Our current MNC Wednesday miniseries analyzes Heisman Trophy history, and in 52 seasons overall so far now, we have confirmed just 16 winners—which is pretty incredible, truth be told. 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 much 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! We hope you are, too …

2008 Heisman Trophy winner: Sam Bradford, QB, Oklahoma (original, confirmed)

Our surprise winner a year ago, Oklahoma Sooners quarterback Sam Bradford was even better this season, posting a 180.8 QB rating—which led the nation again. Bradford led his team to a 12-1 record and a berth in the BCS Championship Game, while compiling 4,767 total yards for 55 total touchdowns and just 8 interceptions. The Sooners played the No. 2 schedule in the country and led all schools with 51.1 points per game. He is going to be a tough candidate to beat, in reality, as Bradford checks it all off.

As usual, however, there are always other candidates to consider, and this is our final list of firmly vetted Heisman candidates for the 2008 Heisman Trophy, a list that is actually pretty loaded with talent:

  • Colt McCoy, QB, Texas: 4,420 total yards with 45 total TDs and 8 INTs for a 173.8 QB rating (No. 3 SOS)
  • Tim Tebow, QB, Florida: 3,419 total yards with 42 total TDs and 4 INTs for a 172.4 QB rating (No. 5 SOS)
  • Javon Ringer, RB, Michigan State: 2,051 total yards with 22 total TDs (No. 29 SOS)
  • LeSean McCoy, RB, Pittsburgh: 1,823 total yards with 21 total TDs (No. (No. 28 SOS)

McCoy and the Longhorns lost a tiebreak to the Sooners, despite beating them head to head, costing them a shot at the Big XII title and their own pathway to the BCS title. Texas finished 11-1 in the regular season and earned a Fiesta Bowl bid in the process, and clearly the SOS is there, too. This is interesting, as our MNC analysis for this year explored a long time ago. Meanwhile, Tebow—last year’a vote winner—also led his team to the BCS Championship Game berth after winning the SEC title tilt.

The Florida QB’s rating was barely lower than it was the prior season, and we didn’t see the statistical padding this year that went on the prior year. Ringer carried an average Spartans team to within a game of the B1G title as MSU earned a Citrus Bowl berth with a 9-3 record, and even though the SOS trails the three QBs, it’s not a bad SOS. We’ve certainly had weaker SOS marks associated with winners here before now. The Panthers finished one game out of the Big East lead on the way to the Sun Bowl.

So, we have to pick the best RB and the best QB of the bunch—and those two will go head to head. First, the backs: The Spartans had a QB with a mere 111.5 QB rating, and that’s terrible. Overall, MSU QBs threw 11 TDs and 10 INTs on the season. Meanwhile, the Panthers might have been worse: Their top QB posted a 119.9 mark, but all the passers combined for just 10 TDs and 14 INTs. We’re going to give the nod to Ringer for playing in the B1G, though, even though McCoy had a slightly better SOS.

The QB debate is tougher: Bradford had the best numbers against the toughest schedule, and Tebow had the best defense of the bunch behind him. He did “less” this year, because he already won his Heisman and didn’t have to run up the score like he did the prior season. McCoy wasn’t far behind Bradford, overall, and he did get the head-to-head victory in the Red River Shootout. But the extra yards and TDs factor in here, especially with the slightly better SOS for Bradford.

Bradford also led the nation again in passing efficiency, and to do that against the No. 2 schedule is impressive—not to mention the counting stats. It’s circumstantial that the Sooners made it to the BCS title match, so we throw that out and consider both Texas and Oklahoma Big XII “champs” … so let’s look at the Red River stats, too, for more context:

  • Bradford: 382 total yards, 5 TDs, 187.2 QB rating
  • McCoy: 308 total yards, 1 TD, 155.9 QB rating

The Sooners had no ground game in this one, as the Texas defense held them to just 48 yards on 26 attempts. Meanwhile, the Longhorns ran for 161 yards on 35 carries and added 3 rushing TDs in the 45-35 win. Bradford was carrying the entire load for Oklahoma, and he still outplayed McCoy. Yes, Texas got the win, but it wasn’t on McCoy’s arms or legs; it was on the running backs McCoy was handing off to repeatedly—namely Chris Ogbonnaya and his 154 scrimmage yards.

In the end, it’s hard to deny Bradford a second trophy, with that top QB rating and the SOS factor—both of which top Ringer’s impressive effort for the Spartans. Thus, Bradford becomes our fifth two-time winner, although the first one since Marcus Allen in 1981. Bradford is also our first two-time winner who was not a USC Trojans running back, so there’s something to hang his hat on.

Congratulations to Sam Bradford, the legitimate Heisman Trophy winner for 2008.