Heisman winners helping bettors cash in since 2006
Heisman campaigning begins long before the first snap of the season. The top players in college football are already pushing for the NCAA’s top individual honor and bookmakers have followed suit, setting odds for the Heisman hopefuls.
A Heisman-worthy effort usually brings with it a fare share of media coverage and buzz, which is like Kryptonite to sports bettors. An all-out media blitz and constant coverage can suck the value out of any team, no matter how talented their marquee player may be.
However, programs boasting Heisman winners have been among the best bets in college football for the past six seasons. Not since Reggie Bush won the award (and then had it erased) on a USC squad that went 6-7 ATS in 2005 has a program with a Heisman winner finished below .500 against the spread.
Last season, Robert Griffin III led the Baylor Bears to an 8-4 ATS mark. And the year before, Cam Newton pushed Auburn to a bountiful 10-4 ATS count. In fact, over the past six seasons, teams featuring Heisman Trophy winners are a combined 54-24 ATS - better than 69 percent.
Here’s a look at the top three favorites to win the Heisman Trophy in 2012 and their teams' chances against the spread:
Matt Barkley, USC Trojans (+350)
Barkley ruffled some feathers this past week, stating that if he had entered the NFL Draft that he would have been selected before Griffin. The junior quarterback may have been right, but he’ll get a shot to be selected above everyone if he can put together a Heisman-worthy campaign.
The Trojans are the favorites to win the BCS, which should also inflate their week-to-week odds. They’re up against some massive chalk this season and will likely go off as double-digit faves in every game but the Nov. 3 home date versus Oregon (-4.5). The last two USC Heisman winners, Bush and Matt Leinart, combined for a 14-12 ATS record in 2004 and 2005.
Montee Ball, Wisconsin Badgers (+450)
Wisconsin’s endzone-seeking running back scored 39 total touchdowns last season, tying Barry Sanders' single-season mark. Ball was a Heisman finalist in 2011 but doesn’t have dynamic QB Russell Wilson mixing it up or offensive coordinator Paul Chryst, who took the head job at Pittsburgh, calling the shots.
Wisconsin is one of the many contenders in the Big Ten Leaders Division and opens conference play with a trip to Lincoln as a 3-point underdog. The Badgers do get rivals Michigan State and Ohio State in Madison, where they went 6-0-1 ATS in 2011.
Denard Robinson, Michigan Wolverines (+600)
Shoelace is a one-man wrecking crew, totaling 2,173 yards passing, 1,176 yards rushing and 36 combined touchdowns last year. Those are Heisman stats but so much rides on the success of the team as well. And the Wolverines have an uphill climb in 2012, starting with a showdown against the defending national champs in Week 1.
Michigan is a 10.5-point underdog for that game, a 2.5-point underdog in South Bend on Sept. 22, a 2.5-point dog at Nebraska, and getting 3.5 points at rival Ohio State in late November. For a team priced as a +200 to win the Big Ten, all those underdog lines seem awful tempting, especially with an explosive guy like Robinson taking snaps.