The odds to win the 2020 Heisman Trophy have been released and as history has shown, no odds-on favorite has won the prestigious award in some time. Is it a good idea to go for a darkhorse, like our Sean Clifford?
The 2020 Heisman Trophy award winner will likely go to a quarterback and that quarterback will likely be on a Power-5 team as it has for 17 of the last 20 winners and four consecutive. So, what does that mean for Penn State QB Sean Clifford?
Of all the athletes listed on Westgate’s Heisman odds (as early as it seems to talk about next December’s award), Clifford among a few others stands out. Clifford finished his first season as the starting quarterback with an 11-2 record and a Cotton Bowl victory. He returns an All-American at tight end and one of the nation’s best young trios at running back to not only rely on but also bail him out in the passing game if necessary.
Sure, fellow Big Ten rival Justin Fields and Clemson QB Trevor Lawrence are of the leaders to win the trophy and a quarterback has won it 17 of the past 20 times but what you really miss from the early onset and by just simply looking at the annual results, is how each winning quarterback did so. Odds are, it’s not the favorite in the offseason to take home the crown.
Take the most recent winner: Joe Burrow. He entered the fold last offseason as a longshot himself, generating somewhere between 25:1 and even 30:1 odds before the season started. Kyler Murray even found himself further away than where Baker Mayfield opened the season as Murray opened at 20:1 and Mayfield (the second-highest preseason odds of any winner the past 10 years) opened at 7:1.
Lamar Jackson, Jameis Winston and Johnny Manziel weren’t even on their shortlists while Marcus Mariota was favored at 6:1 in his Heisman-winning season (behind Winston repeating). Robert Griffin III, the current teammate to former Penn State QB Trace McSorley with the Baltimore Ravens, opened his winning season at 20:1, proving no true favorite has won the Heisman at quarterback over the past 10 seasons.
Clifford would in fact be the biggest longshot to win since Jackson in terms of offseason odds but history seems to be on his side. So what would Clifford have to do to bring some hardware back to Happy Valley?
First things first, he’d have to have the wins. As much of a team sport as football is, the quarterback certainly receives (rightfully so) most of the credit for a team’s wins and conversely, most of the blame for a team’s losses. Wins should follow, especially in the second half of the season, so next for Clifford will be some gaudy passing statistics for the nation’s media to start following him intently.
While some were on Burrow as early as Week 2 last year, it wasn’t until he was on the verge of breaking SEC records and toppling Alabama in Week 11 that the nation really started to pay attention. If Clifford is sitting at even 6-1 after the Ohio State game in Week 8, the tail end of the season presents chances to light up the scoreboard, something he’d have to do.
After wins and statistics, a Heisman moment will also be necessary, even two or three moments. Each Heisman Trophy winner has or had ‘that moment’ that secured him the award. Clifford will need a perfectly-placed deep ball to defeat Ohio State or a Jalen Hurts-esque pocket maneuver in a game late in the year, something he has all the ability to do.
The Heisman recipe is as easy as that, win the games, pave the way with gaudy statistics and have a couple of Heisman-worthy moments. Sean Clifford can do it. Sean Clifford will do it. If we say it enough, we can will it to happen.
Seems easy enough right?