Our current MNC Wednesday miniseries is analyzing Heisman Trophy history, and in 50 seasons overall so far now, we have confirmed just 16 winners—clarifying that the voting process really came down to a lot of hype and superficial voting. It is sad to think about how sports history could be different if the voters had been able to apply any objective, critical-thinking skills to their decision-making processes. So, here we go again … on with our Heisman show, which is better than the real Hypesman, of course.

2006 Heisman Trophy winner: Troy Smith, QB, Ohio State (original); Darren McFadden, RB, Arkansas (revised)

The Ohio State Buckeyes finished the regular season ranked No. 1 with a perfect 12-0 record, thanks to quarterback Troy Smith, who won the Heisman vote by a landslide somehow. He threw for 2,542 yards and 30 touchdowns while throwing just 6 interceptions to post a 161.9 QB rating against the No. 34 schedule in the nation. He added 204 yards rushing and 1 TD on the ground to his stat line, but clearly, that SOS is going to leave the door open for debate here.

As usual, however, there are always other candidates to consider, and this is our final list of firmly vetted Heisman candidates for the 2006 Heisman Trophy, which is short and tight:

  • Darren McFadden, RB, Arkansas: 2,127 all-purpose yards and 19 TDs (No. 11 SOS)
  • JaMarcus Russell, QB, LSU: 3,271 total yards with 29 TDs, 8 INTs, and a 167.0 QB rating (No. 14 SOS)

The Razorbacks reached the SEC title game, as McFadden scored as a runner, a receiver, a passer, and a kick returner. That’s impressive—especially against a near-elite schedule. Meanwhile, the Tigers earned a Sugar Bowl bid when the BCS chose Florida for its title game, and the 10-2 record came against a very good schedule, making Russell a better Heisman QB candidate than Smith, based on QB rating and SOS combined. Russell was third in the nation for efficiency, by the way.

What kind of help did these two guys get? Well, LSU didn’t have a single skill-position guy over 1,000 scrimmage yards, but it did have four guys with a combined 3,381 yards, so Russell had plenty of weapons at his disposal. Arkansas used five QBs on the year, totaling 23 TDs and 18 INTs for a mediocre 120s-something efficiency rating. Already, McFadden has an edge on Russell there, in terms of surrounding talent. However, the Hogs did have two other very skilled players combining for 2,237 scrimmage yards.

Yet we know QBs rule the day, in terms of offense, and for the Arkansas offense to get that much mileage out of a team with no real QB is kind of stunning, and McFadden had almost as many yards on his own as his two buddies combined. LSU was a more-talented team, which also played a slightly weaker schedule. We’re too overwhelmed with McFadden’s do-it-all game here to overlook that. He’s our pick, and since he finished second in the vote, we think we’re on spot here.

Congratulations to Darren McFadden, the real Heisman Trophy winner for 2006.