2019 Heisman odds analysis: Tua vs. Trevor, sleepers, long shots

Rich Graessle/Icon Sportswire

Despite being outplayed by Clemson counterpart Trevor Lawrence in the national championship game, Alabama quarterback Tua Tagovailoa is the offseason betting favorite to win the 2019 Heisman Trophy.

Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook released opening odds that put Tagovailoa as the favorite at 5-2, just ahead of Lawrence at 3-1.

Tagovailoa emerged as the favorite at Westgate in August last year, even before Alabama coach Nick Saban had named him the starter. He remained at the top throughout the regular season, throwing for 36 touchdowns with only two interceptions, while leading the Crimson Tide into the SEC championship game undefeated.

But after Tagovailoa struggled in Atlanta before leaving the Georgia game with an ankle injury, Oklahoma quarterback Kyler Murray overtook him to win the Heisman the following weekend. Then, in the national title game, Lawrence shined with 347 passing yards and three touchdowns, while Tagovailoa was shaky again, tossing two interceptions as Clemson routed the Crimson Tide 44-16.

Yet almost two months later, despite Tagovailoa's late-season slide, Westgate considers him to be the favorite once again, despite Lawrence's spectacular playoff performances.

Both Tagovailoa and Lawrence return most of their top weapons on offense, as Alabama brings back its top three receivers, led by Biletnikoff winner Jerry Jeudy, plus Jaylen Waddle, Henry Ruggs III and DeVonta Smith. Clemson, meanwhile, returns star tailback Travis Etienne and the dynamic receiving combo of Tee Higgins and Justyn Ross.

Tagovailoa's former Alabama teammate, Oklahoma quarterback Jalen Hurts, tied for the third-best odds at 6-1, alongside Nebraska quarterback Adrian Martinez and Ohio State quarterback Justin Fields, whom the NCAA recently ruled eligible for the 2019 season after he transferred in from Georgia.

Here are some more thoughts on the initial list:

Sleepers to watch
Both Texas A&M's Kellen Mond and Purdue's Rondale Moore bring interesting value all the way down at 50-1. Both are coming off breakout 2018 campaigns, Mond in his first season as the Aggies' full-time starting quarterback, and Moore, as a lethal true freshman.

Moore topped the Big Ten last year with 1,258 receiving yards, and was the league's top all-around playmaker, with 14 touchdowns and a series of electric returns. If he delivers even more breathtaking performances in 2019, like the one he delivered in the upset blowout of Ohio State, he could be a factor in the Heisman.

Mond and the Aggies, meanwhile, have the look of a preseason top 10 team, with several key players returning from last year for coach Jimbo Fisher. If the Aggies can knock off Tagovailoa and the Crimson Tide in College Station on Oct. 12, Mond could make a legitimate Heisman run, similar to former A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel, whose performance at Alabama catapulted him all the way to the 2012 Heisman.

Long shot to watch
Despite sitting the first four games of the 2017 season, Arizona quarterback Khalil Tate unbelievably rose into the top three of the ESPN Heisman Watch by November with a string of video game-like statistical barrages.

But by comparison last year, Tate disappointed while attempting to transition into more of a pocket quarterback, as opposed to a run-first one.

Under first-year coach Kevin Sumlin, Tate upped his passing attempts by a third from the year before. But after rushing for 1,411 yards in 2017, he ran for only 224 last year; he also completed only 56 percent of his passes, as the Wildcats failed to make a bowl game.

The talent, however, is still there. And even at 100-1, Tate has the potential to return to the Heisman conversation, should he regain that sensational 2017 form.

Overvalued pick
Had it not been for Lawrence, Martinez might have been a freshman All-American. He passed for 2,617 yards, completed 65 percent of his passes and rushed for 629 yards and eight touchdowns. And yet despite that, Nebraska went 4-8, including 3-6 in the Big Ten's mediocre West Division.

The Huskers did play better down the stretch, and figure to be improved in coach Scott Frost's second season; Martinez is the biggest reason for that.

But no quarterback, save for Notre Dame's Paul Hornung in 1956, has ever won the Heisman with more than three regular-season losses. Though not inconceivable, it's difficult to see Nebraska making that kind of leap in 2019, making Martinez's value at 6-1 curious.