Quarterback Robert Griffin III is favored by oddsmakers to become Baylor University’s first Heisman Trophy winner, with a 64 percent chance of being selected as college football’s top player.
The Heisman Trophy will be presented at a ceremony tonight in New York, and Griffin is listed as the 1-5 favorite at Bodog, an Antigua-based Internet sports book. University of Alabama running back Trent Richardson is the second choice at 11-4, followed by Stanford University quarterback Andrew Luck at 5-1. Luck was the preseason favorite after finishing as runner-up to Heisman winner Cam Newton last year.
Griffin, a junior, finished the season as the nation’s top-rated quarterback, completing 72.3 percent of his passes for 3,998 yards, 36 touchdowns and six interceptions. He also rushed for 832 yards and nine scores as Baylor went 9-3 -- its best season in 25 years -- and had a winning record against Big 12 Conference opponents for the first time.
“You dream it, you want to be there, but when you actually get there you’re still like, ‘I can’t believe this is happening,’” Griffin said after being selected as one of the five finalists this week. “I’m blessed to represent Baylor and blessed that the guys on this team showed the grit that they did to get us nine wins and get our name out there.”
Baylor is ranked 12th in the Bowl Championship Series standings and had a 6-3 record in the Big 12 this season, with wins against No. 14 Oklahoma, No. 18 Texas Christian and No. 24 Texas. Before this year, the Bears had an 18-102 record against conference opponents since joining the Big 12 in 1996.
In the Bears’ final regular-season game, a 48-24 win against Texas, Griffin -- who’s nicknamed RG3 -- passed for 320 yards and two touchdowns while running for two more scores.
Baylor will play the University of Washington in the Dec. 29 Alamo Bowl. The Bears are making back-to-back postseason appearances for the first time since 1991-1992.
Richardson follows Griffin with a 20.5 percent chance of winning the trophy, with Luck at 13 percent, according to R.J. Bell, the founder of Las Vegas-based handicapping information website Pregame.com.
With 50-1 odds, Wisconsin running back Montee Ball has a 1.5 percent chance at the award, while Louisiana State cornerback Tyrann Mathieu, with 100-1 odds, has a 1 percent chance.
Of the five schools with finalists, only Baylor has never had a Heisman Trophy winner.
Richardson, a junior, would be the second Alabama running back to win the Heisman in three seasons. Mark Ingram became the school’s first recipient in 2009.
Richardson had 1,583 yards rushing and 20 touchdowns for second-ranked Alabama (11-1), which will play LSU for the national championship on Jan. 9.
Luck is seeking to join Jim Plunkett as Stanford’s Heisman Trophy recipients after passing for 3,170 yards, 35 touchdowns and nine interceptions this season. The Cardinal went 11-1, are ranked fourth in the BCS and will play No. 3 Oklahoma State in the Fiesta Bowl.
Ball, a junior, led the nation with 1,759 yards rushing and 32 touchdowns for Wisconsin (11-2), which will play Oregon in the Rose Bowl. He leads the country with 38 touchdowns overall, one shy of the single-season record at college football’s top level set by Barry Sanders, the 1988 Heisman winner at Oklahoma State.
Ball is the first Heisman finalist from a Big Ten school since Ohio State’s Troy Smith won in 2006. Wisconsin’s two Heisman winners were Ron Dayne in 1999 and Alan Ameche in 1954.
Rare for Defense
Mathieu was voted the Southeastern Conference’s defensive player of the year and finished the season ranked second in punt returns. Nicknamed “The Honey Badger,” Mathieu returned a punt 62 yards for a score as LSU beat Georgia 42-10 in the conference title game Dec. 2.
Charles Woodson, the 1997 Heisman Trophy winner from the University of Michigan, was the only player to receive the award while playing primarily on defense. Woodson, like Mathieu, played cornerback and returned kicks.
LSU’s only Heisman winner was Billy Cannon in 1959.