Sam Darnold entered last college football season as an unknown backup quarterback at USC.
This year will be a bit different. Not only is Darnold the Trojans’ unquestioned starter at the position, he is also a Heisman Trophy favorite.
In fact, several Las Vegas books have Darnold as the Heisman Trophy favorite — with, of course, more than three months to go before college football season begins and more than six months until the coveted award is presented to the best player in the nation.
Back in February, William Hill U.S. had Darnold tied at the top with Louisville quarterback and returning Heisman winner Lamar Jackson at 7-1 odds. But now the oddsmaker has the Trojans QB as the sole favorite at 7-2, with Jackson second at 15-2.
Also in February, Bovada had Darnold in a first-place tie with Oklahoma quarterback Baker Mayfield at +500. But Darnold is now alone atop that list as well at +250, ahead of Mayfield at +700 and Jackson and Ohio State quarterback J.T. Barrett at +800.
But those are the kinds of things that happen when someone takes over as starting quarterback for a 1-2 team and leads it to a 10-1 record down the stretch, including 10 straight victories and a thrilling 52-49 win over Penn State in the Rose Bowl.
Along the way, Darnold completed 67.2% of his passes for 3,086 yards with 31 touchdowns and nine interceptions.
And Vegas appears to expect more of the same from Darnold this fall.