Heisman Trophy Winner Rankings: Who Had The Best Seasons?

Brett Rojo-USA TODAY Sports

Heisman Trophy Winner Rankings: Who Had The Best Seasons?

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Heisman Trophy Winner Rankings: Who Had The Best Seasons?

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Top Five All-Time Heisman Winners

5. 2010 Cam Newton, QB Auburn

runner-up: Andrew Luck, QB Stanford

Tim Tebow won the Heisman in 2007 as the first player to ever run for 20 touchdowns and throw for 20 scores in the same season, but Florida didn’t play for the national title. Newton led the nation in passing efficiency, ran for 20 touchdowns, threw for 28 scores, with just six interceptions, and finished first in the SEC and 15th in the nation in rushing with 1,409 yards … and he took Auburn to the BCS Championship.

Beyond the stats, the size, the speed, and the cool play under fire, rallying Auburn back from a 24-0 deficit against Alabama as the signature moment cemented this among the greatest seasons in college football history. However, his all-timer of a year will always be attached to the controversy regarding his father and an alleged pay-for-play solicitation from Mississippi State. On the flip side, he performed at the highest level through the distractions.


4. 1981 Marcus Allen, RB USC

runner-up: Herschel Walker, RB Georgia

It had to be a really, really good season to be better than Herschel Walker’s best year. Allen was college football’s first 2,000-yard rusher with 2,427 yards (2,342 before the bowl) and 22 touchdowns in his tremendous senior season. He set 14 NCAA records and tied two others including most 200-yard games in a row with five. He also led the Trojans in receptions with 34 for 256 yards and a score.


3. 1976 Tony Dorsett, RB Pittsburgh

runner-up: Ricky Bell, RB USC

Dorsett didn’t just put up big numbers on the way to becoming the NCAA’s all-time rushing leader. He was amazing in the big games, leading the Pitt Panthers to the national championship averaging 215 yards per game over the final seven, and finishing with 1,948 yards and 23 touchdowns. During the streak he tore off a 224-yard day against Penn State before closing out with a record 202-yard performance in the Sugar Bowl win over Georgia.


2. 2019 Joe Burrow, QB LSU

runner-up: Jalen Hurts, QB Oklahoma

There’s no argument whatsoever if you think he should be No. 1.

The national championship and College Football Playoff don’t factor into the Heisman equation, but Burrow doesn’t need the extra stats.

He was the greatest landslide winner in the history of the Heisman with 91% of the votes – beating Troy Smith’s mark of 86.7% in 2006 – and it’s not like he didn’t have competition. Alabama’s Tua Tagovailoa had the most efficient season in college football history before getting hurt, Oklahoma State RB Chuba Hubbard and Wisconsin RB Jonathan Taylor each ran for over 1,900 yards and 21 scores, and Ohio State’s Chase Young was the most devastating college pass rusher ever.

But Burrow led the way to the SEC Championship and the CFP hitting 78% of his passes for 4,715 yards and 48 touchdown passes with six picks against great team after great team.


1. 1988 Barry Sanders, RB Oklahoma State

runner-up: Rodney Peete, QB USC

Sanders’ 1988 season ranks among the most dominant in the history of sports alongside Babe Ruth’s 60-home run 1927 campaign, Wayne Gretzky’s 92-goal season of 1981-1982 (and maybe his 215 point year in 1985-1986) and Jerry Rice’s 1987 season when he caught 22 touchdowns passes in 12 games.

The backup to Thurman Thomas and an All-America kickoff returner the year before, Sanders exploded for 2,628 yards and 39 touchdowns when the job was his in 1988. Throw in the bowl game stats like the NCAA does now, and Sanders ran for 2,850 yards and scored 44 times. By himself, Sanders would’ve finished 7th in rushing among all 2021 teams (after the regular season).

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