Our current MNC Wednesday miniseries analyzes Heisman Trophy history, and in 53 seasons overall so far now, we have confirmed just 17 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. This is why we do what we do … fixin’ the past!
2009 Heisman Trophy winner: Mark Ingram, RB, Alabama (original); Tim Tebow, QB, Florida (revised)
The Alabama Crimson Tide won the SEC with a 13-0 record to get an invite for the “title game”—and their star running back, Mark Ingram, won the Heisman vote after compiling 1,992 scrimmage yards and 20 touchdowns. He did this against the No. 2 schedule in the country, too, so there was no shortage of talent on the other side of the ball for Ingram all season. On the surface, this seems like a really sound Heisman winner.
However, there are always other candidates to consider, and this is our final list of firmly vetted Heisman candidates for the 2009 Heisman Trophy, a list that is short albeit very impressive:
- Tim Tebow, QB, Florida: 3,805 total yards with 35 TDs and 5 INTs for a 164.2 QB rating (No. 8 SOS)
- Toby Gerhart, RB, Stanford: 2,046 total yards with 29 total TDs (No. 27 SOS)
Tebow, the 2007 vote winner, led the nation in passing efficiency while leading Florida to a 12-1 record and a Sugar Bowl invite, the only loss being in the SEC Championship Game to the Crimson Tide (and Ingram). Meanwhile, Gerhart had an outstanding season to finish second in the vote, ahead of Tebow, but the Cardinal lost 4 games during the regular season and ended up with a mere Sun Bowl bid. Is that bad enough to count him out? Probably, even if Gerhart was playing next to a freshman QB.
We think this comes down to Ingram and Tebow, though, because of the SOS factor and the overall team success dynamic. When the Crimson Tide and the Gators played in the SEC title tilt, it was a No. 1-versus-No. 2 matchup of undefeated teams, and these were the two best players. We have a feeling the vote swayed to Ingram based on the team victory, but we want to look a little deeper at the support each player received from his respective teammates.
- Alabama: QB with 140.5 rating, no teammate within 1,100 scrimmage yards
- Florida: No teammate over 975 scrimmage yards, Tebow second with 910 rushing yards
What we see is the Crimson Tide with a decent QB who threw 17 TDs and just 4 INTs, as Ingram dominated the skill positions—and a Florida team where the nation’s QB efficiency leader was also the team’s leading rusher. Both players were supported by Top 5 scoring defenses, so that’s a wash. Ingram played a slightly better schedule, but it’s not a huge gap there at all. In the end, we honestly see Tebow as being more responsible for his team’s incredible season than Ingram was for his team’s incredible season.
Tebow was the national leader in passing efficiency, as noted, and Ingram was just fourth in the country among running backs for rushing yards. His backup, Trent Richardson, also finished second on the Alabama roster for scrimmage yards, showing that maybe it was the offensive line for the Tide that was really opening the holes for anyone with a pulse. That is not a knock on Ingram, but it is a bit of a reality check: Alabama averaged 5.0 yards per carry no matter who was toting the rock.
In the end, in the usual way things end up evening themselves out here, we see Tebow as the one, carrying much more of a burden than Ingram in getting his team to the No. 1 ranking before that SEC Championship Game. With all that on his shoulders, he performed at a very high level against a very good schedule. Not much more to be said, really, as this surprises even us. Oh well …
Congratulations to Tim Tebow, the real Heisman Trophy winner for 2009.