It is time once again for MNC Wednesday! We’re looking retroactively at Heisman Trophy winners in college football history—and whether or not they truly deserved the award. As a result, we have confirmed just 4 winners in the 17 seasons of analysis so far, and that tells us much about … well, many things. Maybe we are missing out on the “in the moment” element, but we’re also objective in that way.

By the way, here is the MNC analysis from this season, too, for context.

1973 Heisman Trophy winner: John Cappelletti (original); Archie Griffin (revised)

Penn State running back John Cappelletti won the Heisman vote with twice the amount of support as the runner up, Ohio State offensive lineman John Hicks. The Nittany Lions went 12-0 (against a Top 50 schedule), and Cappelletti managed 1,608 total yards with 17 touchdowns. That’s a good season, albeit against a middling schedule.

As usual, there are always other contenders to consider. Here’s our final list of fully vetted Heisman candidates, which is … short (again) and a little complicated:

  • Roosevelt Leaks, RB, Texas: 1,415 scrimmage yards and 14 TDs against Top 30 schedule
  • Archie Griffin, RB, Ohio State: 1,609 scrimmage yards and 8 TDs against Top 30 schedule

That’s it: three very good running backs to choose from here. Leaks and the Longhorns won the SWC with a 7-0 record, although they did have two OOC losses—including a 39-point loss in the Red River Shootout. The other two players helped ensure their respective squads didn’t have a loss, as the Buckeyes went 10-0-1 overall. His yardage total is less, too, so we’re going to drop Leaks here.

Now, the SOS issue is huge, with a gap of 21 spots between the ratings for Penn State and Ohio State. We see that Cappelletti scored a lot more than Griffin did, but scoring is often circumstantial as we have seen with our Pac-12 miniseries on league MVPs. For example, Griffin played with a QB who called his own number near the goal line a lot, to the tune of 12 short rushing TDs. Is that fair to Griffin?

Meanwhile, Cappelletti played with a more traditional, throwing QB who didn’t run the ball near the goal line. So, you have those contextual differences. We see the SOS as the true deciding factor here, and so we give the nod to Griffin, who was just a sophomore during this season. He still finished fifth in the voting at the time, which is impressive considering the voting biases of the era.

Congratulations to Archie Griffin, the real Heisman Trophy winner from 1973!

Make sure to check back every Wednesday on the Daily McPlay for the next entry in our Heisman analysis!