Exploring the odds of Louisville football QB Micale Cunningham winning the Manning Award.
Louisville football quarterback Micale Cunningham enters this season as the more-than-likely uncontested starter for the Cardinals. After landing semi-favorable Heisman odds (30-1 now) and making the cut to be an O’Brien Award finalist, Cunningham has made yet another watch list in this year’s college football preseason.
The Manning Award has been given to the nation’s most outstanding quarterback every season for the last 16 years. It was created by the Allstate Sugar Bowl to honor the accomplishments of Archie, Eli, and Peyton Manning. The winner is selected by a national media ballot and the three award namesakes at the end of the postseason.
Cunningham was named to the Manning Award watch list on Thursday, joining a group of notable quarterback’s including Trevor Lawrence, Justin Fields, Sam Howell, and others.
Past winners include the cream of the crop of 21st Century college quarterbacks: Jameis Winston, Robert Griffin III, Baker Mayfield, Joe Burrow, Deshaun Watson, Kyler Murray, Marcus Mariota, Matt Ryan, Tim Tebow, Vince Young, and Cam Newton (to name a few). Ten of the 16 winners went on to be selected in the top 3 of the NFL Draft.
So where does Micale fit into this equation? What are his odds to win it with that historical trend stacked against him?
The answer may surprise you, especially with Louisville’s new schedule emerging this Wednesday with perennial ACC overlord Clemson being left off. Statistics show that Micale’s odds to win go seemingly as far as Louisville’s success goes.
11 Manning winners played on teams that reached the College Football Playoff or the BCS Championship Game. With Clemson out of the regular season picture, this goal is entirely relative. Any local radio entity not covering that aspect of this season must completely abhore their listeners.
Cunningham has the opportunity to make a splash this season and separate himself from the pack, but easier said that done. 13 of the 16 winners threw for over 3,000 yards in their Manning Award season. Micale had just over 2,000 passing yards last season. That would be a remarkable improvement.
One thing we must remember is that he was not the starter the entire season, and a good chunk of Scott Satterfield’s methods rely on moving the front line and opening up the running game. Cunningham is mobile as well, however, the voters didn’t smile upon a former mobile Louisville quarterback Lamar Jackson. Jackson was snubbed in favor of Deshaun Watson and Baker Mayfield in the two years he was a Heisman Trophy finalist (winner in 2016). In fact, only four other Louisville quarterbacks have ever even made the Manning Award Watch List.
Nevertheless, Cunningham does have one thing going for him that strikes me as a worthy statistic when presenting his case for favorable oddsmaking.
Last season only three of the 30 finalists had a higher QBR (Quarterback Rating) than Cunningham.
1. Justin Fields 91.2
2. Trevor Lawrence 87.3
3. Tanner Morgan Jr. 84.2
4. Micale Cunningham 83.9
The top three were all Manning Award finalists last season as well. Is that good?
Though Cunningham had the lowest amount of pass completions and pass attempts on the watch list, his prowess in the QBR category is sure to re-emerge on the stat sheet somehow.
Another factor to consider is that the Manning Award is the only quarterbacks-specific award in which bowl game performances are taken into account.
In the 2019 Music City Bowl, Cunningham threw for 279 yards and two touchdowns, while rushing 16 times for 81 yards (5.1 yards per carry). He earned Music City Bowl MVP honors.
“But, that’s the Music City Bowl”…I know. I get it. But, this year’s bowl appearance has the potential to be on a much grander scale, with more elaborate expectations. You have to factor in the expectations. I mean, the Manning’s sure did.