Why Michigan Quarterback JJ McCarthy Is Flying Up Heisman Odds Boards

Written By Dave Bontempo on September 14, 2022 - Last Updated on September 16, 2022

DraftKings’ Johnny Avello discusses McCarthy’s rise in Heisman odds, and how early money moved the line in the primetime matchup between Michigan State and Washington

There is a tale of contrasts when Michigan’s two powerful, popular, college football teams hit the weekend gridiron.

Michigan Wolverine bettors observe their  final early-season soft spot, when the nation’s fourth-ranked team hosts Connecticut as a 47.5-point favorite at DraftKings Sportsbook MI

The game is known more for the launch of the J.J. McCarthy era (DraftKings officially put him on the Heisman odds board at +3000. More on that below.) and whether the Wolverines want to cover that number and/or ensure the total goes over 60.

It’s a different story with Michigan State. The Spartans are the nation’s 11th-ranked team but the subject of something rarely seen in these parts — plus numbers — when they visit Washington.

You read that right. The Spartans are, dare we say it, underdogs.

That snaps Michigan State bettors to attention. So will the national profile. The 7:30 p.m. game will be televised Saturday on ABC.

“Michigan normally does more business for us than Michigan State, but I think Michigan State is going to generate more handle this week,” Johnny Avello, the director of race and sportsbook operations for DraftKings, told PlayMichigan. “Look, Michigan is one heck of a good football team. They have been playing some early games that have been pretty easy. I am not taking anything away from them but so far their games have been against Colorado State, Hawaii and Connecticut. Those three teams could probably combine, put all their best players on one team  team and Michigan would still beat that team by 40.”

Michigan cruising, McCarthy seventh in Heisman odds

Avello told PlayMichigan last week that gamblers could look at the first half spread of Michigan -32 in its 56-10 win against Hawaii, and decide whether it was right for them. Those who went that way cashed, as Michigan built a 42-0 halftime lead.

It was also the coronation for McCarthy.

His stellar 11-of-12 performance with 229 yards and three touchdowns earned him the starting role going forward.

The books are tuned in to him too.

DraftKings made McCarthy its seventh pick, at +3000, to capture the coveted prize for college football’s top player. He opened the season at +9000. McCarthy remains a longshot, but some stellar games can move anyone up the ladder. 

Here’s the current board:

“He’s one of those kind of guys who can do well as a passer and runner,” Avello noted. “Now, he’s up against some stiff competition. Bryce Young (the defending Heisman holder) is outstanding. Caleb Williams of USC has really come on, too. What you are looking for is stats for the Heisman. If Michigan goes on a big-time roll and this kid is leading it, that’s the kind of thing it will take to get him into the mix. Every year there seems to be somebody like this who can get noticed a lot.”

Michigan State an underdog in primetime ABC matchup at Washington

The Spartans are expected to find themselves in a dogfight against Washington.

“This game has moved a lot,” Avello said. “We opened it at Michigan State -1  and have it at Washington -3. It’s a big move, but what I think the bettors see is that this Washington team has traditionally been very strong at home and they think that should be the play.”

Avello said that big moves are not uncommon for college football odds. The talent difference between college teams is more difficult to quantify than in the pro ranks.

The first bettors let the books know whether the line is in the right spot. In this case, Washington getting a point brought out the sharps. Or the sharks.

“We are one of the first books to put that number up,” Avello noted. “We put up Michigan State -1 and may take a hit because the early action is all on Washington. Some guys may play it for five dimes ($5,000) but even a guy playing it for one dime ($1,000) has to be respected, too. He is telling you that you should move the bet.”

Avello said that, although DraftKings can establish prop betting for college football in Michigan, it will be a gradual rollout. 

“In the pros, you put up an anytime scoring prop and a guy may get a touchdown,” Avello said, “But you know that in college football, there’s a good chance that a star player may score two or three times. We are still working out how to account for that. I can tell you that we want to place more props and we’re working on doing that.”

Whether or not they can place specific wagers on these players, Spartans backers will look to them as catalysts on the moneyline:

  • Spartan quarterback Payton Thorne has 445 passing yards, four touchdown passes, three interceptions.
  • Running backs Jalen Berger (227 rushing yards) and Jarek Broussard (5.4 yards per carry) are significant.
  • Receivers Keon Coleman (120 yards), Jayden Reed (107 yards) and Tre Mosley (team-high two touchdown receptions) give them depth.

The over-under is 56.5 and Michigan State is +135 on the moneyline. Hey, we have a ballgame. How often will you see +135 on the nation’s 11th-ranked team?

Photo by Jose Juarez / Associated Press
Dave Bontempo Avatar
Written by
Dave Bontempo

View all posts by Dave Bontempo
Privacy Policy