Handicapping the Heisman
by: Doc's Sports
Bovada has unveiled several college football player props, and I’ll take a look at some of the biggest names over the next two weeks ahead of the Aug. 30 opening night. Today, it’s Michigan quarterback Denard Robinson, as well as an early look at the Wolverines’ huge opener at Cowboys Stadium against Alabama.
It’s sort of hard to believe that no Michigan player has won a Heisman Trophy since Charles Woodson became the first and still only defensive player to do so in 1997. No U-M quarterback has taken home college football’s top award. But Robinson is the 15/2 third-favorite at Bovada and 3/2 co-second-favorite to finish in the Top 3 of the voting.
“Shoelace” finished sixth in the 2010 Heisman voting after a record-setting sophomore season where he set the NCAA record for rushing yards by a quarterback with 1,702 yards and the first player in NCAA history to pass for 2,500 yards (2,570) and rush for 1,500 yards in a single season.
But that was in Rich Rodriguez’s spread option offense. That offense was altered a bit last year under first-year head coach Brady Hoke, and some of Robinson’s numbers suffered a bit. He did rush for two more TDs (16) than in 2010 but had “only” 1,176 yards on the ground to go with 2,173 yards in the air and 20 more scores. Robinson struggled with his accuracy at times last year, completing just 55 percent of his throws and getting picked off 15 times. Improving that accuracy was priority No. 1 this offseason and in fall camp.
Robinson was still clearly the focal point of the offense but had to share carries with Fitzgerald Toussaint a year ago as the running back rushed 187 times for 1,041 yards. This was by design to help save some wear-and-tear on Robinson’s body. That will be the case again in Robinson’s senior year with Toussaint back. Robinson still should sail way past Antwaan Randle El's Big Ten record for rushing yards for a quarterback of 3,895 -- Robinson needs less than 700 yards to surpass that number.
Here are Robinson’s totals at Bovada for the 2012 season (this includes any conference title games or bowls): 2,175 yards passing (“under” a -135 favorite), 17.5 passing TDs (“over” a -135 favorite), 1,110 rushing yards (over a -130 favorite) and 15.5 rushing scores (both -120).
You can also bet on who will have more passing yards among Robinson (-200) and fellow Big Ten dual-threat quarterbacks Taylor Martinez of Nebraska (+150) and Braxton Miller of Ohio State (+200). Also available for wagering is which of that trio has the most passing touchdowns, with Robinson at -110, Miller at +110 and Martinez at +150. Miller threw for 1,159 yards and 13 scores as a freshman in 2011, while Martinez threw for 2,089 and 13.
I hate Miller in those vs. props because the Buckeyes aren’t eligible for the postseason in 2012 so, thus, he could play two fewer games and for sure one (I’m presuming both Nebraska and Michigan make a bowl) than either Robinson or Martinez.
Meanwhile, Martinez is even more inaccurate than Robinson, and the Huskers have a superstar running back in Rex Burkhead and will be extremely run-heavy. So I would take Denard on both props. As for the Heisman, I don’t think Robinson wins it but I would take him to finish in the Top 3.
Shoelace might win the award, however, if he leads Michigan to an upset over the defending National Champion Tide in that opener. A victory certainly would give Robinson early momentum. Currently Alabama is a 12.5-point favorite on 5Dimes.
It’s still not clear if Toussaint will play in that game. He was arrested for drunk driving in late July after running a red light and suspended by Hoke. Toussaint has been back practicing with the team but Hoke recently said he still hadn’t decided whether he would allow Toussaint to play in the game. The coach could be waiting for Toussaint’s Aug. 28 court date, but I’m sure he already knows what he’s going to do. It would take some serious stones to bench Toussaint vs. Alabama, and I’d be stunned if Hoke does. But kudos to Hoke if he decides to bench arguably his second most important offensive player in one of Michigan’s biggest openers ever.
On the bright side for Michigan, the Tide lost a ton of talent off a defense that was one of the best in NCAA history a year ago. Also gone is Heisman finalist running back Trent Richardson. But Alabama also will have one of the nation’s best offensive lines and a very good quarterback in A.J. McCarron, and coach Nick Saban just keeps plugging in five-star recruits. The Wolverines’ biggest losses from last year’s team were leading receiver Junior Hemingway and the team’s best defensive player, tackle Mike Martin.
It’s never a good thing to give Saban this much time to prepare for an opponent. In 2008, the Tide opened against No. 10 Clemson and won, 34-10. A year later in the opener, Bama beat No. 7 Virginia Tech in Atlanta, 34-24. And consider how impressive the Tide have been in their past three bowl games, thumping Texas in the BCS National Championship Game in the 2009 season, destroying Big Ten co-champion Michigan State in the Capital One Bowl the following season and then putting on a defensive performance for the ages in last year’s title game vs. LSU.
Also, for what it’s worth, the SEC is 5-1 vs. the Big Ten in New Year’s Day/Jan. 2 bowls (all in Florida) the past two seasons. The only victory for the Big Ten was Michigan State’s huge rally and 33-30 triple-overtime thriller over Georgia in the Jan. 2 Outback Bowl. The last time Michigan played an SEC team was in the Gator Bowl in the 2010 season and the Bulldogs ended Rodriguez’s career in Ann Arbor with a 52-14 victory.
Clearly this Michigan team is vastly better than that one, but this Alabama group is far, far superior than that Mississippi State club. I don’t see Michigan upsetting the Tide, but I also don’t expect the Wolverines to lose by more than 10.
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