Heisman Trophy watch: Updated odds, top candidates to win 2020 award

By | December 18, 2020

If the latest odds are any indication, one of two Alabama players will win the 2020 Heisman Trophy after Saturday’s slate of games.

Those two players are Alabama quarterback Mac Jones and his favorite target, receiver DeVonta Smith. The favorite ahead of Week 15’s games, Florida quarterback Kyle Trask, now sits in a distant third behind the two Crimson Tide favorites. Lucky for him, he gets a chance to prove he’s the best player on the same field when the 11th-ranked Gators take on No. 1 Alabama in the SEC championship game.

MORE: College football picks, predictions against the spread for Week 15

Those three players aren’t the only players with a chance at the Heisman, however. Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence comes in behind Jones, Smith and Trask with a good opportunity to earn some votes with a good performance against Notre Dame. If he performs well against the Fighting Irish in the ACC championship — remember, he couldn’t play them in Week 10 because of a COVID-19 diagnosis — he could certainly sway some voters to his camp.

Speaking of Notre Dame, quarterback Ian Book brings up the rear of the voting odds, alongside Ohio State signal-caller Justin Fields. Both of those players have long odds to become a finalist, but that’s why the games are played instead of simulated. Every one of those players will compete Saturday in a conference championship game: What better stage to make one final on-field argument?

With that, Sporting News looks at the latest Heisman Trophy odds heading into conference championship week:

Heisman odds 2020

Heading into conference championship week, the odds-on favorite to win the Heisman is Jones (-190). That’s not quite as good as his opening line this week (-300), but he’s still the narrow favorite. And, he’s probably happy to share some of the Heisman love with his receiver, Smith, who has rocketed up the boards since the start of the week: He went from +1000 on Sunday to +120 as of Friday. Trask, meanwhile, fell from +250 to +900, meaning he’ll likely need to have the game of his life — even by his lofty standards — against the Crimson Tide.

Below are the top odds to bring home the 2020 Heisman Trophy as of Friday:

Player Odds
Mac Jones (QB, Alabama) -190
DeVonta Smith (WR, Alabama) +120
Kyle Trask (QB, Florida) +900
Trevor Lawrence (QB, Clemson) +2000
Ian Book (QB, Notre Dame) +4000
Justin Fields (QB, Ohio State) +4000

Top Heisman candidates

(Getty Images)

Mac Jones, QB, Alabama

  • 2020 stats: 217 of 284 passing (76.4 percent); 3,321 yards; 27 touchdowns, three interceptions
  • Last game: 24 of 29 passing (82.7 percent); 208 yards; 143.0 passer rating

Jones needs one more high-volume, high-efficiency game to become Alabama’s first quarterback to win the Heisman (AJ McCarron and Tua Tagovailoa both finished second in 2013 and ’18, respectively). How many of his passes go to Smith could determine which of those two players wins the award. If he spreads the ball more evenly to running back Najee Harris, tight ends Jahleel Billingsley and Miller Forristal and receivers John Metchie III and Slade Bolden, then the award is Jones’.

(Getty Images)

DeVonta Smith, WR, Alabama

  • 2020 stats: 83 receptions for 1,327 receiving yards (16.0 yards per reception); 17 touchdowns from scrimmage (15 receiving, one rushing, one punt return)
  • Last game: Three receptions for 22 yards, (7.3 yards per reception); 84-yard punt return for touchdown

Smith was mostly quiet against Arkansas, yet still had a potential Heisman moment with his 84-yard punt return that sparked the Tide’s outburst in a 52-3 win. If Smith leads Alabama in receptions, receiving yards or receiving touchdowns by a significant margin in a win on Saturday — and assuming Trask doesn’t outduel Jones — then he could become the first receiver since Michigan’s Desmond Howard in 1991 to win the award (and only the third ever in the history of the Heisman). Another game-breaking special teams play wouldn’t hurt, either.

Getty Images

Kyle Trask, QB, Florida

  • 2020 stats: 259 of 369 passing (70.2 percent); 3,717 yards; 39 touchdowns, five interceptions; two rushing touchdowns
  • Last game: 29 of 47 passing (61.7 percent); 474 yards; two touchdowns, two interceptions; two rushing touchdowns; one lost fumble

Trask is no longer the favorite, but he’s not out of the race by any means. He has the benefit of competing against the two favorites in front of him, providing a direct juxtaposition for Heisman voters. That said, he needs not only a fantastic outing against Alabama, but also a better performance than Jones and Smith (preferably in a win). If he can produce some stats that make people forget about the flop against LSU — and if his defense can stymie the Crimson Tide offense — it might be enough to bring home the hardware.

(Getty Images)

Trevor Lawrence, QB, Clemson

  • 2020 stats: 173 of 250 passing (69.2 percent); 2,431 yards; 20 touchdowns, three interceptions
  • Last game: 12 of 22 passing (54.5 percent); 195 yards; one touchdown, one interception; seven rushes, 41 yards, two touchdowns

Lawrence is in a unique situation that could earn him some Heisman votes: He has only played twice since Oct. 24, missing two games that resulted in a comeback win vs. Boston College and a 47-40 double-overtime loss to Notre Dame.

What does that have to do with the Heisman? Well, if he can come back and light up the Fighting Irish defense in a revenge game, it might convince voters that Lawrence’s value to Clemson eclipses those of the other Heisman favorites. There’s also a non-zero chance voters consider him on a career basis; after all, he has been considered the near-unanimous top player in college football since his debut in the 2018 College Football Playoff.

Getty Images

Ian Book, QB, Notre Dame

  • 2020 stats: 181 of 286 passing (63.3 percent); 2,381 yards; 15 touchdowns, two interceptions
  • Last game: 24 of 37 passing (64.9 percent); 285 yards; three touchdowns, one interception; eight rushes, 53 yards, two touchdowns

Like Lawrence, Book has a unique situation: If he can lead Notre Dame to a second win against Clemson, this time against Lawrence, it could be an impactful Heisman moment. He’d need to have a better game than his first outing against the Tigers (22 of 39 passing, 310 yards, one touchdown, 67 rushing yards, one fumble). Moreover, he probably needs any of Jones, Smith or Trask to have a bad game for him to earn a nod as a finalist.

Getty Images

Justin Fields, QB, Ohio State

  • 2020 stats: 107 of 137 passing (78.1 percent); 1,407 yards; 15 touchdowns, three interceptions; 55 rushes, 239 yards, five touchdowns
  • Last game: 17 of 24 passing (70.8 percent); 199 yards, two touchdowns; 13 rushes, 104 yards, two touchdowns

Fields seems out of sight, out of mind compared with the other favorites, perhaps because he’s not playing against anyone garnering attention for the award. Moreover, his lack of production due to the shortened season has largely stymied the numbers he might otherwise have put up. For Fields to earn real Heisman consideration, he needs to perform better — and needs more help, too — than any of the previously mentioned favorites on Saturday. A blistering performance in the noon spotlight against Northwestern is a good place to start.

When is the Heisman Trophy ceremony for 2020?

Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Heisman Trophy ceremony will take place on Tuesday, Jan. 5, 2021 — six days before the national championship game. Heisman voters won’t be able to consider bowl games or the College Football Playoff, however: The deadline to cast ballots is Monday, Dec. 21.

Heisman Trophy winners history

The 2020 college football season could provide one more surprise by featuring a wide receiver as the Heisman recipient. Smith stands to be the first finalist at his position since Alabama’s Amari Cooper in 2014, but looks like the best bet to win the award since Pitt’s Larry Fitzgerald in 2003 (he finished second in the voting, just 128 points shy of Oklahoma quarterback Jason White). The only other receivers to win the award are Howard (1991) and Brown (1987), and both of them bolstered their cases with big special teams plays.

If recent history is any indication, however, the 2020 Heisman Trophy winner will be a quarterback. Only three non-quarterbacks have won the award this millennium: USC running back Reggie Bush (2005) and Alabama running backs Mark Ingram Jr. (2009) and Derrick Henry (2015).

After all, it’s a quarterback-centric award, as the past 10 years of Heisman Trophy winners shows:

Year Player Total votes Margin of victory
2019 Joe Burrow, QB, LSU 2,608 1,846
2018 Kyler Murray, QB, Oklahoma 2,167 296
2017 Baker Mayfield, QB, Oklahoma 2,398 1,098
2016 Lamar Jackson, QB, Louisville 2,144 620
2015 Derrick Henry, RB, Alabama 1,832 293
2014 Marcus Mariota, QB, Oregon 2,534 1,284
2013 Jameis Winston, QB, Florida State 2,205 1,501
2012 Johnny Manziel, QB, Texas A&M 2,029 323
2011 Robert Griffin III, QB, Baylor 1,687 280
2010 Cam Newton, QB, Auburn 2,263 1,184