2023 Heisman favorites, sleepers and fades: Can Caleb Williams pull a rare repeat?


After following Lincoln Riley from Oklahoma to USC, quarterback Caleb Williams won the Heisman Trophy in his first season with the Trojans.

Of the top six Heisman vote-getters from last season, Williams is the only one back in college football in 2023. Before he rides off into the NFL, can Williams win college football’s most prestigious award again?

Only one player has ever won multiple Heismans — Ohio State’s Archie Griffin back in 1974 and 1975. And in the most-recent odds at BetMGM, Williams is listed as the favorite to win it again.

Will Williams be able to buck the trend and become the second two-time Heisman winner? Or will somebody else knock him from his throne?

The favorites

  • USC QB Caleb Williams (+475): Williams had an incredible sophomore season, throwing for 4,537 yards and 42 touchdowns with only five interceptions. He also ran for 382 yards and 10 scores on the year. Along the way, he had eight games with at least 300 yards passing and topped 400 yards three times. USC had one of the worst defenses in the country, so Williams routinely had to put on heroic efforts to keep the Trojans winning and in the CFP hunt. And if Williams hadn’t injured his hamstring in the Pac-12 title game, the Trojans may very well have earned a playoff spot. He’s the best player in college football.

  • LSU QB Jayden Daniels (+1000): Daniels spent his first three seasons at Arizona State before transferring to LSU following Brian Kelly’s arrival in Baton Rouge. Daniels had his best college season. He threw for 2,913 yards and 17 touchdowns with only three interceptions. He also rushed for 885 yards and 11 TDs to help the Tigers upset Alabama and win the SEC West. If Daniels takes his game to another level, especially as a downfield passer, LSU could have a special season ahead.

  • Texas QB Quinn Ewers (+1200): Ewers’ first season as a college starter was up-and-down. He looked incredible before going down with an injury vs. Alabama. And then later in the season, Ewers struggled with accuracy at times and finished the season with just a 58.1 completion percentage. Now a redshirt sophomore, Ewers has a loaded group of receivers to throw to at Texas. If he lives up to his lofty recruiting billing, he and Texas could have a huge season.

  • Florida State QB Jordan Travis (+1200): Travis has improved tremendously over the course of his college career to the point where he’s one of the Heisman favorites entering his final year of eligibility. Travis has always been an impressive athlete, but his progression as a passer has been significant. Last fall, he threw for 3,214 yards and 24 touchdowns with only five INTs. He also ran for 417 yards and seven TDs on the year.

  • Washington QB Michael Penix Jr. (+1400): Penix finished eighth in last year’s Heisman voting following a fantastic first season at Washington. Penix had flashes of excellence at Indiana, but also dealt with a lot of injuries. He got a fresh start at UW and threw for 4,641 yards and 31 TDs with only eight INTs. With Penix back for his final season in a pass-happy offense, Washington is one of the favorites in the Pac-12.

  • Clemson QB Cade Klubnik (+1400): Klubnik served as Clemson’s backup for the majority of his freshman season. DJ Uiagalelei started all of Clemson’s regular season games, but Klubnik took over after just two drives in the ACC title game. Klubnik completed 20-of-24 passes for 279 yards and a touchdown and also rushed for a score in a 39-10 win. He then got the start in the Orange Bowl vs. Tennessee, but struggled in a loss. In the offseason, Clemson brought in Garrett Riley as offensive coordinator to revitalize a stale system. Riley’s attack should give Klubnik the opportunity to thrive, but a few of Clemson’s receivers need to step up for him to have a Heisman-level season.

  • Notre Dame QB Sam Hartman, Michigan QB J.J. McCarthy, Oregon QB Bo Nix (+1600): These three quarterbacks being listed at +1600 shows how deep the crop of quarterback talent — and potential Heisman candidates — is this season. Hartman set the ACC record for career touchdown passes at Wake Forest and was excellent in his Notre Dame debut on Saturday. McCarthy is entering his second season as the starter on a Michigan team with national title aspirations. Nix was fantastic in his first year at Oregon and is one of the top dual-threat QBs in the nation.

Best bets

Sam Cooper: The market takes shape over the course of the offseason, but there’s still some decent value on the board. Cade Klubnik was somebody I had my eye on in the summer, but his odds have gone from 30-1 down to 14-1. Though his odds have moved also, I think Georgia QB Carson Beck at +1800 is worth a shot. Beck is a veteran of Georgia’s system and is set up for success right away with so much talent on the offensive line and at receiver with the likes of Brock Bowers and Ladd McConkey returning.

Nick Bromberg: Since I think Caleb Williams becomes the first player since Archie Griffin to win back-to-back Heismans, he’s worth your money at +475 even though he’s far and away the favorite. Williams should again be the most dynamic quarterback in college football.

I also like Florida State QB Jordan Travis at +1200 because I think the Seminoles live up to their lofty preseason expectations. The FSU offense is loaded and Travis could have a huge year. Quinn Ewers at +1200 is intriguing as well if you think this is the season Texas finally wins the Big 12. However, I do think there’s some Texas inflation built into Ewers’ odds.

Sleepers

Sam Cooper: More often than not, Heisman candidates are typically quarterbacks from contending teams. So when you look further down the odds board, somebody like Texas A&M’s Conner Weigman stands out at +4000. The Aggies were brutal last year, but this is still one of the more talented teams in the country. That’s especially true at receiver. If Jimbo Fisher and Bobby Petrino can co-exist to call the offense, I think A&M could have a pretty good season — maybe even to the point where they’re in the SEC West race late in the season. He’s a Heisman long shot for a reason, but Weigman could be in position for a big year.

Nick Bromberg: Drew Allar at +2500 is a great option if you believe Penn State is up there with both Michigan and Ohio State in the Big Ten. Allar could end up being the best quarterback in the conference by the time the season is over and could vault into the Heisman conversation if the Nittany Lions get a win over one or both of the Buckeyes and Wolverines.

Penn State quarterback Drew Allar could be a dark horse Heisman candidate this season if he can lead the Nittany Lions to a big season. (AP Photo/Barry Reeger)

Penn State quarterback Drew Allar could be a dark horse Heisman candidate this season if he can lead the Nittany Lions to a big season. (AP Photo/Barry Reeger)

Who to avoid

Sam Cooper: North Carolina QB Drake Maye (+1800)

Maye is a fantastic player who will likely be the second quarterback taken behind Williams in next year’s NFL Draft. But I’m not a believer in this North Carolina team at all. The Tar Heels were picked third behind Clemson and Florida State in the ACC preseason poll, but I’m very skeptical about this program under Mack Brown.

The Tar Heels just do not show any toughness, particularly on defense. If the defense doesn’t improve, I can’t see UNC winning more than seven or eight games — no matter how well Maye plays. Maye will likely put up huge numbers, but he’ll be more of a peripheral Heisman contender if UNC goes 7-5 as I suspect.

Nick Bromberg: LSU QB Jayden Daniels (+1000)

I’m not sold that Jayden Daniels can replicate his 2022 season for LSU. The Tigers relied on him way too much a season ago, and if LSU is to win the SEC West again it’s going to need to find a primary rusher that isn’t Daniels. I’d also stay away from Tennessee QB Joe Milton at +2500 right now. Milton’s talent is tantalizing and this could be the season he puts it all together. But Tennessee needs to win the SEC East and maybe even the entire SEC for Milton to win the Heisman. And I just don’t see that happening.



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