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Michael Penix Jr. with the Washington Huskies (Photo by Sportswire)
October 18th, 2023
The second half of the 2023 college football season is underway, and the Heisman Trophy landscape has shifted dramatically from the start in early September.
Reigning Heisman Trophy winner Caleb Williams, who seeks to join Archie Griffin (1974-75) as the only back-to-back winners, entered the season as the prohibitive favorite at DraftKings, but Williams has dropped from the top spot as his Trojans have struggled over recent weeks.
Here’s a look at the leading contenders after Week 7.
After winning a key test vs. Oregon, Michael Penix Jr. strengthened his hold upon Heisman favoritism. The Washington left-hander threw for 302 yards and four touchdowns in the showdown of top 10 teams, increasing his totals to 2,301 passing yards and 20 TDs from a 72.1% completion rate over six games in 2023. An Indiana transfer, Penix is playing in his sixth season, but four have been cut short by injuries.
He’s opened a significant cushion in Heisman betting and given the terrific weapons at his disposal (Jalen McMillan, Ja’Lynn Polk, and Rome Odunze), Penix appears well-positioned to win the hardware.
Dillon Gabriel leapt into the Heisman discussion by leading undefeated Oklahoma to a thrilling 34-30 win over Texas in Week 6, rallying the Sooners to a come-from-behind TD in the final seconds and gaining a measure of revenge after Texas obliterated their main rival 49-0 last year. The senior quarterback, who is in his second season at the helm of Oklahoma’s high-octane offense after transferring from UCF, has been sensational all year, accounting for 21 TDS (16 passing and five rushing) while directing the nation’s second-ranked scoring offense (47.3 points per game).
In my opinion, this guy’s play @_dillongabriel_ and our defense were the difference!!! We’ll have to do it again in the championship game! @OU_Football pic.twitter.com/hsmsdhDUvE— Barry Switzer (@Barry_Switzer) October 10, 2023
In my opinion, this guy’s play @_dillongabriel_ and our defense were the difference!!! We’ll have to do it again in the championship game! @OU_Football pic.twitter.com/hsmsdhDUvE
The raw numbers aren’t flashy, as Michigan has run roughshod over their first seven opponents, but efficiency has been J.J. McCarthy’s calling card this season. The junior quarterback owns a gaudy 78.2% completion rate this season, narrowly second-best among FBS quarterbacks, but the Wolverines haven’t needed to showcase his strong arm. McCarthy will be called upon to make plays over the final three weeks of the regular season, as Michigan finishes with Maryland, Penn State, and Ohio State, but the back-loaded schedule probably doesn’t help his Heisman candidacy.
Jordan Travis opened the 2023 campaign with a big win, throwing for 342 yards and four TDs as Florida State rolled 45-24 over fifth-ranked LSU, and the senior quarterback has led the unbeaten Noles to 30 points or more in 12 consecutive games. He threw another long TD pass (58-yarder) to Keon Coleman as Florida State improved to 6-0, stomping Syracuse 41-3 in Week 7, and Florida State controls its playoff fate because of Travis.
Congratulations to USC sophomore quarterback Caleb Williams, the 2022 Heisman Trophy winner! pic.twitter.com/08TUdf5SfH— The Heisman Trophy (@HeismanTrophy) December 11, 2022
Congratulations to USC sophomore quarterback Caleb Williams, the 2022 Heisman Trophy winner! pic.twitter.com/08TUdf5SfH
The consensus No. 1 pick in the 2024 NFL Draft, Williams’ hopes for a repeat Heisman win were probably lost at Notre Dame in Week 7, as the junior struggled with a career-high three interceptions and a career-low 199 passing yards in a lopsided setback, but the atypical performance won’t impact his legacy. Blessed with a cannon, Williams is accurate on all levels — the arm ability combined with his size and running ability classifies him as a unique talent — and he’s one of the best we’ve ever seen in the college ranks.
North Carolina’s Drake Maye (+1800), LSU’s Jayden Daniels (+1400), and Bo Nix (+2000) have not been eliminated from the Heisman discussion, but their prospects don’t appear favorable in the second half of the season.
It’s Penix’s prize to lose; the outstanding Washington quarterback appears well on his way to winning the 2023 Heisman Trophy.
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