Heismandment No. 8 points out that you need to cross a statistical threshold to be considered Heisman-worthy. But that doesn’t mean you automatically win the Heisman. In some cases, players did more than enough to win, but still did not take home the trophy. Other factors kept them from winning.
Someone asked me the other day what the best non-winning Heisman seasons were and these came to my mind:
2009: Toby Gerhart, Stanford – Gerhart led the nation with 1,871 yards and scored a phenomenal 28 touchdowns in 2009. He rushed for over 200 yards three times and scored as many touchdowns in his last five games–15–as the eventual Heisman winner (Mark Ingram) did in his first 11. And he did it all despite carrying 18 challenging units as a Stanford student. He was second to Ingram in the closest vote in Heisman history.
2007: Kevin Smith, UCF – Smith rushed for 2,567 yards and scored 30 touchdowns in 2007 and exactly three people voted him first in the Heisman race, where he finished eighth.
1980: Herschel Walker, Georgia – The true freshman phenom led Georgia to the national title while rushing for 1,616 yards and 15 touchdowns with an average of 6 yards per carry. He out-rushed the eventual Heisman winner, George Rogers, in spectacular fashion in a marquee matchup won by the Bulldogs. He ended up third in the Heisman vote, victim of the freshman curse.
2006: Colt Brennan, Hawaii – Brennan put up incredible numbers even for the June Jones offense. He passed for 5,549 yards, 58 touchdowns and 12 interceptions while setting an NCAA record for pass efficiency with a mark of 186.0. It was enough to finish sixth in the Heisman vote.
1980: Jim McMahon, BYU – McMahon set some NCAA records that year that lasted for quite a while. He threw for 4,571 yards and 45 touchdowns (with 18 interceptions) and had a pass efficiency rating of 176.9 (thanks to a ridiculous yards per attempt of 10.3). He ended up fifth in the Heisman voting.
2001: David Carr, Fresno State — Carr piled up 4,299 passing yards to go with 42 touchdowns and just seven picks while finishing fifth in the Heisman vote.
2009: Kellen Moore, Boise State – Hard to ignored 39 touchdowns vs. just three interceptions, not to mention 3,536 passing yards for an undefeated team. However, Heisman voters had him just seventh in the final tally.
1996: Troy Davis, Iowa State – Davis became the only player to have two 2,000-yard seasons, rushing for 2,185 yards and 21 touchdowns in just 11 games. He did manage to finish a strong second in the Heisman vote.
1998: Troy Edwards, Louisiana Tech – If ever there was a season by a pure receiver that should’ve won, it was Edward’s in ’98. He caught 140 passes for 1,996 yards and 27 touchdowns. He was basically unstoppable, but didn’t garner a single Heisman vote.
2000: LaDainian Tomlinson, TCU – LT rushed for 2,158 yards and 22 touchdowns in just 11 games, averaging 196 yards per game. All it got him was a fourth-place finish in the Heisman balloting.
Note: Feel free to add to this list. I’d like to go back a bit further, but a lot of the stats from the old days are incomplete.