This week, voting is under way for the Biletnikoff Award. The current round determines the 10 pass catchers who are semifinalists for the award.

Marvin Harrison Jr. will unquestionably be one of those semifinalists. Only 2 players have more touchdown catches. Only 6 have more receiving yards. None has a more electrifying highlight reel.

But the Biletnikoff isn’t the only award Harrison should be in consideration for this year. The Heisman Trophy is awarded to the “outstanding college football player whose performance best exhibits the pursuit of excellence with integrity.”

The list of college football players more outstanding than Harrison this season is certainly below 10. It may well be less than 5. And depending on how strong he closes out — particularly with Michigan looming — it may become clear that there simply isn’t a better player in the country than Marvin Harrison Jr.

Of course, that still might not be enough to result in Harrison actually hoisting the Heisman. Non-quarterbacks are always fighting uphill in this battle. And in Harrison’s case, that’s amplified by the fact he’s playing alongside the quarterback who is the current Heisman favorite: CJ Stroud.

But there’s precedent for that happening. In 2020, Alabama’s Devonta Smith became the first receiver to win the Heisman since Desmond Howard in 1991. And he did so by edging out his own quarterback, Mac Jones, who finished third in the voting.

So how does Harrison’s production compare to that of Smith?

Marvin Harrison Jr. by the numbers

We’ll start with the good — a look at how Harrison is producing in the context of his surrounding talent.

One of the biggest questions facing Ohio State this season was how the Buckeyes would replace receivers Chris Olave and Garrett Wilson, who were both selected in the top 11 picks of the NFL Draft. Harrison and teammate Emeka Egbuka have answered that bell.

But Harrison and Egbuka are also stepping up to fill the void left by Jaxon Smith-Njigba’s hamstring injury. Smith-Njigba has only played in 3 games since getting hurt against Notre Dame in the season opener.

Sports Betting in Big Ten Country

With the launch coming on January 1, 2023, Ohio sportsbooks are almost here. Pre-registration is now available at FanDuel Ohio for an extra $100 bonus. Learn more. Check out some of the best promotions available for bettors in Ohio.

As measured in percentage of production, here’s how each player compares to what Smith-Njigba, Olave and Wilson did last season.

  • Marvin Harrison Jr.: 29.7% of team receptions, 32.9% of team receiving yards, 31.4% of team receiving TDs
  • Emeka Egbuka: 25.2% of team receptions, 28.3% of team receiving yards, 22.9% of team receiving TDs
  • Jaxon Smith-Njigba (’21): 27.2% of team receptions, 32.4% of team receiving yards, 27.2% of team receiving TDs
  • Garrett Wilson (’21): 20% of team receptions, 21.4% of team receiving yards, 26% of team receiving TDs
  • Chris Olave (’21): 18.6% of team receptions, 18.9% of team receiving yards, 28.2% of team receiving TDs

Harrison is on pace to have the highest share of receptions, receiving yards and receiving touchdowns for a Buckeye wideout the past 2 seasons. He is an unusual talent within a club of unusual talents. And because of how he’s stepped up for the nation’s second-ranked team, he’s definitely one of the nation’s most valuable players.

The bad news?

The only wide receiver to win the Heisman in the past 30 years was a much larger piece of his team’s offense.

In 2020, Smith contributed 36.1% of Alabama’s receptions, 39.8% of Alabama’s receiving yards, and 54.8% of the Tide’s touchdown receptions. And it wasn’t because the Crimson Tide weren’t throwing the ball. Smith was also the outright national leader in all 3 categories.

Much like Desmond Howard, Smith was also his team’s primary punt returner in his Heisman season. Egbuka fulfills those duties for Ohio State, cutting off what’s probably a necessary avenue for Harrison to earn proper consideration.

It probably isn’t fair that the standard for a receiver to win the Heisman is at that level of scrutiny. But it does show history is unfavorable to Harrison’s chances.

Why the odds are stacked against Harrison

Odds are a measurement of probability, not a referendum on worthiness. So in that regard, it makes sense that Harrison’s odds of winning the Heisman are as high as +50000 on FanDuel.

But when you measure Harrison by what he’s actually accomplished, his Heisman odds seem out of whack.

For example, Harrison and teammate Miyan Williams are both +30000 to win the Heisman on BetMGM.

Williams has done an admirable job stepping up at running back for the oft-injured TreVeyon Henderson, but he’s 8th in the Big Ten in rushing yardage. And the most generous among us would place Williams as the Big Ten’s fifth-best back behind Chase Brown, Blake Corum, Mohamed Ibrahim and Braelon Allen.

Williams has been very good, but Harrison has been extraordinary. They should not have the same chances of going to New York City.

And neither Buckeye should have longer odds than Michigan quarterback JJ McCarthy, who is somehow still +15000 to win the Heisman on Caesar’s Sportsbook.

McCarthy is 11th in the B1G in passing yards per game and 7th in touchdown passes. The uber-efficient McCarthy might end up second team all-Big Ten behind Stroud, but he belongs nowhere near the Heisman discussion.

That’s the advantage of being a quarterback — simply playing the position gives you a better mathematical probability of winning the trophy than a far superior non-QB.

Wait until 2023?

Fortunately for Ohio State fans, Harrison is still just a sophomore. And this season may serve as the eye-opener that gets him to New York City if he can follow it up in 2023.

The dynamics would seem to favor Harrison next year. Stroud is most certainly heading to the NFL, so the Buckeyes will be breaking in a new quarterback. And if Harrison is doing the same things with that less-experienced quarterback, more voters will be prone to say “Ohh… he is that guy.”

To be clear, he already is that guy. But the way these things work, the Heisman electorate might not fully catch on until next year.

In the meantime, Harrison will continue catching on to anything thrown in his direction.