It’s time for more major college football history on MNC Wednesdays, as we go back and look at Heisman Trophy winners from the past—and whether or not they truly deserved the award. We have confirmed just 3 winners in the 8 seasons of study so far, so that tells you a lot about … well, many things. But we have confirmed the last 2 winners in a row, so that may be a trend developing? Hmmm.
By the way, here is our mythical national championship analysis from this season, too, for context.
1964 Heisman Trophy winner: John Huarte, QB, Notre Dame (original); Fred Biletnikoff, WR, Florida State (revised)
Three teams laid claim to the MNC for the season (and we chose a fourth, actually), and one of them was the Notre Dame Fighting Irish, led by quarterback John Huarte—the Heisman vote winner at the time. He totaled 2,080 yards with 19 total touchdowns and 11 interceptions, as his team started out 9-0 before losing the regular-season finale against USC and finishing third in the Associated Press poll.
As always, we examine the field for other contenders. Here’s our final list of fully vetted Heisman candidates:
- Donnie Anderson, RB, Texas Tech: 1,362 scrimmage yards and 7 TDs
- Jerry Rhome, QB, Tulsa: 3,128 total yards with 40 total TDs and 4 INTs (no, those are not typos)
- Fred Biletnikoff, WR, Florida State: 1,128 scrimmage yards and 15 TDs
- Brian Piccolo, RB, Wake Forest: 1,166 scrimmage yards and 17 TDs
All these names should be more familiar than Huarte’s name, in truth, to any NFL fan, but that’s not important here. We can rule out Piccolo as the Demon Deacons went just 5-5 against a mediocre schedule. But the Seminoles went 8-1-1 against a middling schedule and later added a Gator Bowl win over Oklahoma, so Biletnikoff can stay for now.
The Golden Hurricane posted an 8-2 record and beat Ole Miss in the Bluebonnet Bowl, but the schedule was a weak one. Still, it’s hard to overlook Rhome’s numbers, and even the Heisman voters at the time placed him second on the collective ballot. Meanwhile, the Red Raiders went 6-3-1 against a middling schedule before losing the Sun Bowl to Georgia.
So, how do we balance all this out in a clear equation? We feel Huarte’s INT total is too high, although he did finish a distant second in the nation to Rhome for passing efficiency. Rhome’s numbers are insane, but they did come against weak competition. We like Biletnikoff’s numbers, considering he had average QBs throwing him the ball, and we like Anderson’s versatility out of the backfield, despite the low TDs.
Rhome’s level of competition was just too weak, though his numbers are stunning. Huarte doesn’t impress us, even if his team did play the 16th-toughest schedule. And again, the level of talent around him was higher than anyone else was playing with, as well. There’s also a reason the best WR in the country these days wins the Biletnikoff Award, too: its namesake was pretty darn good.
Overall, FSU QBs tossed 20 TDs and 14 INTs, so they were about the same as Huarte (16 passing TDs). Biletnikoff carried that team as the next-best Seminole position player was more than 400 scrimmage yards behind Biletnikoff, and FSU did finish No. 8 in the SRS rankings. That’s good enough for us to look at his efforts as singularly impressive on the big (enough) stage.
Congratulations to Fred Biletnikoff, the real Heisman Trophy winner from 1964.