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Heisman Trophy: Michael Penix Jr. rising while public backs Shedeur Sanders

Sep 16, 2023; Boulder, Colorado, USA; Colorado Buffaloes quarterback Shedeur Sanders (2) prepares for a snap against the Colorado State Rams during the first half at Folsom Field. Mandatory Credit: Andrew Wevers-USA TODAY Sports
Credit: Andrew Wevers-USA TODAY Sports

Caleb Williams continues to gain very credible threats in his march towards a potentially historic Heisman Trophy repeat.

Southern California’s star quarterback remains the favorite, but several other signal-callers are closing the gap with oddsmakers and the public.

That begins with Washington’s Michael Penix Jr., who has thrown for a national-best 1,332 yards to go with 12 touchdowns against a lone interception during the Huskies’ 3-0 start. The sixth-year senior is now being offered at +500 by BetMGM and +550 by DraftKings.

That is behind only Williams, who is +350 and +380 at the two books, respectively. Penix has also drawn the second most Heisman money at DraftKings with 11 percent.

Colorado’s Shedeur Sanders leads the way, having been backed by a whopping 53 percent of the money and 58 percent of the total bets at the book at +1800. He is also the biggest liability at BetMGM, where Sanders leads with 20.5 percent of the Heisman money and 20.3 percent of the total bets while his odds have shrunk from +12500 to +1800.

However, a significant injury to Sanders’ teammate, Travis Hunter, was to BetMGM’s gain. Hunter, who is now off the Heisman board with a lacerated liver injury expected to sideline him for three weeks, has been the book’s second biggest liability while drawing 14.7 and 18.3 percent of the action, respectively.

While Sanders has shot up the Heisman odds during Colorado’s 3-0 start, he remains just the sixth favorite at BetMGM. Following Williams and Penix is Texas’ Quinn Ewers (+600), Notre Dame’s Sam Hartman (+900) and Florida State’s Jordan Travis (+1100).

Williams does remain third with 9 percent of the money backing him to join Archie Griffin (1974-75) as the only two-time Heisman winners. He has done nothing to hurt his cause, throwing for 878 yards with 12 touchdowns and no picks thus far.

However, Heisman votes have long proven to be adverse to handing the award to the same player twice. And in Williams’ immediate rear view mirror is Penix.

Washington is ranked No. 8 in the AP Top 25, and Penix is coming off a standout performance on the road at Michigan State, where he completed 20 of 25 passes for 375 yards — in the first half. He exited with 473, third most in school history.

The Heisman race could well come down to a Nov. 4 showdown between the Trojans and Huskies in Los Angeles. Penix also has other marquee games against 10th-ranked Oregon and Bo Nix on Oct. 14 along with a closing three-game stretch after the Trojans that includes No. 11 Utah, at No. 14 Oregon St. and the Apple Cup rivalry against No. 21 Washington State.

–Field Level Media