The new college football season may still be a long way away, but it is never too early to place your bets on who you think will win the Heisman Trophy in the 2017 season. The very early favorite, according to odds released by Bovada on Monday, is Oklahoma quarterback Baker Mayfield.
Bovada gives Mayfield 11/2 odds to win the Heisman Trophy this fall. He is followed by Ohio State’s J.T. Barrett (6/1), which sets up a nice Heisman Trophy showdown in September when the defending Big 12 champions head to Columbus for the second game in a home-and-home series that was won by Ohio State in Norman in 2016. Louisville quarterback Lamar Jackson, the 2016 Heisman Trophy winner, is listed with 7/1 odds, with USC’s rising star quarterback Sam Darnold listed at 9/1.
Penn State’s dynamic duo of running back Saquon Barkley and quarterback Trace McSorley each have 10/1 odds, along with Washington quarterback Jake Browning.
Looking back to the early odds from last January, Barrett and Mayfield each had 10/1 Heisman odds. Louisville’s Jackson was not on the radar.
WHO: Minnesota (8-4) vs. Washington State (8-4)
WHAT: The 39th National Funding Holiday Bowl
WHEN: 7:00 PM ET, ESPN
WHERE: Qualcomm Stadium, San Diego, CA
THE SKINNY: Minnesota will be down a number of players due to a controversial decision by the school to suspend 10 players from football activities, which caused a bit of a distraction during the prep for the bowl matchup. A team decision to boycott team activities until their suspended teammates were reinstated was aborted after a short period of time and some clarity to the situation was provided. That may or may not play a major factor in the preparation for the game at this point, but the fact 10 players will be missing is not to be overlooked. Minnesota may be a decent defensive team, but they could easily be worn down in the worst possible area against Washington State’s pass-heavy offensive approach.
The quarterback showdown alone between Mitch Leidner of Minnesota and Luke Falk of Washington State will be intriguing considering each could be playing football in the NFL in the near future. Mike Leach will have Falk passing on first, second and third downs all game long, with Gabe Marks being his top target. That passing game should have some opportunities to make some big plays that could hurt Minnesota in a hurry.
The Gophers will be a bit more balanced on offense (as most Washington State opponents tend to be by comparison). The Gophers will contrast with more of a running game with 1,000-yard rusher Rodney Smith leading the charge on the ground. Leidner is capable of picking up some yards on the ground as well.
Washington State’s season may not have ended the way it had hoped for the bulk of the season, but it looks to have a favorable chance to end things on a high note against the Gophers.
THE PREDICTION: Washington State 45, Minnesota 27
Washington State will welcome back quarterback Luke Falk for the 2017 season, Cougars head coach Mike Leach announced on Monday during a press conference leading up to the Holiday Bowl.
“It won’t be his last game,” Leach said, according to Stefanie Loh of The Seattle Times. “We’ll see what his last game means to the program.”
Falk did reportedly contemplate a possible early departure for the NFL, but Leach said any conversations he had with his quarterback will remain between them. Falk has been fending off NFL rumors for a while now, but his decision to return for another year is a bit of a mild surprise. However, another year in college could potentially see Falk’s NFL draft stock go up with another good season. The drawback, of course, is he tends to be seen by some as a system quarterback, something Leach’s quarterbacks have battled going back to his days at Texas Tech.
Of course, this does not mean Falk will indeed be back in Pullman for sure. There is plenty of time to change his mind, if his mind is indeed made up to return in 2017.
Falk passed for 4,204 yards and 37 touchdowns this season for Washington State. Last season, Falk passed for 4,561 yards and 38 touchdowns.
For the second straight season, Oklahoma quarterback Baker Mayfield has been named the recipient of the Burlsworth Award. Mayfield is now the first player to win the award two times.
The award is given to college football’s top player who began his career as a walk-on player. Mayfield was originally a walk-on player at Texas Tech before eventually transferring to Oklahoma, where he has emerged as a Heisman Trophy candidate and led the Sooners to two consecutive Big 12 championships and one appearance in the College Football Playoff.
Mayfield beat out Washington State quarterback Luke Falk and Northwestern wide receiver Austin Carr for the award. Mayfield will also have a chance to add one more Burlsworth Award to his name next season, as the Sooners passer has already said he will return to Oklahoma for the 2017 season.
Washington State (4-2, 3-0 Pac-12) remained in control of its own fate in the Pac-12 with a 27-21 victory over visiting UCLA (3-4, 1-3 Pac-12) Saturday night in Pullman. Luke Falk was held without a touchdown pass for the Cougars, and UCLA was without Josh Rosen at quarterback due to an injury from last weekend.
Falk passed for 261 yards and was picked off one time by the Bruins defense. The interception came in the end zone in the first half, when UCLA’s defense did all it could to keep the game within reach for an offense with little to give without Rosen. Senior Mike Fafaul gave it his best effort, however, with 258 passing yards and the first three touchdown passes of his career. UCLA had a chance to steal a win on the road after being down 24-7, but a fumble by receiver Jordan Lasley was recovered by Washington State (after a video review had to overturn the original call on the field). From there, Washington State was able to work the clock, force the Bruins to call their final timeout, and then run the clock down to 49 seconds when a punt was downed at the UCLA two-yard line. Fafaul lobbed on deep down the middle of the field but it was picked off to seal the win for the Cougars.
UCLA had three turnover sin the game. Maybe the inclement weather made for some slippery footballs. Washington State had two turnovers as well.
Washington State travels to Arizona State next week for another late night contest. Arizona State will have a chance to clinch bowl eligibility with a win and will look to shrug off a blowout loss on the road against Colorado. UCLA will be home next week to take on Utah. After a victory on the road against Oregon State, the Utes remain in a tie for first place in the Pac-12 South (with Colorado).