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Which Schools are Most Likely to Win their First Heisman?


Before 2009, Alabama and Baylor were in the same boat.

It's tough to imagine ways in which the Crimson Tide and the Bears of Waco stood on the same ground in college football history. But four years ago, Alabama and Baylor both lacked Heisman winners until Mark Ingram took the trophy for Alabama. Two seasons later, Robert Griffin III won a Heisman for Baylor.

This season, Johnny Manziel is one of the favorites to win the Heisman Trophy, and even if a repeat winner would be historically significant on its own, a handful of schools are looking to fill a void in their trophy cases.

When oddsmaker Danny Sheridan released his Heisman Trophy odds, three of the top 10 favorites could represent the first winners for their schools: Louisville’s Teddy Bridgewater and Oregon’s De’Anthony Thomas both at 10-to-1 and Clemson’s Tajh Boyd at 15-to-1.

Louisville, Oregon and Clemson all have notable accomplishments in the 78 years since Heisman started being awarded, but they don’t have the most wins without a trophy.

Here’s a look at the schools with the most wins since 1935 and our assessments for each to pick up their first Heisman.

Related: Manziel, Clowney lead Heisman revolution


*List presented in order of wins since the first Heisman Trophy was awarded in 1935.

1. Tennessee (593 wins since 1935)
Notable-near misses: Four runners-up (Peyton Manning in 1997, Heath Shuler in 1993, Johnny Majors in 1956, Hank Lauricella in 1951)
Contender for 2013: None
ETA for first Heisman: Not anytime soon.
With Mark Ingram winning Alabama’s first Heisman in 2009, Tennessee is the most storied SEC program without a winner. The Volunteers have the sixth-most wins since 1935 and no Heisman to show for it. The Volunteers’ best hope for a Heisman contender in the next few years may be 2014 running back Jalen Hurd. That said, bowl games and beating Vanderbilt are more pressing goals in Knoxville now.

T-2. Arkansas (514)
Notable-near misses: Darren McFadden (runner-up in 2006 and 2007)
Contender for 2013: None
ETA for first Heisman: Not anytime soon.
McFadden first ran into Troy Smith in 2006 in a lopsided Heisman race before falling only 254 points behind Tim Tebow in 2007. Arkansas never had a 3,000-yard passer until Ryan Mallett in 2009, but neither he nor Tyler Wilson finished higher than seventh in the voting. The Bobby Petrino mess, however, set Arkansas back a few years, and the same goes for the Razorbacks’ Heisman prospects for the time being. New coach Bret Bielema brings hope, though. Just two seasons ago, Bielema coached two players who finished in the top 10 of the voting: Montee Ball (fourth) and Russell Wilson (ninth).

T-2. Clemson (514)
Notable near-miss: C.J. Spiller (sixth in 2009)
Contenders for 2013:Tajh Boyd, Sammy Watkins
ETA for first Heisman: Getting closer.
Tajh Boyd has 15-to-1 odds on the Heisman this year. The quarterback is our leader among Heisman contenders out of the ACC this season. But don’t forget about Sammy Watkins. His ability as a receiver and returnman placed him as a Heisman frontrunner for the first few months of his freshman season in 2011. As long as Clemson has ample skill players running the no-huddle spread, the Tigers will have Heisman contenders.

4. Georgia Tech (507)
Notable near-miss: Joe Hamilton (runner-up in 1999)
Contender for 2013: Vad Lee
ETA for first Heisman: A long way off.
A college football irony, Georgia Tech (like Clemson) employed John Heisman as head coach but hasn’t fielded a Heisman winner. As long as the Yellow Jackets spread the carries in the option, Georgia Tech may have trouble producing a candidate to compete with quarterbacks accounting for 5,000-plus total yards.

5. Arizona State (506)
Notable near-miss: Jake Plummer (third in 1996)
Contender for 2013: Taylor Kelly
ETA for first Heisman: Eventually.
Neither of the last two Heisman winners played in BCS games, so the idea that Heisman winners must play for title contenders is starting to fade. That's good for programs that have struggled to reach major bowl games, yet remained competitive. Still, Arizona State hasn’t finished in the top 10 since ’96. The program has had isolated pockets of success since Frank Kush left, so it’s conceivable Arizona State could stumble its way into a Heisman race at some point.

6. Fresno State (504)
Notable near-miss: David Carr (sixth in 2001)
Contender for 2013: Derek Carr
ETA for first Heisman: Needs more time.
David’s brother Derek Carr is one of the nation’s top pro-style quarterbacks — his 63 career TD passes is third among active quarterbacks. He’ll be the beneficiary of name recognition and a Friday matchup with Boise State. Landing in the top-10 of the Heisman voting isn’t far-fetched for Carr during his senior season, but anything more may be a fantasy. Sophomore Davante Adams may be a Biletnikoff candidate someday, but Mountain West receivers generally don’t lend themselves to Heisman consideration.

7. West Virginia (496)
Notable near-misses: Major Harris (third in 1989, fifth in 1988), Pat White (sixth in 2007, seventh in 2008), Steve Slaton (fourth in 2006)
Contender for 2013: Charlie Sims
ETA for first Heisman: Missed the exit.
If only they gave out the Heisman in September, Geno Smith would have been in luck. The Mountaineers are rebuilding on offense with Smith and his receivers gone, but the arrival of running back Charles Sims, who averaged at least 100 all-purpose yards per game the last two years at Houston, gives West Virginia a legitimate postseason awards candidate.

8. Ole Miss (488)
Notable near-misses: Eli Manning (third in 2003), Archie Manning (third in 1970, fourth in 1969), Jake Gibbs (third in 1960)
Contenders for 2013: Bo Wallace, Donte Moncrief, Jeff Scott
ETA for first Heisman: Eventually.
A miracle season for Ole Miss against a brutal schedule would put one of the Rebels into the Heisman race, but this seems to be a long-term project, especially if Hugh Freeze keeps up this recruiting clip.

9. Virginia Tech (477)
Notable near-misses: Mike Vick (third in 1999)
Contender for 2013: Logan Thomas
ETA for first Heisman: Missed the exit.
All eyes were on Logan Thomas last season, and now he’s trying to rebound from a subpar season. Meanwhile, the Hokies’ normally reliable string of running backs has hit a hiccup.

10. Texas Tech (476)
Notable near-misses: Graham Harrell (fourth in 2008), Michael Crabtree (fifth in 2008)
Contender for 2013: Michael Brewer
ETA for first Heisman: Not anytime soon.
The stigma against so-called system quarterbacks playing in the spread offense lifted just as Texas Tech stopped churning out 5,000-yard passers. Kliff Kingsbury will help Tech return to offensive glory, but for better or worse the Air Raid has become mainstream. That may just mean more Sam Bradfords winning the Heisman rather than Graham Harrells.

11. Washington (476)
Notable near-miss: Steve Emtman (fourth in 1991)
Contenders for 2013: Keith Price, Bishop Sankey
ETA for first Heisman: Eventually.
Hard to believe the Huskies, even during the Don James heyday, only produced one player who finished in the top six, and that player was a defensive lineman. Washington's drought has to change eventually, right?

12. Utah (467)
Notable near-miss: Alex Smith (fourth in 2005)
Contender for 2013: None
ETA for first Heisman:  Not anytime soon.
Utah has yet to prove it can win on a regular basis in the Pac-12. Until that happens, the Utes will have trouble in the Heisman race.

13. Michigan State (466)
Notable near-misses: Lorenzo White (fourth in 1985 and 1987), Sherman Lewis (third in 1963)
Contender for 2013: None
ETA for first Heisman: Stuck in traffic.
Michigan State is too big a program not to find its way to a Heisman, but Michigan State’s program under Mark Dantonio isn’t built to produce Heisman contenders as dynamic as Johnny Manziel, Robert Griffin III and Cam Newton. Michigan State's best bet may be an every down back such as Javon Ringer or Le'Veon Bell, but Ingram is the only running back to win the Heisman since 2005. With Michigan and Ohio State back on top in the Big Ten, Michigan State could slip to middle of the pack.

14. Missouri (446)
Notable near-misses: Chase Daniel (fourth in 2007), Paul Christman (third in 1939)
Contender for 2013: Dorial Green-Beckham
ETA for first Heisman:  Missed the exit.
Chase Daniel may end up being Missouri’s best hope at a Heisman in a while unless 2012 No. 1 recruit Dorial Green-Beckham puts up a campaign similar to Larry Fitzgerald or Calvin Johnson. Missouri’s ability to adapt to the SEC wasn’t nearly as seamless as Texas A&M’s, so catching up to Georgia, South Carolina and Florida may take some time.

15. North Carolina (444)
Notable near-misses: Charles Justice (runner-up in 1948 and 1949)
Contender for 2013: Bryn Renner
ETA for first Heisman:  Eventually.
North Carolina has been one of college football’s underachievers over the years. That’s mirrored in the Heisman no-show for several decades. The Tar Heels are in a talent-rich state and have the right coach for eye-popping numbers in Larry Fedora.


Oregon (431)
Contenders for 2013: Marcus Mariota, De'Anthony Thomas
ETA for first Heisman: Imminent.
Joey Harrington and LaMichael James were Heisman finalists, but the biggest near-miss may have been Dennis Dixon. The senior quarterback still finished fifth in the voting despite a season-ending ACL tear in November 2007. As a consistent Rose Bowl contender with elite offensive playmakers, Oregon will have its chances in the coming years to break its Heisman drought. Marcus Mariota and DeAnthony Thomas are contenders now, but freshman running back Thomas Tyner is the contender for the future.

Louisville (412)
Contender for 2013: Teddy Bridgewater
ETA for first Heisman: Getting closer.
Bridgewater shrugged off a Heisman campaign this offseason, but that won’t slow his candidacy. A bigger barrier will be Louisville’s lackluster schedule, especially if Bridgewater slips up in a game or two. His better bet — if he stays — may be in 2014 against an ACC schedule.

Mississippi State (380)
Contender for 2013: Tyler Russell
ETA for first Heisman: Not anytime soon
Like Ole Miss, Mississippi State’s Heisman contenders must go up against Alabama and LSU on a yearly basis. Which Egg Bowl rival gets there first?

Kansas State (324)
Contender for 2013: John Hubert
ETA for first Heisman: Missed the exit
Collin Klein and Michael Bishop were Heisman finalists from Manhattan. The window appears to have closed, but Bill Snyder continues to surprise us.

Boise State (254)
Contender for 2013: Joe Southwick
ETA for first Heisman: Eventually.
Boise State has gradually built Heisman credibility with Ian Johnson finishing eighth in 2005 then Kellen Moore finishing in the top 10 for three consecutive seasons, including fourth in 2010. Like BYU in the 1980s, Boise State has shed the “mid-major” label to reach national power status. The next step is to grab a Heisman. One guess: The next time a Kellen Moore or Ian Johnson comes around, he’ll fare better in the Heisman race.

Contenders for 2013: Jordan Lynch (Northern Illinois), Tyler Tettleton (Ohio), Dri Archer (Kent State)
ETA for first Heisman:  Eventually.
With the Mountain West, Conference USA and Sun Belt getting picked over in conference realignment, the MAC may be the non-AQ league best-suited to produced a Heisman winner if only for consistency. MAC players will get their time on TV thanks to the league’s aggressive midweek schedule, and #MACtion will have a contingency of the populist vote. That said, players from non-traditional conferences have not broken through. Hawaii’s Colt Brennan from the Mountain West finished no better than third despite shattering passing records for an undefeated team in the regular season.

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