Heisman Watch: UNC's Drake Maye getting hard to ignore in Heisman conversation

Drake Maye just keeps getting better. And he’s getting hard to ignore in the Heisman Trophy conversation.

Maye, the star redshirt freshman quarterback for North Carolina, is now third on the Heisman odds board over at BetMGM. He’s listed at +500, behind two other star quarterbacks — Ohio State’s C.J. Stroud (+130) and Tennessee’s Hendon Hooker (+300).

But it could be argued that Maye is playing the best of the bunch.

North Carolina is 9-1 following a 36-34 road win over Wake Forest on Saturday night. Maye was the best player on the field by a significant margin. Not only did he throw for 448 yards and three touchdowns, he added 71 yards and a score on the ground.

Maye just couldn’t be stopped. He makes some incredibly difficult throws look easy, too. He has a remarkable penchant to hit receivers in stride while throwing across his body, particularly when he rolls to his left. He can also play from the pocket, deftly avoid the rush while keeping his eyes downfield and throw an accurate deep ball while being precise in the short and intermediate game.

Simply put, there’s not a throw Maye can’t make. And again, he’s only a redshirt freshman.

The numbers Maye is putting up are ridiculous. He’s thrown for 3,412 yards and 34 touchdowns with just three interceptions while completing 70.1% of his attempts. He’s topped 300 yards passing in seven of UNC’s 10 games. And he’s also up to 584 rushing yards on the year.

North Carolina quarterback Drake Maye (10) looks to pass against Wake Forest during the first half of an NCAA college football game in Winston-Salem, N.C., Saturday, Nov. 12, 2022. (AP Photo/Chuck Burton)
North Carolina quarterback Drake Maye (10) looks to pass against Wake Forest during the first half of an NCAA college football game in Winston-Salem, N.C., Saturday, Nov. 12, 2022. (AP Photo/Chuck Burton)

Maye is tied for the national lead in touchdown passes, second in passing yards per game, third in total passing yards, tied for fourth in yards per attempt, fifth in completion percentage and ranks seventh among quarterbacks in rushing yards.

Oh, and he’s got North Carolina in the ACC title game for just the second time ever. The Tar Heels have already wrapped up the Coastal Division and are still in the mix for the College Football Playoff with home games versus Georgia Tech and NC State remaining on the schedule.

If UNC wins those games, it’s very possible the Tar Heels continue to creep up the CFP rankings entering a showdown with Clemson in the ACC title game. If there’s some chaos among the team’s currently higher in the CFP selection committee’s rankings, perhaps the Tar Heels could find themselves in serious consideration for a spot in the four-team playoff.

If that happens, Maye will certainly find himself in New York City for the Heisman ceremony with a good chance of taking the trophy back to Chapel Hill.

Ohio State QB CJ Stroud (+130)

Even after a lackluster performance on a windy day in Northwestern last week, CJ Stroud remained the betting favorite for the Heisman at +175. Now he’s up to +130 at BetMGM following another Ohio State blowout. This time, Stroud threw for 297 yards and five touchdowns in a 56-14 win over Indiana.

Stroud has thrown for 2,750 yards with only three interceptions and is tied with Maye for the national lead in touchdown passes with 34. He also leads the nation in passer rating (188.16) and ranks second nationally in yards per attempt (9.9).

Ohio State is 10-0 with a road game vs. Maryland and a home showdown with rival Michigan remaining on the regular season schedule. If Stroud can lead OSU past Michigan to a Big Ten title and into the College Football Playoff, it’s going to be hard for some voters to overlook.

Tennessee QB Hendon Hooker (+300)

After losing its first game of the season to Georgia, Tennessee went out and dropped a big number on Missouri on Saturday. The Vols won 66-24, turning what was just a 28-24 third-quarter lead into a 42-point blowout.

The Vols put up a whopping 724 yards of offense and Hendon Hooker was at the center of that offensive explosion. Hooker threw for 355 yards and three touchdowns in the win. He also added 50 yards and a touchdown as a runner.

For the season, Hooker has thrown for 2,888 yards, 24 touchdowns and just two interceptions while completing 71.1% of his attempts. From a Heisman perspective, though, his struggles vs. Georgia could loom large. That loss cost UT a spot in the SEC title game. The Vols’ CFP hopes remain alive, but road games vs. South Carolina and Vanderbilt to close out the year likely won’t provide Hooker with the kind of big moments that Heisman voters often look for.

North Carolina QB Drake Maye (+500)

Maye outdueled Sam Hartman, Wake Forest’s fourth-year starter, on Saturday night.

Hartman threw for 320 yards and four touchdowns, but threw the costly fourth-quarter interception that led to UNC’s winning field goal. Maye, meanwhile, has thrown only three interceptions all year and has avoided an INT in eight of UNC’s 10 games. His ability to take care of the ball is rare for a player in his first year as a starter.

His mobility also is an added dimension to his game. Maye has topped 50 yards rushing in six consecutive games. In addition to his three touchdown passes on Saturday, Mayye had a go-ahead five-yard rushing touchdown late in the third quarter.

Michigan RB Blake Corum (+600)

Undefeated Michigan continues to lean heavily on running back Blake Corum. Corum rushed for 162 yards and a touchdown in Saturday’s 34-3 win over Nebraska. It was Corum’s seventh consecutive game topping the 100-yard mark. He’s also scored a touchdown in all 10 of Michigan’s games.

For the season, Corum is up to 1,349 yards and 17 touchdowns while averaging 5.9 yards per carry. His touchdowns are tied for second nationally while his rushing yards output ranks third behind Illinois’ Chase Brown (1,442) and UAB’s DeWayne McBride (1,404).

Michigan hosts Illinois before its highly anticipated trip to Columbus to play Ohio State on Nov. 26. If Corum has a monster game vs. the Buckeyes to help Michigan get to the Big Ten title game and another step closer to a CFP berth, he’ll have a shot at winning the Heisman.

Oregon QB Bo Nix (+800)

Even after Oregon’s heartbreaking loss to Washington, Bo Nix’s Heisman odds did not change. He remains listed at +800 at BetMGM following a loss that will knock the Ducks from CFP contention.

Nix played well in the loss. He threw for 280 yards and two touchdowns while rushing for 59 yards and another score. For the year, Nix has thrown for 2,775 yards and 24 touchdowns to go with 516 yards and 14 scores on the ground.

Despite the loss, Oregon is still in a good spot to get to the Pac-12 title game but it needs to beat Utah this weekend. Both the Ducks and Utes are 6-1 in league play. A big game Saturday from Nix will keep him firmly in the Heisman conversation.

USC QB Caleb Williams (+1100)

Curiously, USC’s Caleb Williams saw his Heisman odds drop from +800 to +1100 in the last week despite the Trojans being the Pac-12’s lone hope of reaching the playoff. USC is 9-1 overall and 7-1 in league play headed into this weekend’s showdown with UCLA.

In USC’s most-recent outing, a 55-17 thrashing of Colorado, Williams threw for 268 yards and three touchdowns while also rushing for two scores. For the year, he’s thrown for 3,010 yards and 31 touchdowns with only two interceptions. He also has 283 yards and six touchdowns rushing.

With UCLA, Notre Dame and potentially the Pac-12 title game remaining on the schedule, there are plenty of showcase opportunities for Williams. At +1100, that seems like pretty good value for this point in the season.

Others on the radar