Last season, Marcus Mariota became the first Pac-12 player to win the Heisman Trophy since 2004 (officially). With that decade-long drought now quenched, the conference is thirsty to repeat their success and keep college football's highest individual honor out west and Cody Kessler is, quite literally, their best bet of doing so.
According to Bovada, Kessler currently has 12-to-1 odds of winning the Heisman Trophy in 2015. Other noteable Pac-12 players who are being offered include UCLA running back Paul Perkins (20/1), Oregon running back Royce Freeman (28/1), Arizona State receiver D.J. Foster (40/1), Arizona running back Nick Wilson (40/1), Cal quarterback Jared Goff (50/1), and Arizona linebacker Scooby Wright (66/1). None of them, however, come close to Kessler, the odds-on favorite for the Pac-12.
There's good reason for that, too. The first factor working in Kessler's favor is that he's playing quarterback at USC, a position and a university that will give his Heisman campaign immediate national exposure. Since Mike Garrett won the Trojans' first Heisman Trophy in 1965, the program has had 23 players finish in the top 10 for Heisman voting. Leading a team with this much tradition is a major boost to Kessler's chances of jumpstarting his campaign early.
The fact that he plays quarterback is also a major help. Since 2000, 13 of the 15 winners of the Heisman Trophy have played quarterback, including two from USC with Carson Palmer in 2002 and Matt Leinart in 2004. While he doesn't fit the mold of the last five quarterback winners (Mariota, Jameis Winston, Johnny Manziel, Robert Griffin III, and Cam Newton) who were all mobile threats, there are rumblings that voters want to move away from dual-threat, spread quarterbacks a bit more in the future.
If that's the case, there won't be many pocket passers that can match Kessler in terms of production. In a breakout junior campaign, Kessler dominated in the passing game, completing 69.7 percent of his passes for 3,826 yards and 39 touchdowns against only five interceptions. He clearly picked up Steve Sarkisian's playbook in a hurry and enjoyed incredible success which should only get better in 2015 after another year in the system to develop.
Losing his leading receiver, Nelson Agholor, to the NFL will sting a bit, but USC has no shortage of playmakers ready to step up. Kessler will have plenty of viable options to distribute the football this fall and he should face minimal pressure behind one of the best offensive lines in college football.
The stage is set perfectly for Cody Kessler to make his mark as the next great USC quarterback and help the Pac-12 retain the Heisman Trophy in 2015.