Welcome to yet another week of offseason college football coverage, and that means it is time for MNC Wednesday! We’re looking retroactively at Heisman Trophy winners—and whether or not they truly deserved the award. As a result, we have confirmed just 4 winners in the 16 seasons of analysis so far, and that tells us much about … well, many things. It’s pretty insane to think how “off” the voters were.
By the way, here is the MNC analysis from this season, too, for context.
1972 Heisman Trophy winner: Johnny Rodgers, RB/FL, Nebraska (original); Anthony Davis, RB, USC (revised)
Perhaps he won this award a year in advance with his famous punt return, but either way, Nebraska Cornhuskers running back/flanker Johnny Rodgers won the vote, despite not posting overly dominant statistics on an 8-2-1 team that didn’t really threaten for the MNC. Rodgers totaled 1,413 yards and 20 touchdowns against a Top 25 schedule.
Anyway, there are always other contenders to consider. Here’s our final list of fully vetted Heisman candidates, which is not long this time around:
- John Hufnagel, QB, Penn State: 151.9 QB rating on 1,531 total yards with 13 TDs and 6 INTs
- Anthony Davis, RB, USC: 1,323 total yards with 17 TDs
That’s really about it, in truth; it was a lean year for Heisman candidates, and Davis didn’t even crack the Top 10 vote as a sophomore—which reveals the voting problems of the time period, of course. Regardless, let’s break this down: Penn State went 10-1 against a bad schedule, so we can drop Hufnagel from the debate almost immediately, and this comes down to Rodgers and Davis.
Meanwhile, USC went undefeated while playing a Top 20 schedule, so Davis automatically gets a little boost over Rodgers right there, in terms of whatever edge the Cornhuskers star had in statistical achievement. Both guys played for stellar teams, of course, but the Trojans were better—and Davis was relative Rodgers’ equal on the field.
We named Davis our Pac-8 MVP for this season, of course, and Rodgers had the preseason hype coming off the 1971 season. In reality, we think Davis was a better candidate here, playing on the top team in the country against a hard(er) schedule. Rodgers also played a hard schedule, with more expectations on his shoulders. But the two losses hurt his argument here: Nebraska lost to UCLA, for example.
The Trojans beat the Bruins by 17 points. The Cornhuskers also lost their season finale at home to rival Oklahoma, while USC took down all rivals, even beating Notre Dame by 22 points in its season finale. We just think Davis was the better player, and he’s the primary reason the Trojans went undefeated—while Rodgers and his team lost twice. It’s that simple, and it’s unreal to think Davis didn’t earn a single vote.
Congratulations to Anthony Davis, the real Heisman Trophy winner from 1972.