Heisman Watch: Two frontrunners emerge, according to the oddmakers, and neither is named Penix

Washington’s quarterback has lost ground this month despite winning games

Welcome to our weekly look at the Pac-12’s leading Heisman Trophy candidates through an evaluation of the conference’s top players. Consider one Heisman voter’s perspective on the regional landscape. The rankings are based on individual performance, team value, and competition quality.

If the Heisman Trophy winner had been announced in late September,

Washington quarterback Michael Penix Jr. could have easily won the award.

He would have been a lock at the end of October.

The trophy, like conference championships, is won in the stretch run.

Penix is not the betting favorite — or even a close second — as of today. He’s third on the depth chart, trailing LSU quarterback Jayden Daniels and

Bo Nix, the Oregon quarterback.

According to the most recent BetMGM odds, Nix is the favorite at 11-to-10, followed by Daniels at 7-to-5.

Penix, on the other hand, is a 5-to-1 longshot.

The situation is highly volatile. But, if the odds are correct, Penix will need two more strong performances — and two more victories — to win the award.

The following are our rankings of the top Pac-12 players…

1. Washington QB Michael Penix Jr.

Last week: 1

Key stats: 335.9 yards per game, 9.4 yards per attempt, 30 touchdowns

Comment: Penix’s modest statistical performance (162 yards) in the win over Oregon State didn’t change our minds — the conditions were difficult (as was the OSU defense). He made the throws he needed to make to win, as Heisman contenders are expected to do.

2. Oregon QB Bo Nix

Last week: 2

Key stats: 191.4 passer rating, 78.1% completion, 35 touchdowns

Comment: Nix continues to play with otherworldly efficiency — he has only thrown two interceptions this season, one of which deflected off the receiver’s hands — and benefits from Oregon’s overall dominance, which produces open receivers, plenty of time to throw, and manageable down-and-distance situations.

3. USC QB Caleb Williams

Last week: 3

Key stats: 68.6% completion, 9.4 yards per game, 30 touchdowns

Comment: Williams’ chances of repeating as Heisman Trophy winner were dashed by USC’s winless November, but his numbers for the three losses (69.3% completion, seven total touchdowns, and one interception) were good enough to keep him in the race if the Trojans had played a lick of defense.

4. Washington WR Rome Odunze

Last week: 6

Key stats: 66 receptions, 18.3 yards per catch, 11 touchdowns

Comment: Odunze was a standout in Corvallis, accounting for seven of the Huskies’ 13 receptions, 106 of their 162 yards receiving, and two of their three touchdowns. And he caught the game-winning third-down pass. Odunze is a first-team All-American and a semifinalist for the Biletnikoff Award, which is given to the nation’s top receiver.

5. Arizona QB Noah Fifita

Last week: 4

Key stats: 159.6 passer rating, 73.6% completion, 18 touchdowns

Comment: The former three-star recruit with a limited number of scholarship offers has led the team to five straight victories and is a lock for Pac-12 Freshman Offensive Player of the Year. In fact, Arizona’s main concern right now should be keeping Fifita. When the transfer portal opens next month, the heavyweight programs will go after Arizona’s top playmakers.

6. Oregon WR Troy Franklin

Last week: 5

Key stats: 68 receptions, 18 yards per catch, 13 touchdowns

Comment: Franklin, along with Odunze, is a semifinalist for the Biletnikoff Award after another outstanding performance against Arizona State (eight catches, two touchdowns). Which wideout is preferred by the Hotline? Both. Franklin and Odunze are expected to be selected in the first round of the NFL Draft in April.

7. UCLA DL Laiatu Latu

Last week: Not ranked

Key stats: 13 sacks, 20.5 tackles-for-loss

Comment: Latu has established himself as the clear Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year with his play down the stretch, including a nightmare for USC’s Williams last weekend. He, like the others on this list, is expected to be drafted in the first round of the NFL Draft.

8. Oregon State OT Taliese Fuaga

Last week: Not ranked

Key stats: Not relevant

Comment: The Hotline is open to hearing arguments for Washington left tackle Troy Fautanu as the conference’s most dominant offensive lineman. However, we favor Fuaga, a former three-star recruit from Tacoma. The 330-pound junior has blossomed under the tutelage of Jim Michalczik, the conference’s best assistant coach (at any position).

Also considered (alphabetically): OSU LB Andrew Chatfield, Arizona WR Jacob Cowing, and Oregon DL Elijah Badger Brandon Dorlus, DE, Utah UW OL Troy Fautanu, OSU OL Joshua Gray, Stanford K Jonah Elliss Arizona linebacker Joshua Karty OSU TB Jacob Manu Damian Martinez, Tetairoa McMillan of Arizona, Jaydn Ott of California, and Shedeur Sanders of Colorado

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