Yes, Michigan State Running Back Kenneth Walker III Is A Heisman Trophy Front-Runner

Written By Matt Schoch on October 30, 2021 - Last Updated on November 1, 2021

Gus Johnson said it best.

As Michigan State running back Kenneth Walker III scampered for the winning touchdown on Saturday in his team’s thrilling 37-33 victory over Michigan, the FOX broadcaster announced what we were all thinking.

“Hello, New York! I’ll see you in a minute! Rest assured, I’m going to be there.”

New York, of course, is the site of the Heisman Trophy presentation ceremony. And after another incredible performance, this time rushing for 197 yards on 23 carries, Walker could be there on the night the award is presented.

Heck, he might even have his name called.

Walker had five touchdowns against Michigan, a record for the Paul Bunyan Trophy rivalry series and the most anyone has ever rushed for against Michigan, according to the broadcast.

Once an afterthought, Kenneth Walker III is now a Heisman Trophy front-runner

Already one of the nation’s best running backs statistically, Walker needed his signature game and moments to help move his candidacy from the pack to near the top.

You can call him John Hancock after Saturday.

After Saturday’s win, DraftKings Sportsbook had Walker as the fourth-best odds to win the award at +500.

The MSU running back trailed only Alabama quarterback Bryce Young (+170), Mississippi quarterback Matt Corral (+300) and Ohio State quarterback C.J. Stroud (+450) on the odds list.

At BetMGM Sportsbook, Walker is also at +500 after starting the season at +8000. Walker also is the most-wagered bet for the award in tickets (18.4%) and handle (18.3%), making him BetMGM’s biggest liability for the market.

As a running back, Walker is fighting a little history

Usually, the Heisman Trophy goes to a quarterback.

In fact, overwhelmingly so.

The last running back to win the award was Derrick Henry of Alabama in 2015. Before that, only Mark Ingram Jr. of Alabama (2009) and Reggie Bush of USC (2005, later vacated) were running backs to win the award since 2000.

Every other winner since 2000, up until Alabama wide receiver DeVonta Smith last season, was a quarterback.

Walker is doing his part to fight the trend.

The Wake Forest transfer has rushed for 1,194 yards in eight games, an average of 149.3 yards per contest. He has rushed for 14 touchdowns.

Michigan State national title odds improving as wins pile up

As for Walker’s team, the unthinkable can now be thought.

In just Mel Tucker’s second season, the Michigan State Spartans are a real contender to win championships.

As for the national championship, the Spartans were +3000 at Caesars Sportsbook after Saturday’s win to win the national championship, the sixth-best odds.

MSU trailed Georgia (+120), Alabama (+230), Ohio State (+600), Oklahoma (+1500) and Cincinnati (+2500) on the list.

The 8-0 Spartans will next play at Purdue on Saturday.

Photo by Al Goldis/AP
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Matt Schoch

A Michigan native, Matt has worked at newspapers in Michigan, Missouri and the Virgin Islands. A versatile sports reporter, Matt has covered sailing on the Great Lakes, cricket in the Caribbean, high school and pro playoffs, and the Olympics in Rio. He's also the former host of the Locked On Pistons Podcast and producer of a documentary on Emoni Bates. A former blackjack dealer, Matt has studied the industry from all sides.

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