On Wednesday, Bovada put out the betting odds for the Heisman Trophy this season, with Clemson Tigers quarterback Trevor Lawrence as the heavy favorite, followed by four other quarterbacks.
That group includes Texas Longhorns quarterback Sam Ehlinger at +1200, the same as Miami Hurricanes graduate transfer D’Eriq King. In front of Ehlinger? Oklahoma Sooners quarterback Spencer Rattler at +900.
The former consensus five-star prospect was the No. 1 pro-style quarterback in the 2019 class, according to the 247Sports Composite rankings, and the No. 11 player nationally. Head coach Lincoln Riley named him the starter last week.
“It’s been a little bit different competition,” Riley said. “Spencer, I think, has played very well and is certainly very deserving of it. Disappointed for Tanner Mordecai. He had to end up missing 70 to 75% of fall camp, which obviously severely limited his reps or true opportunities to really go play his best ball and have a shot at it. That’s football.”
What’s remarkable about Rattler getting better odds than Ehlinger to win the Heisman is the vast gap in experience and production.
Rattler appeared in three games last season, completing 7-of-11 passes for 81 yards and a touchdown. Since Mordecai missed so much time during preseason camp, Rattler didn’t face much competition and wasn’t able to benefit from a full set of spring practices, normally key developmental time for a young quarterback.
Ehlinger has now started 33 games across three seasons and leads all active FBS quarterbacks in completions (571), attempts (879), passing yards (6,955), total offense (8,100) and total touchdowns (80) since the start of the 2018 season. Over that stretch, he ranks second among active FBS quarterbacks in passing touchdowns (57) and is the only FBS player to account for 50 touchdown passes and 20 rushing touchdowns since the start of the 2018 season.
So why is Rattler considered more likely to win the Heisman?
The most simple answer is Riley’s offense. With three different quarterbacks in the last four seasons, those players have posted four of the top seven seasons in college football history in passing efficiency rating. Baker Mayfield and Kyler Murray both won the Heisman Trophy themselves and went on to become No. 1 draft picks.
Dating back to the Bob Stoops era, the Sooners have also won the last five Big 12 titles, producing a run of consistent success unmatched in the conference’s history. Meanwhile, after the 10-win season in 2018, Texas backslid so badly last season to an 8-5 record that head coach Tom Herman turned over seven of his 10 on-field assistant coaches, including both coordinators.
So, despite all of Ehlinger’s production, oddsmakers like Bovada now have more confidence in Riley turning his first non-transfer quarterback into the Heisman Trophy winner than Herman and new offensive coordinator Mike Yurcich turning one of the nation’s most productive quarterbacks over the last two seasons into a Heisman Trophy winner.
And that speaks volumes about the recent state of the Longhorns program and its perceived current state.