Welcome to another week of offseason college football coverage, and that means it is MNC Wednesdays time, as we go back to look at Heisman Trophy winners in the past—and whether or not they truly deserved the award. We have confirmed just 4 winners in the 14 seasons of analysis so far, and that tells us much about … well, many things. But it’s so fun every time out, no?
By the way, here is the MNC analysis from this season, too, for context.
1970 Heisman Trophy winner: Jim Plunkett, QB, Stanford (original); Joe Theismann, QB, Notre Dame (revised)
Stanford Indians quarterback Jim Plunkett led his team to an 8-2 record and the Pac-8 championship/Rose Bowl, and this earned him the Heisman vote win. We’re not sure why, in truth, as he threw 19 interceptions and only posted a 125.3 QB rating. His 19 touchdowns were fine, and Plunkett did add 3 TDs on the ground, but it seems like voters were on his bandwagon after 1969, in truth.
Of course, there are always other contenders to consider. Here’s our final list of fully vetted Heisman candidates:
- Joe Theismann, QB, Notre Dame: 2,820 total yards, 20 total TDs, 14 INTs, 143.2 QB rating
- Pat Sullivan, QB, Auburn: 2,856 total yards, 19 total TDs, 12 INTs, 148.2 QB rating
- Jerry Tagge, QB, Nebraska: 1,866 total yards, 21 total TDs, 8 INTs, 141.4 QB rating
- Ernie Jennings, WR, Air Force: 74 catches and 1,313 scrimmage yards, 19 total TDs
- Don McCauley, RB, North Carolina: 2,098 scrimmage yards, 24 total TDs
So, this is a larger group than we’ve seen in recent seasons, and we already made some position cuts offline. Let’s start with McCauley: The Tar Heels posted an 8-3 record against the 73rd-toughest schedule, which explains away his dominant rushing statistics. We will pass there. The Falcons went 9-2 to earn a Sugar Bowl bid, with QBs that completed less than 50 percent of their passes.
Air Force played a middling schedule, so we can just applaud Jennings’ season. As for Tagge, his production is less than the other QBs as the Cornhuskers had a powerhouse team that posted a 10-0-1 record against a Top-25 schedule. Theismann led the Fighting Irish to the Cotton Bowl with a 9-1 record against a Top-20 schedule. At this point, we’re going to drop Tagge, as Theismann’s profile is superior.
Sullivan posted the top QB rating in the nation as a junior, as the Tigers went 8-2 versus the No. 32-rated schedule. We see Theismann as the better candidate here, due to team success and SOS edge, as well. As for Plunkett, his team played the sixth-toughest schedule in the country, but as a quarterback, we can’t have a Heisman winner breaking even in TD: INT ratio. Plunkett’s legs were mediocre, too.
Notre Dame ran that famous campaign to promote Theismann for the award, and it didn’t work; maybe it should have, though, as the Irish were possibly the best team in the country, and their QB was probably the best QB in the nation as well.
Congratulations to Joe Theismann, the real Heisman Trophy winner from 1970.