Alabama running back Derrick Henry, Stanford running back Christian McCaffrey, and Clemson quarterback Deshaun Watson have been invited to the Heisman Trophy ceremony in New York this Saturday as the three finalists for the 2015 season.
And there’s a possibility that they could finish in that order, with Henry becoming the 79th player in college football history to claim the prestigious award. But it’ll be close — very close.
In 13 games this season, Henry has rushed for an SEC single-season record 1,986 yards (5.9 per carry), adding 23 touchdowns. Even more remarkable is the fact that most of his production came in the latter half of the season against solid competition; as he has averaged 188.7 yards over the last seven games.
McCaffrey, who obliterated the single-season all-purpose yards record previously held by Oklahoma State's Barry Sanders, comes in with 2,426 yards between his rushing, receiving, and passing contributions. He also added another 1,109 yards from punt and kickoff returns.
No one will bat an eye if he wins the Heisman. The sophomore from Castle Rock, Colorado, has had a sensational season to date, and will have another opportunity to continue shredding defenses when Stanford plays Iowa in the Rose Bowl on New Year’s Day.
Then there’s Watson, who is the best offensive player on the only undefeated team remaining in FBS. This might be the year of the running back, but when it comes to who you would want to build a team around, it’d be difficult to argue against picking anyone but him — he’s that good, and without him, the Tigers would probably have at least two or three losses, instead of zero.
All three candidates are no stranger to producing eye-popping statistics. Here are 10 others stats you should know before tuning in to ESPN on Saturday at 8 p.m. ET to see whose name is called.
2: Running backs that have won the Heisman since 2000
Since the start of the new millennium, only two running backs have won the Heisman Trophy Award — Reggie Bush in 2005 (since vacated), and Mark Ingram in ‘09. Every other winner has been a quarterback.
3: Years in a row that the national leader in total QBR has won the Heisman
Johnny Manziel led the nation in total QBR with 91.3 and won the Heisman in 2012. In 2013, Jameis Winston topped the country with a mark of 90.2 and claimed the hardware. Last season, Marcus Mariota ran away with the award after leading FBS with a 91.3 QBR. Deshaun Watson’s 86.6 QBR in 2015 is impeccable, but it falls short of the nation’s leaders — Seth Russell (88.2) and Brandon Allen (87.3).
24.1: Probability that a running back wins during “spread” era
The odds that a running back wins the Heisman have drastically declined since the “spread offense” emerged in college football back in the late 1980s. With the introduction of the “Run & Shoot,” running backs have claimed the award just 24.1 percent of the time over the last 27-plus years.
4: Winners from the SEC in last 10 years
Over the last 10 years, the SEC has had the highest amount of players to go on and win the Heisman: Tim Tebow (2007), Mark Ingram (2009), Cam Newton (2010), and Johnny Manziel (2012). Both the Big 12 and Pac-12 have had two apiece — Reggie Bush (2005), Sam Bradford (2008), Robert Griffin III (2011), and Marcus Mariota (2014) — and the Big Ten and ACC claim one each – Troy Smith (2006) and Jameis Winston (2013). Will the SEC continue to dominate this decade?
179-23: Heisman winners’ team record since 2000
Dating back to the 2000 season, teams that have a Heisman winner have posted a 179-23 record (88.6 winning percentage). Out of those 15 teams, an incredible 10 have played in the national championship game, and four have gone on to win it all. Robert Griffin III is the only Heisman winner to play on a team that won less than 10 games during this time (9-4 in 2011), proving that winning does matter when it comes to the criteria for the award.
308 and 169: More yards that Derrick Henry and Christian McCaffrey have rushed for than Mark Ingram, the last running back to win the Heisman
Mark Ingram piled up 1,678 yards (6.1 ypc) and 17 touchdowns on 271 carries in 13 games before winning the Heisman during the 2009 season. Henry enters the College Football Playoff with 1,986 yards (5.9 ypc), and 23 scores, while McCaffrey has posted 1,847 yards (5.8 ypc) and eight TDs on the ground.
1970: The last time a Stanford player won the Heisman
Thanks to his 461 all-purpose yards in the team’s 41-22 win over USC in the Pac-12 Championship Game, Christian McCaffrey has a legitimate shot to become the school’s first Heisman winner since Jim Plunkett in 1970. McCaffrey also would become the Cardinal’s second winner, which would help Stanford become the 18th school with multiple Heisman medalists.
19: Winners to be drafted in the 1st round of the NFL Draft since 1989
If you win the Heisman, chances are you’re about to make a lot of money; a remarkable 19 of the last 25 winners have gone on to be selected in the first round of the draft, including the last eight in a row. Can you say, “cha-ching?”
0: Number of previous Heisman winners that played at Clemson
Despite an illustrious, 114-year history that includes 682 wins, Clemson has never had a player win the Heisman Trophy. Running back C.J. Spiller is the most recent player to even come close, finishing sixth in the voting in 2009. The Tigers may never have had a better candidate (or opportunity) to bring home the stiff-armed trophy than with Deshaun Watson, who is just a sophomore.
8: Consecutive seasons a non-senior has been awarded the Heisman
The last senior to win the Heisman was Troy Smith in 2006. This run of eight seasons in a row without a senior winner will be increased to nine on Saturday, as Derrick Henry is a junior, and both Christian McCaffrey and Deshaun Watson are sophomores.
— Written by Tyler Waddell, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Waddell’s work has previously been published by Bleacher Report, the Los Angeles Times, NOLA.com, Today's U, and other outlets. Follow him on Twitter: @Tyler_Waddell.