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It’s not a new development that the top contenders to win the Heisman Trophy mostly play the same position. Five of the past six winners of the award have been quarterbacks. But this season’s race for the top trophy in college football might be the most quarterback-heavy ever.
Through three weeks, the top eight favorites to win the Heisman all line up behind center. That includes the defending winner in Alabama’s Bryce Young as well as Ohio State’s C.J. Stroud, who finished fourth in the 2021 voting. Both players beat up on Group of Five competition this weekend.
USC’s Caleb Williams and Oklahoma’s Dillon Gabriel continued to boost their stock with blowout wins, as well. And a new name jumped into the thick of the race with arguably the best performance of the weekend.
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FrontPageBets presents a breakdown of how five of the top Heisman contenders fared in Week 3, as well as a look at what each will face next week.
(Odds courtesy of FanDuel and subject to change)
C.J. Stroud, QB, Ohio State (+200)
After struggling a bit in Ohio State’s season-opening win over Notre Dame, Stroud and the Buckeye offense are back to putting up massive numbers. Stroud completed 22 of 27 passes for 367 yards and five touchdowns in Ohio State’s 77-21 demolition of Toledo on Saturday.
He has now thrown for 941 yards, 11 touchdowns and no interceptions through three games. His 11 passing scores are tied for the national lead, and his 11.1 yards per attempt ranks fourth.
Next week’s Big Ten opener against Wisconsin should provide a telling test for Stroud. The Badgers have been stout, as usual, on defense this season, and the nationally broadcast matchup should show whether Stroud’s Week 1 stat line was the result of some season-opening rust or if his past two performances against overmatched opponents have been the outliers.
Caleb Williams, QB, USC (+300)
Williams continued his meteoric rise up the Heisman odds board with another efficient performance in a USC win over Fresno State. He’s now the second favorite to win the award, having passed Young.
Williams completed 25 of 37 passes for 284 yards and two touchdowns in USC’s 45-17 win. He also added a pair of scores as a runner. Williams has totaled 10 touchdowns through three games. His completion percentage of 74.4 ranks fourth nationally, and he’s tied for eighth in yards per attempt. He’s scored 10 total touchdowns, and given the explosiveness USC’s offense has shown under Lincoln Riley, there should be plenty more to come.
Williams and the Trojans will look to continue to put up big numbers in a hostile environment Saturday when they travel to Oregon State.
Dillon Gabriel, QB, Oklahoma (+1600)
Saturday’s matchup with Nebraska represented the first Power Five test for Gabriel since he transferred from Central Florida to Oklahoma.
Safe to say he passed. Gabriel completed 16 of 27 passes for 230 yards and two touchdowns. He also rushed for 55 yards and a score. He might have had a bigger day, but Nebraska couldn’t stop the Sooners’ ground game, which racked up 312 yards and four touchdowns. Gabriel has now accounted for nine touchdowns and no interceptions on the year.
The schedule gets a lot tougher the rest of the way, though, starting with a Kansas State team that is allowing 6.3 points per game on the season. The Wildcats, who have had Oklahoma’s number in recent years, will travel to Norman on Saturday.
Georgia continued to roll and Bennett continued to play well in the team’s SEC-opener this week, a 48-7 win over South Carolina. Bennett completed 16 of 23 passes for 284 yards and a pair of scores, plus found the end zone as a rusher.
The biggest impediment to Bennett’s Heisman campaign might be that Georgia’s team is simply too dominant to force him into a pass-heavy game script.
Bennett has yet to play in a fourth quarter so far this season, and by the second half of all three games, the Bulldogs have simply been looking to run out the clock. That likely won’t change this week when Georgia plays host to Kent State.
Penix has been mentioned as a dark-horse Heisman candidate before, prior to the 2021 season. After he struggled mightily last year, it seemed unlikely he’d ever be back in that position. But here we are.
Penix transferred to Washington during the offseason, reunited with former offensive coordinator Kalen DeBoer and has played great through the Huskies’ first three games, most recently leading a 39-28 upset of No. 11 Michigan State. Penix carved up the Spartans’ defense to the tune of 397 yards and four touchdowns.
Penix has now thrown for more than 300 yards and multiple scores in each of his first three games at Washington. He’s averaging nearly 360 yards per game through the air, which ranks second nationally. The win over Michigan State shot Penix up the Heisman odds board, and he should have a decent chance to back the performance up this week against a Stanford defense that gave up 341 yards and four touchdowns to Williams in Week 2.
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Mitchell Forde is a freelance writer who covers college football for FrontPageBets. Follow him @Mitchell4D
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