Predicting the Heisman by Search Volume: Week 3 Bakes up a Storm

Lamar Jackson (8) scrambles from the Clemson Tigers defensive end Austin Bryant (7) (Photo by Chris Humphrey/Icon Sportswire)

We’re in Week 3, and already the Heisman Trophy race is starting to take shape. A few weeks ago, I found a correlation between search volume and success in Heisman Trophy voting. We’ve been tracking the former to help predict the latter, and we’re doing it with an eye to the odds Vegas makes available. Hopefully, we’ll be able to find some value.

Here’s last week’s update, with all my bad Josh Rosen takes priced in.

THE ODDS

The odds, as of Sep 18th, are listed as follows:

  • Baker Mayfield, Oklahoma (+175)
  • Lamar Jackson, Louisville (+550)
  • Sam Darnold, USC (+550)
  • Saquon Barkley, Penn State (+900)
  • Mason Rudolph, Oklahoma State (+900)
  • Josh Rosen, UCLA (+2500)

The list has thus changed quite a bit since last week. We had Baker Mayfield (then at +400) asĀ slightly too pricey, but now that he’s at +175, his old price is starting to look like a bargain. Lamar Jackson is off the top spot, after a disappointing loss to Clemson, and Josh Rosen is wayyy down after losing to Memphis.

I’m a little confused as to why Mayfield rose so much in the last week; it could be because the other frontrunners had disappointing weeks, but it’s not because the Sooners did anything particularly special in their 56-14 rout of Tulane. Call me crazy, but I don’t think Heisman voters are going to hold this loss to Clemson against Lamar JacksonĀ that much, particularly once it starts to set in that Clemson is very likely the best team in the country again. Also: Sam Darnold slept through 80% of the Texas game and woke up in overtime, and then his Heisman odds improved?

THE SEARCH VOLUME

Search volume this week would appear to favor Lamar Jackson, but that might not be entirely accurate. He was notably stifled by the Clemson defense, made only a handful of his signature plays, and Louisville was, in the broadest possible sense, outclassed in this game. Not all search volume is good search volume, perhaps.

For all his talent, for all his amazing cuts and runs, Saquon Barkley has yet to have a week that really sets the internet on fire. If I was voting, I’d have to think long and hard about Barkley, but strictly sticking to this metric, I don’t see how I’d pick him over Mayfield or Jackson.

THE VALUE

Lamar Jackson at +550 is the best price you’re going to see from him in a while. He’s likely to have big, scary games against Kent State and Murray State, and when his huge numbers start to pile up and Baker Mayfield has a tough time against Texas, this could start to look like a whole new ball game.

The Vegas odds would suggest that Mayfield is running away with this, and that Lamar Jackson is falling out of contention after the Clemson loss. This doesn’t square with our search volume theory, as Jackson is doing better than anyone in search volume this week, and Mayfield’s heroics against Ohio State are becoming more and more distant memory.