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Every year the Heisman Trophy is awarded to the most outstanding player in college football, and every year people are quick to deem one player the favorite to win the award before a snap of football has been played.
This year, the de facto favorite for the award is USC quarterback Sam Darnold. The distinction is well-deserved – Darnold leads a potent offense with poise, and showed in the Rose Bowl last year that he has what it takes to perform his best under the brightest lights.
But there are other candidates for the award who should not go overlooked, as Heisman winners have a habit of coming out of nowhere to win the award.
Below we are taking a look at a few players with longer odds to win the Heisman who could potentially string together a special season that leaves them posing at the end of the year. Sam Darnold, Saquon Barkley, and Baker Mayfield are the three biggest favorites to take home the Heisman, but there’s plenty of talented options further down the betting sheet as well.
Below are your best underdog bets to come home with the Heisman this year. All odds courtesy of the Westgate Las Vegas Superbook.
Deondre Francois, 15/1
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Who he is: Sophomore quarterback at Florida State coming off an impressive freshman season.
Why he can win: Last season Francois showed a poise you don’t normally expect out of a true freshman under center. As the Seminoles quarterback, he’s likely to draw comparisons to Jameis Winston, but he also has some of the agility that helped Lamar Jackson take home the trophy last year. With an early test against Bama and a head-to-head matchup with Jackson due in October, Francois will have ample opportunity to show Heisman voters just what he is capable of.
Key games: Alabama (9/2), Louisville (10/21), Clemson (11/11)
Jake Browning, 18/1
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Who he is: Washington’s Junior quarterback entering his third year under center for the Huskies.
Why he can win: Washington made the playoff last year thanks to Browning’s passing and a defense that could hang with the best of them. To compete in the Pac-12 again, the Huskies are going to have to be gunslingers, and Browning has all the tools necessary to light up the stat sheet. Last year he finished with 3,430 passing yards, 43 touchdowns, and 9 interceptions. If he can improve on those numbers and lead the Huskies to the Pac-12 title game, winning the Heisman doesn’t seem like a stretch.
Key games: Colorado (9/23), Oregon (11/4), Stanford (11/11)
Bo Scarbrough, 30/1
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Who he is: Junior running back at Alabama who ran for 270 yards and four touchdowns during the Crimson Tide’s two games in the playoff last year.
Why he can win: Two basic aspects of becoming a Heisman finalist is getting on national television and looking good when you do. Alabama is a marquee game every week, and Scarbrough will be a feature of the Crimson Tide’s pro-style offensive attack this year. Break enough big runs in the right spots and he’ll be in the conversation.
Key games: Florida State (9/2), LSU (11/4), Auburn (11/25)
Nick Chubb, 30/1
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Who he is: Georgia’s stout, senior running back who is close to impossible to bring down.
Why he can win:Anyone who watched Chubb play last year knows what an enjoyable player he is on the field. He’s capable of the Madden truck-stick highlights that football fans love to see out of running backs, and has the potential to break any two-yard gain into a six-yard gain, and any six-yard gain into a touchdown. UGA will get enough national attention to put him in the spotlight, and as one of the centerpieces of their offense, he’ll have plenty of opportunity to shine.
Key games: Tennessee (9/30), Florida (10/28), Auburn (11/11)
Trace McSorley, 30/1
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Who he is: Senior Penn State quarterback who was one throw away from Rose Bowl glory last year.
Why he can win:Penn State is in a position to make a run at the playoff, and while running back Saquon Barkley is one of the favorites to win the Heisman, McSorley is capable of the type of flare that will catch the eyes of voters. If the Nittany Lions get through Michigan and Ohio State on back-to-back weeks unscathed, McSorley will be on people’s radar and in a position to take home the trophy.
Key games: Pittsburgh (9/9), Michigan (10/21), Ohio State (10/28)
Derwin James, 40/1
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Who he is: Florida State’s sophomore defensive back ready to make opposing quarterbacks miserable after an injury left him sidelined just two games into last season.
Why he can win:Everything you read about James is impressive. He was named college football’s best player by Sports Illustrated over the offseason and has generated significant buzz as a first-round pick in the draft next year. While defensive players historically don’t get a lot of love from Heisman voters, James’ versatility (he can play almost every position on the defensive side of the ball) makes him a must-watch player. If he shows up big in the Seminoles’ opener against Bama, the hype will continue to grow.
Key games:Alabama (9/2), Louisville (10/21), Clemson (11/11)
Luke Falk, 40/1
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Who he is: Fourth-year starter for Washington State who has finished in the top five in passing yards the past two seasons.
Why he can win: Experience is an asset in short supply in college football, but Falk is heading into his fourth year as the leader of a fairly impressive program. There are very few gimme-games in the Pac 12, but if Washington State can string together nine wins and Falk continues to be one of the prolific passers of the West Coast, it’s not hard to imagine him as a finalist for the Heisman.
Key games: Colorado (10/21), Stanford (11/4), Washington (11/25)
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