Only 76 players in the history of college football have earned the designation of Heisman Trophy winners. First awarded in 1935, the Heisman Trophy is considered the sport’s pinnacle of individual achievement.
SaturdayBlitz.com is tracking the race to the 78th Heisman Trophy throughout the 2013 college football season via the Heisman Top 25. Every week throughout the season, we are tracking the progress of the contenders, both their on-field impact and media presence.
RB James White spent the last two years living in the shadows of – and feasting on the scraps left behind by – All-America RB Montee Ball. Now White, a senior, gets to take his turn in the spotlight.
Actually, White could benefit from the stage Ball set. All Ball did over his final two seasons was rush for 3,723 yards and score 61 total TDs. His 83 career TDs set a new NCAA record.
Ball appeared on several preseason Heisman Trophy watch lists. Uncharacteristic showings in losses to Oregon State and Michigan State ended Ball’s chances. Still, Heisman voters know not to overlook whoever gets the bulk of the carries in Madison.
That leads to White, who has posted huge numbers through his first three seasons even with Ball earning the majority of the carries. White, the Big Ten Freshman of the Year in 2010, enters his final campaign with 2,571 career rushing yards and 32 TDs.
The biggest question facing White is whether the coaching regime change will lead to dramatic changes on offense. Former coach Bret Bielema built a reputation on running the ball directly at opponents. New coach Gary Andersen might very well do the same, but hasn’t shown the same stubbornness – and sometimes obliviousness – as Bielema. Early reports indicate Andersen might want to throw the ball more often than his predecessor. That, of course, isn’t saying much. Only five BCS conference teams attempted fewer passes last year than the Badgers
How James White Wins The Heisman
In all likelihood, White needs to start by hoping none of the big-name quarterbacks post huge seasons. If Johnny Manziel, Braxton Miller, Aaron Murray or Teddy Bridgewater finish with gaudy numbers, it likely doesn’t matter what White does. Look at the past 13 Heisman Trophy winners. Eleven have been quarterbacks. The other two have been running backs – most recently Mark Ingram in 2009.
Wisconsin almost certainly has to win the Big Ten for White to have a shot. That likely means winning at Ohio State, which will probably open as either the No. 1 or No. 2 team in the nation. The only two Heisman-winning RBs over the past 13 years led their respective teams to the BCS National Championship Game. If the Badgers aren’t at least in the national conversation late, White could make a trip to Radio City Music Hall but his chances of winning decrease significantly.
Lastly, White probably needs to go for 100-plus yards in at least 11 of 13 games with a couple of huge, Heisman-worthy games. A great effort at Arizona State early won’t mean anything to most voters, but it could look good in retrospect. The Badgers miss some of the Big Ten heavyweights – such as both Michigan teams and Nebraska. As a result, White needs to be very productive in potential national spotlight games against Ohio State and Penn State.
The Sept. 28 game in Columbus will likely be Wisconsin’s only national must-watch. White needs to make his case with a dominating performance against the Buckeyes.
• 422 career rushes, 2,571 yards (6.1 yards per carry)
• 32 career TDs
• 34 career receptions, 370 yards, TD
Compared To Past Heisman Winners
Mark Ingram, 2009: Ingram came from off the radar to win the 2009 Heisman Trophy largely because Alabama made its march toward the BCS national championship. He had a great season, running for 1,658 yards and 17 TDs and catching 32 passes for 334 yards and 3 TDs. Still, Ingram likely would have been an afterthought if not for the perception of dominant SEC defenses and the Crimson Tide’s team achievements. It’s easy to forget, but Stanford RB Toby Gerhart out-rushed Ingram by 200 yards and scored 11 more rushing TDs that season.
Ron Dayne, 1999: As a senior, Dayne broke Ricky Williams’ career rushing record and led Wisconsin to the Big Ten championship and the Rose Bowl. Dayne rushed for 160 yards or more in six of his final seven regular season games and 200 yards or more in three of his last four. He also scored a touchdown in every game. Part of Dayne’s landslide Heisman win came from the voters’ refusal to consider Virginia Tech QB Michael Vick. At the time, voting for underclassmen was out-of-style. Those who rocked the vote rarely rocked the boat. Vick, a freshman, led the Hokies to the BCS National Championship Game. Dayne’s 2,000 rushing yards in a single season, though, were far more impressive than the stats Vick compiled.