbs, the Georgia Tech transfer.

He has home-run capability every time he touches the ball, but what makes him such an interesting addition to the Crimson Tide offense — and a key weapon for Young, who is no doubt going to see a lot of teams looking to take away his ability to throw downfield — is what the former all-ACC pick can add to the passing game.

Gibbs had 35 catches for 465 yards for the Yellow Jackets last year, a receiving total that would be an Alabama record. Just like Adrian Peterson stealing the show from returning winner Jason White in 2004, and Reggie Bush with Matt Leinart in 2005, Gibbs could become the new Heisman focus in Tuscaloosa.

Hendon Hooker, Tennessee (+5000)

Hooker came over from Virginia Tech and thrived in his first season in Josh Heupel’s offense, throwing for 2,945 yards — the fourth-most in program history — and 31 touchdowns to three interceptions after taking over the starting job in Week 3. Hooker’s 182.0 rating was third in the nation, trailing only Stroud (186.5) among Power Five players, and was 19 points higher than Young (167.5).

There are going to be plenty of fireworks after the Volunteers averaged 475 yards and 39 points, and Hooker’s stat line will be the beneficiary. But can they win enough games to keep him in the mix? After going 7-6, Tennessee is at least intriguing and has exactly the kind of marquee matchups (an Oct. 15 date with No. 1 Alabama and Nov. 5 vs. No. 3 Georgia) to move Hooker to the forefront. This feels like an all-or-nothing kind of campaign.

Bo Nix, Oregon (+5000)

He certainly has name recognition, with Nix seemingly having been in college for a decade. After throwing for 7,251 yards and 39 touchdowns in 34 starts over three years at Auburn, he left the Loveliest Village on the Plains behind for the Pac-12 and the Pacific Northwest and the team he burst onto the scene against in 2019. In a twist of irony, Nix is being brought right back into the SEC in a Week 1 meeting with defending national champion Georgia at Mercedes-Benz Stadium.

This will be Nix’s fourth game in four years vs. the Bulldogs, who sacked him four times as the then-Tigers passer threw for 217 yards and an interception in a 34-10 loss. Even if the Ducks can’t pull the upset, a strong showing by Nix and a manageable schedule that includes just one more opponent ranked higher than 25th (Nov. 19 vs. No. 7 Utah) figure to keep his candidacy afloat.

Cameron Rising, Utah (+6600)

The Pac-12 has missed out on the last five playoffs, and if the conference is going to change that, No. 7 Utah would seem its best hope. Yet it’s 14th-ranked USC’s Caleb Williams — the Oklahoma transfer — that is the league’s leader in the trophy odds at +600, trailing only Stroud (+200) and Young (+350).

It’s clear Rising isn’t getting any love a season after he threw for 2,493 yards and 20 touchdowns as part of an offense that returns 13 starters, including some nice toys for Rising to play with in running back Tavion Thomas and tight end tandem Brant Kuithe and Dalton Kincaid. The Utes open with a trip to Florida on Saturday but aren’t likely to get tested again until they host the Trojans on Oct. 15.

Blake Corum, Michigan (+8000)

Jim Harbaugh believes he has two quarterbacks worth starting, going with Cade McNamara in Week 1 vs. Colorado State and J.J. McCarthy the following game against Colorado. If you’re of the mind that saying you have two quarterbacks means you don’t really have one, then McCarthy (+5000) and McNamara (+12500) aren’t worth consideration when it comes to this award. Corum, though, is a different story.

Sharing duties with Hassan Haskins last season, Corum ran for 952 yards and 11 touchdowns despite an ankle injury on Nov. 6 against Indiana that cost him three quarters that game and the next two games as well. He’s expecting a bigger workload and is ready for the part, adding 12 pounds, and could challenge to be the program’s first 1,500-yard rusher since Denard Robinson in 2010.

Next. College Football Power Rankings: Top 25 QBs for 2022. dark

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