Heisman Watch: It's come down to LSU's Jayden Daniels or Oregon's Bo Nix

For the rest of the college football season, Yahoo Sports will highlight the leading candidates for the Heisman Trophy on a weekly basis. All odds are via BetMGM.

The race for the Heisman Trophy seems to have been whittled down to two candidates: Oregon quarterback Bo Nix and LSU quarterback Jayden Daniels.

The regular season is in the rearview mirror and only conference championship weekend remains before Heisman ballots are due next Monday. And at the time of this writing, Nix and Daniels have separated themselves from the pack when you look at the Heisman odds board.

Nix is the favorite at -185 at BetMGM, with Daniels not far behind at +140. Next in line is Washington quarterback Michael Penix Jr. at +1600 before a major drop-off to Georgia QB Carson Beck, Alabama QB Jalen Milroe and Ohio State receiver Marvin Harrison Jr. down at +15000.

Penix was the betting favorite for several weeks, but he has faded in the eyes of the oddsmakers as he’s had some uneven performances despite Washington entering the Pac-12 title game without a loss. Penix will oppose Nix for the Pac-12 title on Friday night in Las Vegas in a game with massive Heisman and College Football Playoff implications.

Oregon quarterback Bo Nix throws a pass against Oregon State during the second half of an NCAA college football game Saturday, Nov. 24, 2023, in Eugene, Ore. Oregon won 31-7. (AP Photo/Mark Ylen)

Nix has the chance to run away with the Heisman and send his team to the CFP with a big performance with a win over Penix and the Huskies. Oregon is 11-1 and its only loss came to Washington on the road back on Oct. 14. It was a game with numerous missed opportunities for the Ducks, who had a chance to send it to overtime with a 43-yard field goal in the final seconds. Instead, the kick sailed wide and Washington emerged with a 36-33 victory.

At that point in the season, Penix was putting up astounding passing performances on a weekly basis. However, he has faltered some down the stretch as Washington continually ekes out close wins. Including the Oregon game, Washington’s last nine victories have been decided by 10 points or fewer, with the last two coming by a combined five points.

The Huskies seem vulnerable, and Nix and the Ducks have the opportunity to pounce.

Daniels, meanwhile, won’t be playing on championship weekend after putting up video game-like numbers for LSU all season. The Tigers went 9-3 and Daniels could only do so much to carry a team with a struggling defense.

Daniels could actually benefit from sitting at home this weekend. If Nix struggles on a massive stage in an Oregon loss, it could compel some voters to move Daniels to the top of their ballots.

Oregon QB Bo Nix (-185)

Oregon needed to beat rival Oregon State on Friday night to clinch a spot in the Pac-12 title game, and Nix turned in another excellent performance. Nix completed 33-of-40 passes for 367 yards and two touchdowns and added 31 yards and a score on the ground in the 31-7 win.

For the season, Nix is up to 3,906 yards and 37 touchdowns with only two interceptions and a remarkable 78.6 completion percentage. The Oregon State win marked the fifth game this season that Nix has completed at least 80 percent of his attempts and the 10th game this season where has accounted for at least three touchdowns.

Nix's completion percentage leads the nation and is on pace to break the NCAA single-season record set by Alabama’s Mac Jones in 2020 (77.4). Nix also leads the country in passing yards per game (325.5) and is second in passing touchdowns (37), passer rating (189.82), total yards per game (338.8) and total touchdowns (43).

LSU QB Jayden Daniels (+140)

LSU closed out its season with a 42-30 home win over Texas A&M to finish the regular season at 9-3. It was another strong performance from Daniels in his final game at Tiger Stadium. Daniels had a bit of a slow start but ended up throwing for 235 yards and four touchdowns and rushing for 120 yards.

Following that performance, Daniels ended up with 3,812 yards and 40 touchdowns with a 72.2 completion percentage and only four interceptions as a passer this season. On the ground, he finished with 1,134 yards and 10 touchdowns on just 135 carries. That’s an average of 8.4 yards per rush, which is pretty remarkable when you remember that the NCAA includes sacks (Daniels was sacked 22 times) in rushing statistics for quarterbacks.

Daniels leads the nation in touchdown passes, passer rating (208.0), total touchdowns (50) and total offense per game (412.2 yards) and is third in passing yards and passing yards per game (317.7).

Only Daniels and Johnny Manziel have ever passed for 3,500 yards and rushed for 1,000 yards in a single season in SEC history.

LSU quarterback Jayden Daniels (5) passes in the first half of an NCAA college football game against Texas A&M in Baton Rouge, La., Saturday, Nov. 25, 2023. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)
LSU quarterback Jayden Daniels (5) passes in the first half of an NCAA college football game against Texas A&M in Baton Rouge, La., Saturday, Nov. 25, 2023. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)

Washington QB Michael Penix Jr. (+1600)

Penix has had a few underwhelming performances to close out the regular season — especially when you compare it to how he started the year.

He threw for 162 yards and two touchdowns and ran for another in a rain-soaked win over Oregon State and then followed that up by going 18-of-33 for 204 yards with two touchdowns and interception in a 24-21 win over Washington State that was too close for comfort.

Still, Penix’s season-long statistics are mighty impressive. He’s up to 3,899 passing yards with 32 touchdowns and eight interceptions with a 65.6 completion percentage. He is second in passing yards and passing yards per game (324.9), is fourth in passing touchdowns and fifth in total offense (323.8). He’s also had eight performances of 300-plus passing yards.