Michigan’s JJ McCarthy faces a golden opportunity

For the remainder of the college football season, Yahoo Sports will highlight the top candidates for the Heisman Trophy on a weekly basis. All odds are via BetMGM.

The season begins now for JJ McCarthy and Michigan.

The Wolverines are 9-0 and ranked No. 3 in the current College Football Playoff rankings, but the competition on the schedule has been poor so far. Michigan did not face a single ranked team and its average margin of victory was a remarkable 34 points per game.

McCarthy was outstanding in his second season as Michigan’s starting quarterback and is in the thick of the Heisman Trophy race. Aside from a three-interception game in September, McCarthy has operated the Michigan offense at an extremely high level. While some of his stats won’t impress you – his 2,134 passing yards rank 39th nationally – McCarthy was incredibly efficient.

McCarthy, who is currently +600 to win the Heisman at BetMGM, has completed 75.7% of his passes (No. 3 nationally), is averaging 10.4 yards per attempt (tied for No. 2 nationally) and has the second-best passer rating in the country (188.68). He also boasts an outstanding touchdown-to-interception ratio of 18 to 3.

Michigan quarterback JJ McCarthy (9) has been outstanding this season, but the level of competition will soon rise, starting this weekend against No. 10 Penn State. (AP Photo/Al Goldis)Michigan quarterback JJ McCarthy (9) has been outstanding this season, but the level of competition will soon rise, starting this weekend against No. 10 Penn State. (AP Photo/Al Goldis)

Michigan quarterback JJ McCarthy (9) has been outstanding this season, but the level of competition will soon rise, starting this weekend against No. 10 Penn State. (AP Photo/Al Goldis) (ASSOCIATED PRESS)

But will McCarthy be able to compete against better teams at this level? Michigan’s entire season essentially boils down to these three games, starting with Saturday’s road game at No. 10 Penn State. Penn State’s only loss this year came at Ohio State on Oct. 21, and the Nittany Lions are hungry looking to get back into the CFP and Big Ten title hunt.

Penn State has one of the best defenses in the country and Beaver Stadium will be, by a significant margin, the toughest road environment McCarthy and the Wolverines have faced this season.

If McCarthy can put up big numbers in a Michigan win, his Heisman odds could make a big difference – especially with the upcoming showdown against Ohio State. Even if he doesn’t have the flashy stats of the other Heisman frontrunners, McCarthy could play his way into New York with his performances against Penn State and Ohio State.

But another factor is also emerging. Will Michigan’s sign-stealing scandal have any impact on Heisman voters? The Big Ten could impose discipline on the program sometime this week, and whatever results come out of it could affect the way voters view McCarthy and the Wolverines’ dominance on the field.

Stay tuned.

Washington QB Michael Penix Jr. (+150)

Washington continues to win and Michael Penix Jr. remains atop the Heisman odds list entering Week 11. After a few shaky performances in games at Arizona State and Stanford, the Huskies improved to 9-0 with a 52-42 road win over USC.

Penix had another strong game, completing 22 of 30 passes for 256 yards and two touchdowns with one interception. Penix had to carry a heavy load all season, but UW was able to lean on Dillon Johnson and the running game against the Trojans as he rushed for 256 yards and four touchdowns.

Penix, who leads the nation with 3,201 passing yards, made an incredible play in the second quarter when he evaded pressure, escaped left toward his own sideline and hit Devin Culp for a 22-yard touchdown.

If Penix wins the Heisman, this play will definitely play a prominent role in his Heisman role. And he has opportunities to expand that role with a challenging schedule ahead of him, including a likely berth in the Pac-12 title game.

Oregon QB Bo Nix (+200)

Bo Nix and Oregon suffered a heartbreaking win against Washington in Seattle last month but have rebounded with three straight wins to improve to 8-1 on the season. And as the Ducks continue to win, Nix continues to put up big numbers. In Saturday’s win over Cal, Nix threw for 386 yards and four touchdowns while adding two rushing touchdowns.

Nix’s season stats are incredible. He passed for 2,723 yards and 25 touchdowns with just two interceptions while completing 78.1% of his attempts. He also has 116 yards and five rushing scores this year.

This weekend, Nix has a chance to improve his stats against the porous USC defense. The Ducks also travel to Arizona State before closing out the regular season at home against Oregon State. If Oregon continues to win, it will likely have a rematch with Washington in the Pac-12 title game.

If this matchup comes to fruition, Nix could be in a position to duel Penix and earn major bets in the Heisman and College Football Playoffs, not to mention the conference championship.

LSU QB Jayden Daniels (+300)

Jayden Daniels had another remarkable performance, but it wasn’t enough for LSU to pull off the upset over Alabama in Tuscaloosa. Daniels threw for 219 yards and two touchdowns and added 163 yards and a score on the ground before leaving in the second half due to injury.

Daniels’ rushing total was a career high and gave him 684 rushing yards this season, which ranks second nationally among quarterbacks. He is also up to 2,792 yards (No. 5 nationally) and 27 touchdowns (No. 2) with just four interceptions as a passer. He completes 72.1% of his passes, which ranks seventh nationally.

LSU has a 6-3 record this season, but where would the Tigers be without Daniels? The defense was a major disappointment, but Daniels managed to keep his team competitive in almost every game. If he finishes the season well, he has a great chance of making it to the Heisman ceremony in New York City. He will certainly deserve it.

Florida State QB Jordan Travis (+800)

It feels like Florida State QB Jordan Travis is looming in the background of the Heisman race. FSU is 9-0 and sits at No. 4 in the CFP rankings, and Travis has performed well on a weekly basis.

In last weekend’s win over Pitt, Travis threw for a season-high 360 yards with a total of two touchdowns – one passing and one rushing. This season, Travis has thrown for 2,469 yards and 19 touchdowns with just two interceptions. He also has 190 yards and seven touchdowns as a runner.

Two of FSU’s last three games are against rivals Miami and Florida, but neither of those teams is having a strong season. And then Louisville is FSU’s most likely opponent in the ACC title game. Will Travis have the opportunity to create Heisman moments?

Ohio State WR Marvin Harrison Jr. (+1000)

Marvin Harrison Jr.’s streak of 100-yard games came to an end in Saturday’s 35-16 win over Rutgers, but he still made his presence felt for Ohio State. He caught just four passes for 25 yards, but two of those went for touchdowns.

This season, Harrison has 52 catches for 914 yards and 10 touchdowns. He has had some game-changing performances, most notably when he caught 11 passes for 162 yards and a TD in the win over Penn State.

Ohio State is 9-0 heading into home games against Michigan State and Minnesota, but Harrison’s best chance to catapult himself into a more prominent part of the Heisman race will come when the Buckeyes travel to Ann Arbor on Nov. 25 to to face Michigan.

Georgia QB Carson Beck (+2000)

Don’t forget Carson Beck.

Beck is Georgia’s starting quarterback in his first year and the Bulldogs have been a little more reliant on the passing game this season. Beck has steadily improved over the course of the season, surpassing 300 yards rushing in four of UGA’s last six games. He threw for 315 yards and two touchdowns in the win over Florida and followed with 254 yards and two more touchdowns in the win over Missouri.

This season, Beck has thrown for 2,716 yards, 16 touchdowns and four interceptions while completing 72.2% of his attempts. Georgia’s next two games are against ranked opponents – No. 9 Ole Miss and No. 13 Tennessee – and a potential showdown with Alabama looms in the SEC title game.

Beck has several opportunities to make an impression on voters in the coming weeks.

Others on the radar

  • Oklahoma QB Dillon Gabriel: +2500

  • USC QB Caleb Williams: +5000

  • Alabama QB Jalen Milroe: +6000

  • North Carolina QB Drake Maye: +6600

  • Notre Dame QB Sam Hartman: +6600

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