Oregon is finally off the board.
The Ducks have been knocking on the door of their first Heisman winner for years, and in 2014 they made their New York Athletic Club breakthrough count.
Marcus Mariota won the first Heisman Trophy in University of Oregon history, and he did it by a landslide. He received 90.92 percent of possible points, the third-highest total in Heisman history, and 788 of 890 first-place votes.
Mariota’s Heisman winning season wasn’t just a product of a single remarkable season — though a single remarkable season it was.
Oregon is proof that winning the Heisman is darn difficult. The Ducks have had finalists who where great running backs but at a time when quarterbacks are winning the award (LaMichael James). They’ve had quarterbacks as frontrunners until late-season injuries (Dennis Dixon and Mariota himself). They had a worthy candidate when they were the new team on the block (Joey Harrington).
Yet Oregon won 638 games in its history before winning its first Heisman trophy. That wasn’t the most in college football history, not even close. Championship programs like Tennessee, Clemson and Washington are still waiting to add a Heisman to the trophy case.
Which program will be the next to win its first Heisman? Here are the top 10 programs in terms of wins but no Heisman winners and an outlook in the short term for their prospects.
All-time wins: 810
Closest calls: Peyton Manning (runner-up in 1997), Heath Shuler (runner-up in 1993), Johnny Majors (runner-up in 1956), Hank Lauricella (runner-up in 1951)
Outlook: The Volunteers’ chances of breaking through are much better than they were a couple of years ago. Right now, the Volunteers have a pair of offensive playmakers, quarterback Josh Dobbs and Jalen Hurd, that will probably show up on the fringes of someone’s list next season.
2. West Virginia
All-time wins: 719
Closest calls: Pat White (sixth in 2007, seventh in 2008), Steve Slaton (fourth in 2006), Major Harris (third in 1989, fifth in 1988)
Outlook: Dana Holgorsen’s system always will be friendly to quarterbacks and receivers, but his quarterback (Clint Trickett) and receiver (Kevin White) will be gone next season. Unless running back Rushel Shell has something up his sleeve, 2015 may be a rebuilding season for star power in Morgantown.
3. Virginia Tech
All-time wins: 711
Closest calls: Mike Vick (third in 1999)
Outlook: These are perilous times for Virginia Tech offensive players. The quarterbacks are turnover-prone (Michael Brewer has one more year of eligibility), and no Hokies running back has topped 700 yards since David Wilson in 2011.
4. Georgia Tech
All-time wins: 710
Closest calls: Joe Hamilton (runner-up in 1999)
Outlook: What kind of confluence of events would have to occur to produce a Heisman contender from Paul Johnson’s Georgia Tech? The Yellow Jackets would probably have to win around 10 games (as has happened in 2014 and 2009) and the player would have to be enough of the focal point of the offense to make a run. Think of the ACC version of Navy’s Ricky Dobbs or Kareem Reynolds.
All-time wins: 695
Closest calls: Steve Emtman (fourth in 1991)
Outlook: Shaq Thompson would be an ideal name to watch after the two-way star rushed for 456 yards and accounted for four defensive touchdowns. That is, if he wasn’t a junior who may be headed to the NFL Draft. Sophomore quarterback Cyler Miles quietly finished the season with 16 touchdowns and three interceptions in his first year under Chris Petersen. Miles will end up on someone’s sleeper list.
All-time wins: 692
Closest calls: Darren McFadden (runner-up in 2006 and 2007)
Outlook: McFadden was in the SEC at the wrong time. He was the unquestioned No. 1 running back in the SEC but played amid the Tim Tebow phenomenon. Now, Bret Bielema is recreating Wisconsin’s offense in Fayetteville and could have two 1,000-yard rushers returning in 2015. Presumably a Montee Ball or Melvin Gordon-like season in the SEC would swing Heisman voters.
All-time wins: 688
Closest calls: C.J. Spiller (sixth in 2009)
Outlook: After a string of worthy contenders — Sammy Watkins, C.J. Spiller and Tajh Boyd — Clemson has another on layaway for next season in rising sophomore Deshaun Watson. Two drawbacks, though: He’ll miss the bowl game while recovering from a torn ACL, and Clemson will be without the Chad Morris, whose offense allowed those three Heisman contenders to flourish.
8. Miami (Ohio)
All-time wins: 670
Closest calls: None
Outlook: Ben Roethlisberger finished ninth in the Heisman voting in 2003 with as many first-place votes as Matt Leinart that year. The chances of a MAC school producing a Heisman winner are slim — though Northern Illinois’ Jordan Lynch was a finalist last year. Miami needs to find a way to get into a bowl before thinking about awards.
9. North Carolina
All-time wins: 667
Closest calls: Charles Justice (runner-up in 1948 and 1949)
Outlook: In theory, Larry Fedora has an offense that should allow skill position players to flourish. In theory.
10. Michigan State
All-time wins: 669