With conference media days set to kick off next week, it’s time to revisit the latest preseason Heisman odds.
This week’s top 10 list ranks the best values among the Heisman odds (via Bovada).
1) Connor Cook, QB, Michigan State Spartans — 25/1
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As discussed on last week’s Audible with guest ex-NFL scout Daniel Jeremiah, the 6-foot-4, 220-pounder has all the tools to be a first-round pick and he’s played — and won — a lot of big games. Cook’s the leader of what I think will be one of the five or six best teams in the country, and he’ll be playing behind a very good O-line. I think he can jump to the front of the Heisman race line if he leads the Spartans to a win in Week 2 when Oregon visits on a primetime Saturday night stage. He also gets more high-profile exposure when they play at Michigan, and I think he could at least lock up a trip to NYC if he plays very well at Ohio State Nov. 21.
2) Taysom Hill, QB, BYU Cougars — 50/1
Well, he’s gone up from "off-the-board" back in January. The 6-2, 232-pound Hill is a beast. I’ve talked to coaches who’ve played him who say you don’t have a sense of just how big and fast this guy is until your guys are on the field with him. When I talked to coach Bronco Mendenhall last month he said Hill’s the fastest and toughest guy on the team. In a little less than five full games last season, Hill had 15 TDs and three INTs, producing over 1,400 yards. He can make a big splash early with four high-profile September games: at Nebraska; Boise State; at UCLA; at Michigan. If the Cougars emerge from that stretch 4-0, which isn’t that far-fetched (I think UCLA is the toughest of that quartet), he’s definitely in the mix.
He’s a longshot (and dipped from 16/1 in January) because of the Buckeyes’ own intriguing QB battle. Don’t forget Barrett made a run at the Heisman last year, finishing fifth, and that was while just getting settled into college football. He’s an accurate passer with good wheels and a terrific command of the OSU system. His team is the favorite to win the title again, and the hunch here is that Barrett will take over the starting quarterback job sooner than later.
4) Seth Russell, QB, Baylor Bears — 33/1
RG3 won a Heisman at Baylor, and the Bears’ profile is much higher now. Russell has a bunch of explosive receivers to work with and plays in a very quarterback-friendly system — and he’s not just some stiff. The athletic 6-3, 220-pound Russell, who according to BU staff has a 41-inch vertical and has run a 4.49 40, played quite a bit last year while Bryce Petty was hobbled. Russell actually led the Big 12 in passing efficiency at 164.4. Russell should be able to pile up some juicy stats in the first two months of the season before the schedule gets a lot more interesting.
5) Malik Zaire, QB, Notre Dame Fighting Irish — 50/1
With Everett Golson leaving, Zaire has gone from "off-the-board" to 50/1. He’s a dangerous runner and an underrated passer who looked good beating a talented LSU team in the bowl game last season. And he was just getting warmed up. I think ND has the top-level talent in some key places to make a run at the College Football Playoff. The biggest question mark is running the offense. That’s on Zaire to be smart and consistent with the ball, but folks inside the program are very excited about him. He’s also got a ton of moxie and charisma, and that won’t hurt either. The best player on the team is either LB Jaylon Smith or LT Ronnie Stanley, but those aren’t positions that win Heismans.
The Badgers keep cranking out big-time backs and the 220-pounder from New Jersey is next in line. Clement started the Outback Bowl and ran for over 100 yards on Auburn. Wisconsin does have to rebuild a big part of its O-line, but LT Tyler Marz is good and center Dan Voltz is terrific. Better still, OL coach Joe Rudolph is around to help nurture the new guys.
7) Deshaun Watson, QB, Clemson Tigers — 16/1
He might be No. 2 on this list if he were still at the January listing (33/1). Watson’s just a smooth QB ready to become a star in the ACC now that he’s back from injury. In his debut he had a 14-2 TD-INT ratio, completed 68 percent of his passes and averaged a gaudy 10.7 yards per attempt. "He is a kid that sees it before it happens," former Tiger OC Chad Morris told me this offseason. "There’s always something to learn, but his game — his ability — he sees things before they happen."
8) Dalvin Cook, RB, Florida State Seminoles — 40/1
A dynamic runner with soft hands, Cook went over 1,000 yards while averaging almost six yards per carry as a freshman. He ran for over 420 yards in the Noles’ last three games at the end of the season, and he figures to be the guy FSU’s new QB leans on most.
OK, it’s a really, really long shot … BUT if "Two-Star" Scooby somehow betters his numbers from last year — 163 tackles, 29 tackles for loss, 14 sacks and six forced fumbles en route to Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year honors — and the Cats win the Pac-12, he’s going to NYC and may have a puncher’s shot to win the stiff-arm statue.
10) Leonard Fournette, RB, LSU Tigers — 14/1
He was my sleeper pick last year to win the Heisman, and he didn’t come very close at all. He still ran for over 1,000 yards and 10 TDs on a team that struggled mightily at QB to challenge defenses downfield. I expect the QB play to improve in 2015, and Fournette has learned to be a more patient runner and should be primed for a 1,500-yard season. LSU has a loaded November schedule to set him up with a lot of the spotlight.
Off the-board guys I’d be intrigued by: Christian Hackenberg, QB, Penn State Nittany Lions; Vernon Adams, QB, Oregon Ducks; Kyle Allen, QB, Texas A&M Aggies; Devontae Booker, RB, Utah Utes; Josh Rosen, QB, UCLA Bruins; Adoree Jackson, DB/WR/KR, USC Trojans.