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Penn State football: Trace McSorley’s Heisman Trophy odds improve

Trace McSorley ranks 59th nationally in passing yards, and Penn State is all but eliminated from College Football Playoff contention. But the Nittany Lion quarterback is still in the Heisman Trophy conversation. Well, at least according to the bookmakers.

McSorley’s Heisman odds improved from 20/1 to 14/1 after Penn State’s 33-28 win over Indiana, per Bovada. Only four players currently have better odds than the Penn State captain: Alabama’s Tua Tagovailoa (4/11), Oklahoma’s Kyler Murray (7/2), Ohio State’s Dwayne Haskins (12/1) and Michigan’s Shea Patterson (12/1).

McSorley’s 14/1 odds are better than UCF quarterback McKenzie Milton (20/1), West Virginia gunslinger Will Grier (20/1), Clemson running back Travis Etienne (25/1), Tigers quarterback Trevor Lawrence (40/1) and more.

This might stun fans. And judging by what they have read in the national media, that’s understandable. McSorley received zero first-, second- or third-place votes in The Athletic’s weekly Heisman straw poll. Sports Illustrated didn’t include him in its top-five Heisman candidates after Week 8. And not only did McSorley missed out on Pro Football Focus’ midseason top-10 rankings last week, he didn’t even make the “others in consideration” cut.

Now ultimately, Tagovailoa is going to win this thing running away barring injury. The guy leads the country in quarterback rating (238.85) and yards per attempt (13.6), and he’s the only quarterback in college football with at least 100 passing attempts and zero interceptions. Tagovailoa will in all likelihood hoist the Heisman, and that’s reflected in his 4/11 odds.

However, McSorley has a shot to sit next to him in New York City. And that case will be made over the next three weeks. The No. 17 Nittany Lions host No. 18 Iowa on Saturday, then travel to No. 5 Michigan and welcome No. 20 Wisconsin. The Wolverines boast the No. 1 pass defense in the country, while the Hawkeyes (18th) and Badgers (29th) aren’t too shabby, either.

While the tasks are tall, the bookmakers know there are opportunities for McSorley to shine. If Penn State is going to run the table, get to 10-2 and reach a Rose Bowl, it’ll be on the right arm and legs of its captain. The onus will be on McSorley — whose 554 rushing yards ranks fifth among FBS quarterbacks — to find success on the ground, figure out a faulty passing attack and beat Iowa, Michigan and Wisconsin in consecutive weeks.

Will it happen? Statistics say probably not. ESPN’s Football Power Index gives Penn State a 15.7 percent chance at winning out.

But there’s a reason why Bovada didn’t take McSorley off the board after Penn State’s loss to Michigan State, only moving him from 12/1 to 20/1 odds. There’s a reason why he sits just behind Haskins and Patterson now. It’s because he still has a shot to grab headlines down the stretch — and seizing those opportunities could be parlayed into a Heisman ceremony invite.

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