It’s almost that time of year again. The bands are tuning up, the pads are popping on the practice field, and fans are making their plans. The 2023 College Football season is nearly upon us. That means preseason Heisman rankings.
2023 LWOCFB Preseason Heisman Rankings
It’s never too early to rank teams or players. Among player awards, there’s none more prestigious or more hotly debated than the Heisman Trophy. This preseason, there’s a noticeable absence of SEC players, a returning favorite, and some interesting storylines heading into the Heisman race.
Caleb Williams, USC (80)
USC Quarterback Caleb Williams was our unanimous Preseason Heisman favorite. With none of last year’s other podium finishers returning this season, it’s Williams’ award to lose. And Vegas agrees, with Williams being the clear betting favorite to repeat as Heisman winner.
Leading Lincoln Riley‘s high-powered offense, Williams looks to do what previous Riley-coached Heisman winners Baker Mayfield and Kyler Murray didn’t do: win the award twice. If Williams does manage to repeat, the storyline might be more about Riley. A Williams repeat will give the USC coach four Heisman winners in the past seven years, with a runner-up in Jalen Hurts. And that will be at two different schools.
It’s been 47 years since Archie Griffin became the first and only, two-time winner of the Heisman. “Williams Watch” begins now.
Drake Maye, North Carolina (33)
North Carolina Tarheel Quarterback Drake Maye finished tenth in last year’s Heisman voting. Maye looks to ride a strong arm and up-tempo Tarheel offense to another strong season and a potential Heisman win. There was some speculation that Maye might entertain transfer offers in the offseason, but he decided to stay put in Chapel Hill.
He’ll get his chance in prime time early, with a Week 1 showcase game against SEC foe South Carolina in Charlotte in the Duke’s Mayo Classic. He’ll need a strong start, as the schedule provides only a couple of potential showcase games with Miami and Clemson for the rest of the season. If Williams slips, Maye has a legitimate chance to hold the Heisman in December.
Michael Penix, Jr., Washington (28)
Michael Penix, Jr. had a stellar 2022 season, leading the entire nation in passing yards per game with 357.0. That landed Penix eighth in the final Heisman voting last year, making him the third-highest-rated returner behind Williams and Blake Corum.
Washington gets a marquee television spot on Week 3 at Michigan State that Penix must take advantage of. An early November showdown against Caleb Williams and USC in Los Angeles might go a long way in deciding this year’s Heisman winner.
Marvin Harrison, Jr., Ohio State (28)
Marvin Harrison, Jr. will try to become the second wide receiver to win the award in the last four seasons this year. Before DeVonta Smith’s win in 2020, quarterbacks had taken the award in twelve of the past 14 seasons. A receiver had not won the award since 1991. Harrison will have a hill to climb against some big-name quarterbacks, but he has the talent around him in Columbus to do it. Harrison looks to improve upon his 77 receptions, 1,263 yards, and 14 touchdowns from last season.
The Buckeyes’ meaty Big Ten schedule, plus a trip to Notre Dame in September, and the annual rivalry game with Michigan will give Harrison ample opportunities to shine. Harrison is the longest-shot of our Top 5 in Vegas, with +3000 odds. That would just make a win that much more rewarding for Harrison and the Buckeyes fans.
Bo Nix, Oregon (19)
We round out our 2023 Preseason Heisman rankings with the third Pac-12 quarterback on our list. Bo Nix finished 2022 with 3,593 passing yards, 29 touchdowns, 7 interceptions, and a QBR of 85.1, which ranked eighth in the nation.
Nix’s story is well-known. After struggling as a legacy QB at Auburn, he got about as far away as he could and authored a successful second career at Oregon. A Nix Heisman win in 2023 would probably be more painful for Auburn fans than it would be enjoyable to Oregon fans.