This current MNC Wednesday miniseries analyzes Heisman Trophy history, and in 51 seasons overall so far now, we have confirmed just 16 winners—which is pretty stunning, actually. Are we that far off? No, we don’t think so, as most of our picks were Top-10 vote earners, but we have applied deeper context and thought to our selections, using more criteria than the contemporary voters may have applied in their limited vision at the time. So be it; we’re having fun. Aren’t you?!

2007 Heisman Trophy winner: Tim Tebow, QB, Florida (original); Sam Bradford, QB, Oklahoma (revised)

Florida Gators quarterback Tim Tebow had a statistical season for the ages, throwing for 3,286 yards with 32 touchdowns and 6 interceptions for a 172.5 QB rating. On the ground, he also added 895 yards rushing and 23 running TDs, to total 4,181 yards overall and 55 TDs. That’s insane, especially when we look at the fact Tebow played against the No. 4 schedule in the nation. His QB rating was second overall, yet the Gators finished third in the SEC East after losing three times in conference play. Hmmmm.

As usual, however, there are always other candidates to consider, and this is our final list of firmly vetted Heisman candidates for the 2007 Heisman Trophy, a list that looks quite suspect, overall, in truth:

  • Chase Daniel, QB, Missouri: 4,559 total yards with 37 total TDs and 11 INTs (No. 30 SOS)
  • Dennis Dixon, QB, Oregon: 2,719 total yards with 29 total TDs and 4 INTs (No. 3 SOS)
  • Pat White, QB, West Virginia: 3,059 total yards with 28 total TDs and 4 INTs (No. 32 SOS)
  • Sam Bradford, QB, Oklahoma: 3,128 total yards with 36 total TDs and 8 INTs (No. 37 SOS)
  • Rashard Mendenhall, RB, Illinois: 1,999 total yards with 19 TDs (No. 47 SOS)

Daniel led the Tigers to the Big XII title game and an eventual Cotton Bowl berth, although the SOS isn’t in the elite category. Dixon was hurt in the tenth game of the season as the Ducks were 8-1 at the time, and his season ended abruptly, but his statistics at that point had made him the Heisman frontrunner due to Oregon’s top-dog status in the polls. We include him here out of respect, as sometimes bad luck—or the Tucson Turf Monster, in this case—changes a lot of fates. Dixon got shafted by the gods.

White led the Mountaineers to a shared Big East title and a Fiesta Bowl slot, but like Daniel, his SOS is weaker than that of Tebow. Meanwhile, Bradford led the nation in passing efficiency (176.5) while leading the Sooners to the Big XII crown and a Fiesta Bowl berth. The SOS is in the same ballpark as Daniel and White, but Bradford has significant efficiency superiority, as well as a major-conference championship, too. He vaults to the top of our QB list, along with Tebow.

What about running backs? Mendenhall led the Illini to a Rose Bowl berth, which is impressive, but the SOS is pretty average. There were some great stat lines from other backs in the country, but they either played terrible schedules (Central Florida’s Kevin Smith) or the team results were even poorer than Florida’s team result (Arkansas’ Darren McFadden, our winner last year). Same for the receivers, really. This was an odd year in the sport, as we saw in our MNC analysis awhile ago.

When it comes down to it, we have significant reservations about Tebow due to our memories from the time period itself. The issue we have is the excessive number of conference losses which relegated his team to also-ran status, not to mention the multiple games against overmatched opponents (despite the SOS rating) where he piled up stats unnecessarily in blowout wins. To wit, look at these games and the resulting stats on Tebow’s game log:

  • Win versus Western Kentucky (49-3): 338 total yards, 4 total TDs
  • Win versus Troy (58-31): 329 total yards, 5 total TDs
  • Win versus Tennessee (59-20): 360 total yards, 4 total TDs
  • Win versus Vanderbilt (49-22): 316 total yards, 5 total TDs
  • Win versus South Carolina (51-31): 424 total yards, 7 total TDs
  • Win versus Florida Atlantic (59-20): 369 total yards, 4 total TDs
  • Win versus Florida State (45-12): 351 total yards, 5 total TDs

It’s clear this is a case of padding statistics, unnecessarily, in games where the outcome was not really in question—and in the last four wins here, Florida was out of the running for a conference title, so why not give Tebow the ball every time near the goal line? Also remember that Dixon was hurt the same day as the game against the Gamecocks. We have to examine Tebow’s stats in Florida’s losses, as well, all of which came before the Vandy game:

  • Loss versus Auburn (17-20): 220 total yards, 2 total TDs
  • Loss versus LSU (24-28): 225 total yards, 3 total TDs
  • Loss versus Georgia (30-42): 221 total yards, 3 total TDs

What do we see here? Tebow’s yardage numbers dropped significantly, as does his TD output, in losses where his team needed him most. On the Florida roster, we see the versatile Percy Harvin with 1,622 total yards—but only 10 TDs. We see a team that ran for over 200 yards per game and 39 TDs on the ground … and a QB who called his own number more often than not. He’s basically a ball hog here, akin to Kobe Bryant and his volume fame. Was it Tebow or his coach, Steve Spurrier, calling plays?

We’re not sure it matters: Tebow padded his stats in blowouts and couldn’t get the job done against three conference opponents, which cost his team dearly in its pursuit of an SEC East Division title. Finishing third in the division is basically disqualifying on its own, but we had to break this down for the record, nonetheless, because even in 2007, it was clear he was running up his personal statistics at the expense of his team’s long-term success.

Where does that leave us? Daniel finished fourth in the voting, while Dixon finished fifth. We like Bradford’s accomplishments, despite the unspectacular SOS. Yes, Tebow may have had better stats against better competition, but his ball-hog nature may have actually hurt his team, whereas an unselfish player like Bradford was able to achieve more for his team, overall, by spreading the love around all his talented teammates. Oddly, Bradford—as a freshman—didn’t garner a lot of Heisman voters’ attention.

It was against “protocol” still for a freshman to have access to this award, and even Tebow himself was the first sophomore to win the award. Strangely, the next two Heisman vote winners would also be sophomores, and then we saw two freshmen in a row win it, too, within a few more years. So, this was the glass ceiling breaking, so to speak. On that note, we think Bradford deserves this Heisman for leading the nation in passing efficiency and getting his team to a Power 5 conference championship. So be it.

Congratulations to Sam Bradford, the real Heisman Trophy winner for 2007.