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Oregon Has its First Heisman. Which Team Will be the Next to end a Drought?

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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.

1. Tennessee

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.

5. Washington

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.

6. Arkansas

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.

7. Clemson

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.

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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

Closest calls: Lorenzo White (fourth in 1985 and 1987), Sherman Lewis (third in 1963)

Outlook: Connor Cook will probably enter 2015 as one of the top 20 contenders should he return to school. Michigan State quarterbacks are barely cracking 3,000 yards and 25 touchdowns — Kirk Cousins topped out at 3,316. This isn’t a system designed to crank out ridiculously prolific quarterbacks, and road-grading running backs have trouble winning the Heisman.

Other notables

Missouri

All-time wins: 655

Closest calls: Chase Daniel (fourth in 2007), Paul Christman (third in 1939)

Outlook: One of these days, Gary Pinkel is going to produce a Heisman-winning quarterback, given his track record at the position. Maty Mauk, however, will need to make quite the leap from completing 53 percent of his passes and throwing 11 picks if he’s going to be the guy.

Cal

All-time wins: 647

Closest calls: Chuck Muncie (runner-up in 1975), Paul Larson (fifth in 1954), Jack Jensen (fourth in 1948)

Outlook: Jared Goff passed for 3,973 yards with 35 touchdowns and seven interceptions. If Cal contends for the Pac-12 South in short order, maybe...

Ole Miss

All-time wins: 645

Closest calls: Eli Manning (third in 2003), Archie Manning (third in 1970, fourth in 1969), Jake Gibbs (third in 1960)

Outlook: Ole Miss managed to lock up coach Hugh Freeze for a few more years. That’s as big a prize as any in Oxford.

Purdue

All-time wins: 596

Closest calls: Drew Brees (third in 2000, fourth in 1999), Jim Everett (sixth in 1985), Mark Hermann (fourth in 1980, eighth in 1979), Mike Phipps (second in 1969) Leroy Keyes (second in 1968, third in 1967), Bob Griese (second in 1966, eighth in 1965)

Outlook: Hard to believe Purdue has had that many top-three Heisman contenders and hasn’t been able to get over the hump. That’s not going to change anytime soon.

Arizona

All-time wins: 589

Closest calls: Scooby Wright (ninth in 2014)

Outlook: Rich Rodriguez has had two players — Wright and running back Ka’Deem Carey — finish in the top 10 since he arrived at Arizona. Given his track record at West Virginia, that may only be a start. Wright will be a preseason All-American in 2015, but rising sophomore Anu Solomon may be the guy on watch lists.

Arizona State

All-time wins: 588

Closest calls: Jake Plummer (third in 1996)

Outlook: Even if wide receiver Jaelen Strong heads to the draft, versatile running back D.J. Foster will be worth a look.

Mississippi State

All-time wins: 531

Closest calls: Dak Prescott (eighth in 2014)

Outlook: Prescott spent most of 2014 as a viable Heisman contender before fading late in the season, and he still has a year of eligibility remaining.

Kansas State

All-time wins: 504

Closest calls: Collin Klein (third in 2012), Darren Sproles (fifth in 2003), Michael Bishop (second in 1998)

Outlook: Quarterback Jake Waters and wide receiver Tyler Lockett are seniors, so Bill Snyder is starting from square one.

Louisville

All-time wins: 487

Closest calls: None

Outlook: The combination of Bobby Petrino and ACC affiliation should be a boon for Louisville Heisman hopefuls. Brian Brohm, Michael Bush and Teddy Bridgewater have been viable candidates in years past but the Big East/American gave them little room for error.