It’s on to the formative and game-changing 1980s on MNC Wednesday to continue taking on the Heisman Trophy history: In 24 seasons (as we started in 1956 when statistics were somewhat readily available), we have confirmed just 7 winners—demonstrating that a lot of the voting process really came down to hype and not much common sense or objective analysis.
By the way, here is our MNC analysis from this season, too, for context.
1980 Heisman Trophy winner: George Rogers, RB, South Carolina (original); Marcus Allen, RB, USC (revised)
Certainly one of the most random Heisman winners ever, South Carolina running back George Rogers—playing for a 3-loss independent team, as the Gamecocks had not joined the SEC yet—won the vote, compiling 1,804 scrimmage yards and 14 touchdowns. He did this against the No. 45 schedule in the country, too, which presents a very underwhelming picture overall, in truth.
Obviously, there are better candidates to consider here. This is our final list of fully vetted Heisman candidates for the 1980 Heisman Trophy, which is longer than usual:
- Herschel Walker, RB, Georgia: 1,686 scrimmage yards and 15 TDs (No. 51 SOS)
- Mark Herrmann, QB, Purdue: 3,212 yards with 23 TDs, 17 INTs, and 150.5 rating (No. 53 SOS)
- Jim McMahon, QB, BYU: 4,571 yards with 47 TDs, 18 INTs, and 176.9 rating (No. 81 SOS)
- Art Schlichter, QB, Ohio State: 2,255 yards with 22 TDs, 9 INTs, and 139.7 rating (No. 37 SOS)
- Marcus Allen, RB, USC: 1,794 scrimmage yards and 15 TDs (No. 4 SOS)
This is an impressive list, and our first task is to identify the best QB and the best RB, respectively, of the bunch. When it comes to the runners, it’s clear that Allen tops Rogers, if not Walker as well. The Trojans went 8-2-1, which included a head-to-head win over South Carolina. The Bulldogs, of course, went undefeated and won the MNC—although we did not award that distinction to Georgia.
That SOS for Georgia is middling, and looking at what Allen did against a Top 5 schedule? There’s no way we can elevate Walker over the USC star—who did not finish in the Top 10 of the Hypesman voting at the time, strangely enough. Maybe voters were tired of Trojans RBs? Possibly. But if they were going to reward a 3-loss rando over Allen, that makes no sense at all. So Allen is our top RB choice here.
As for the QBs, this comes down to SOS, really, and conference finish. McMahon put up video game numbers for this time period in a pass-happy offense, but he did it against terrible competition. Meanwhile, the Boilermakers and the Buckeyes tied at 7-1 in the B1G for second place behind Michigan, with no head-to-head matchup. Herrmann was a turnover machine, too, and there’s the SOS edge.
So, even though Schlichter regressed from his 1979 season, he’s the best QB of the bunch here, simply because his team played a better schedule. And that’s still no contest against the Trojans RB, who managed a lot of yards against one of the best schedules in the country. It’s insane for us to see the voters giving Rogers so much credit while completing ignoring Allen, who is our clear-cut winner here.
Congratulations to Marcus Allen, the real Heisman Trophy winner from 1980.
Make sure to check back every Wednesday on the Daily McPlay for the next entry in our Heisman analysis!