As we venture into the final weeks of the 2023 college football season, the Heisman Odds watch is becoming clearer and clearer. What is the latest update to the Heisman race, and who should be expected to contend for the award?
2023 Heisman Watch: Jayden Daniels and Bo Nix Go Head-to-Head
The field is narrowing down more and more. From Week 11 to Week 12, the list of potential Heisman contenders on DraftKings’ odds list was cut down by around half.
There are now only 11 players listed on DraftKings’ Heisman odds list, and three are separated at the top as the primary competitors: Oregon QB Bo Nix, LSU QB Jayden Daniels, and Washington QB Michael Penix Jr.
Daniels, in fact, has taken the lead with odds of +110 after a Week 12 performance that saw him tie the single-game LSU record for touchdowns with eight, originally set by Joe Burrow in 2019.
Nix is in second place by a hair, with odds of +120. He threw six touchdown passes in the first half alone against Arizona State this week, and sat out most of the second half while the Ducks cruised to an easy victory.
Penix, meanwhile, is a ways back from Daniels and Nix, with current odds of +550. His three total touchdowns helped Washington outlast an upset-minded Oregon State squad, keeping their undefeated record intact.
The other names listed on the Heisman odds watch include Marvin Harrison Jr. (+3000), Carson Beck (+5000), Jalen Milroe (+15000), Blake Corum (+30000), J.J. McCarthy (+30000), Ollie Gordon II (+50000), Rome Odunze (+50000), and Malik Nabers (+50000).
Those names being listed, however, appear to be a mere formality at this point. For all practical intents and purposes, the race is down to three.
For Nix and Penix, the Pac-12 Championship Looms Large
If we’re basing the Heisman winner off the best player in college football alone, then Daniels has the strongest argument.
Daniels, on the year, has completed 220 of 303 attempts (72.6%) for 3,577 yards, 36 touchdowns, and four interceptions. On the ground, his production has been just as impressive: 1,014 yards and 10 additional scores.
There hasn’t been an offensive threat as dynamic as Daniels in both phases of the game this year, and he’s never been the reason his team has lost. More often than not, Daniels is the one keeping the Tigers in games, while the defense allows points at a high clip.
Unfortunately for Daniels, however, individual production isn’t the sole deciding factor for the Heisman Trophy. Team accomplishments — and the role that Heisman contenders play in earning those accomplishments — does bear weight.
Nix and Penix, in that regard, have plenty left to play for in 2023. Washington and Oregon are locked into one more standoff in the Pac-12 title game. The winner not only wins the Pac-12 Conference Championship, but also gets into the 2023 CFB Playoff field. The loser does not.
The implications to this game are so massive from a team achievements perspective, that no matter how well Daniels plays individually to close out the year, the Heisman race will be heavily swayed toward the winner of the Pac-12 title: Nix or Penix.
Both the Washington and Oregon rosters are strong on both sides of the ball, strong in the trenches, and have dynamic offensive weapons. It’ll come down to either Nix or Penix to make the difference and outplay the other.
The last time the two quarterbacks played earlier in 2023, it went right down to the wire, and Nix nearly led his team to tie the game and force overtime. But a missed last-second field goal sealed a 36-33 victory for Washington.
This final Oregon-Washington duel will be the culmination of two incredible redemptive arcs on the college football landscape. Two QBs who battled injuries and early adversity, only to resurrect their careers and achieve greatness.
Penix and Nix both have a degree of control over their own destinies, but absolutely everything is on the line. And delivering with this amount of pressure alone will be a Heisman-worthy feat, for whoever comes out on top.
One gets the Conference Championship, the CFB Playoff berth, the chance at a National Championship, and the Heisman Trophy by extension. The other gets nothing.
We know what’s led to this, and we know what’s coming. We know the stakes. All that’s left is to wait.