Is Drew Allar a legitimate Heisman Trophy candidate?

STATE COLLEGE, PA - OCTOBER 29: Drew Allar #15 of the Penn State Nittany Lions warms up before the game against the Ohio State Buckeyes at Beaver Stadium on October 29, 2022 in State College, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Scott Taetsch/Getty Images)
STATE COLLEGE, PA - OCTOBER 29: Drew Allar #15 of the Penn State Nittany Lions warms up before the game against the Ohio State Buckeyes at Beaver Stadium on October 29, 2022 in State College, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Scott Taetsch/Getty Images) /

Drew Allar has yet to be named the official starting quarterback for the 2023 Penn State Football season, but several sportsbooks have the 5-star prospect with surprisingly strong odds to win the Heisman Trophy.

Bet MGM has Allar at +2500, the same odds as Tennessee QB Joe Milton. Marvin Harrison Jr. — a projected top five pick and generational wide receiver has just slightly better chances at +2000. Notable names like Blake Corum (Michigan RB) and four high-profile signal callers Conner Weigman (Texas A&M), Dillon Gabriel (Oklahoma), KJ Jefferson (Arkansas) and Jalen Milroe (Alabama) have far worse odds than Allar according to Bet MGM.

Fan Duel  also has Allar at +2500 along with Milton. The difference from Bet MGM? Fan Duel clearly believes the Heisman winner will be a quarterback — as it almost always is — and has Harrison Jr. slated behind the Penn State and Vols’ passers at +3000.

Caleb Williams is the runaway favorite at +500 on both Bet MGM and Fan Duel right now even though the only player to win the Heisman twice, in back-to-back seasons was Archie Griffin at Ohio State in 1974 and 1975.

The surprising part? Fan Duel has six quarterbacks slightly ahead of Allar at +1800. Bo Nix (Oregon), Kyle McCord (Ohio State), J.J. McCarthy (Michigan), Sam Hartman (Notre Dame), Carson Beck (Georgia) –and the most surprising — Drake Maye (North Carolina).

Maye is viewed by many national experts as the potential better pro prospect and number one overall NFL Draft Pick over Williams, but his loyalty to staying with a Tar Heels team that likely won’t compete for a national title likely made him fall. That’s solid value if you’re into these future bets.

Bet MGM has Maye just a tad bit higher at +1600 along with Nix, Hartman and Jordan Travis of Florida State.

Is Drew Allar a realistic Heisman Trophy candidate?

All of the pieces are in place for Penn State to make a serious run at the national title for the first time under James Franklin’s tenure at head coach. With national media and beat reporters both agreeing this is the most talented team, returning 14 starters from last year’s team that finished 11-2 capping the season off with a Rose Bowl win over Utah, everything is in place for Allar to thrive immediately.

With the exception of Williams last season — who electrified the nation in as Lincoln Riley’s prized signal caller as they both attempted to resurrect a USC football brand that has been dormant since Reggie Bush won college football’s most prestigious award in 2005 — the previous five Heisman winners were on teams that made it to the College Football Playoff.

History tells us the Heisman Trophy winner has a much better chance if his team makes the College Football Playoff, and I believe that to be the case in this situation.

Audrey Snyder summed it up perfectly in a piece for The Athletic.

"Penn State’s offense now has another gear to shift into, making it even more potent as Nick Singleton wants to catch more passes out of the backfield. Drew Allar’s special arm talent will have to live up to his recruiting pedigree, but if he’s indeed the talent that he’s believed to be, PSU has to take these next two seasons with him and do everything it possibly can to make a postseason run.There’s a five-star quarterback at the helm and the former Gatorade national player of the year at running back. That’s a special combination of sophomores that many teams — even those PSU is chasing — would love to have. This is the kind of star power that it takes to start building a Playoff contender.Audrey Snyder, The Athletic"

Beyond Allar and Singleton, the 2023 roster is stacked with talent on both sides of the ball and depth Franklin has sought since taking over in 2014. There are at least three legitimate first-round NFL Draft picks at left tackle, defensive end and cornerback. Add Abdul Carter, who has shown the ability to be a game-wrecker at linebacker and should emerge as one of the top defensive players in the country.

As Snyder noted, Dani Dennis-Sutton appears to be another emerging star at defensive end, a five-star talent who picked Penn State over Georgia.

Ranked seventh in the Associated Press Top 25 Coaches Poll heading into the new season, everything is set up for Allar to succeed. He should have one of the best pass blocking offensive lines in the Big Ten and two of the top running backs in the country behind him to take the pressure off and scheme around his strengths. Add a defense ranked fourth in the country heading into 2023, and there’s some sense to be made at what feels like a long shot betting play.

Sure, there are question marks at wide receiver, but Penn State appears to have viable options there, too. Kent State transfer Dante Cephas — who was named to the Biletnikoff Award preseason watch list last week that  recognizes the top pass catcher in college football — should be the clear No. 1. He had 1,984 yards and 12 touchdowns in his two seasons at Penn State. It’s just a matter of Allar and him building chemistry at this point.

Keandre Lambert-Smith, a senior, is the most experienced wide receiver of this year’s group and he has flashed in the slot when his number has been called, but should take on a bigger role this season.

Harrison Wallace hasn’t seen much action during his first two years with the Nittany Lions but I expect him to emerge as the other starter opposite of Cephas.

While there are a few question marks on Penn State’s offense that could be the difference between a trip to the College Football Playoff and Heisman run for Allar –or another 11-2 season that would feel like a disappointment this year– the other powerhouses in the Big Ten have plenty of unknowns as well. Ohio State has a new quarterback and lost key players to the NFL Draft, while Michigan i will be without 11 of the starters that helped propel the Wolverines to the College Football Playoff in 2022.

For me, it’s simple. Yes, it’s realistic for Drew Allar to be considered a sleeper Heisman pick — and while I don’t dabble in betting on futures — there could be some value there. If he plays like many believe he can and will as the highest QB recruit in Penn State history, it will mean the Nittany Lions make the College Football Playoff.

The two go hand and hand, and while the path won’t be easy for either accomplishment, it’s absolutely possible.