If the Heisman voting was done after the bowl season, would Deshaun Watson have won the Heisman, or would Derrick Henry have held on?
What if the Heisman voting was done after the bowls?
It’s a college football tradition to award the Heisman Trophy, the premier individual prize in all of sports, in between the end of the regular season and the bowls. Unfortunately, the signature player of a given season often times isn’t determined until after the entire season is over, and as everyone knows, one huge performance on a national stage often means everything in the race.
In the 2007 battle, Arkansas star Darren McFadden went from also-ran to possible front-runner by blowing up against LSU when everyone was watching. Missouri’s Chase Daniel was knocked out of the picture after struggling in the Big 12 Championship loss to Oklahoma. One big day on the national stage, or one dud, is often the difference between winning and being a footnote.
If the Heisman voting was done after the bowl games over the years, who would’ve won? USC RB Reggie Bush might have been a transcendent superstar in 2005, and he had a whale of a Rose Bowl, but Texas QB Vince Young would’ve won if the voting had been done after the national title game.
Sometimes the Heisman serves as a motivating factor in a bowl game for the opposing defense, so it’s not always cut-and-dry that the winner would be clear after the bowls. Even so, going back to 1970, when the national title started being awarded after the bowls rather than after the regular season, here are the Heisman winners going back to 1970, and what would’ve likely happened if the big prize was awarded after the season was over.
2015 Heisman Winner: Derrick Henry, RB Alabama
The Final Three Were … 1) Henry, 2) Christian McCaffrey, RB Stanford, 3) Deshaun Watson, QB Clemson
The Likely Winner After The Bowls Would’ve Been … Deshaun Watson, QB Clemson
The Final Three Likely Would’ve Been … 1) Watson, 2) McCaffrey, 3) Henry
This might have been the most interesting Heisman race ever.
Derrick Henry won after leading Alabama to the SEC championship and into the College Football Playoff with epic workhorse performances against Texas A&M, LSU, Auburn and Florida, and he probably wouldn’t have received enough credit for what he did in the playoff on the way to the national title.
He was held to 75 yards and two touchdowns averaging under four yards per carry in the Cotton Bowl win over Michigan State, and he ended up with 158 yards and three scores on 36 tough carries against Clemson in the championship. Even so, outside of one big early run against the Tigers, he wasn’t spectacular. Forget that his banging into the Tiger defensive front over and over and over and over again set up the big plays for the rest of the offense, his MVP-caliber effort wasn’t as splashy as what McCaffrey and Watson came up with.
There was already some grumbling that McCaffrey came up with one of the all-time great seasons that didn’t get noticed enough by half the country, and then he came up with the greatest individual statistical game in the history of the Rose Bowl tearing up Iowa for 172 rushing yards on 18 carries, catching four passes for 105 yards and a score, returning one kickoff 28 yards, and coming up with an epic 63-yard punt return for a touchdown. That might have been enough to finish No. 2.
Most likely, the post-bowl Heisman voters would’ve given the award to Watson, thinking that Henry won the national title and got his prize by getting to kiss the championship trophy. Watson only threw for 187 yards in a mediocre passing day against Oklahoma in the Orange Bowl, but he tore off a season-high 145 rushing yards. Against Alabama, he finished with 73 slippery yards on 20 carries, but he threw for 405 yards and four scores with a pick looking just amazing enough against the supposedly impenetrable defense to have likely have won the Heisman.