By: Ross Weber, KCOU Sports
The Heisman Trophy is one of the highest individual honors that an athlete can receive, and a national championship is the highest achievement for a team in college sports. Those two awards are the most talked about throughout the entire college football season, but how much does one correspond to the other?
Football is known as a team game, there are 11 men on the field at the same time, so it’s harder for one person to singlehandedly lead a team to something like a national championship. On the other hand, having the absolute best player on the field for a game can increase your chances of winning. So, what is it that wins championships in college football; a full team effort, or a Heisman-winning superstar?
To help simplify, data was collected only from the 1974 season and beyond (the last 40 seasons, also including 2005), and the “national champion” is who the NCAA determined as the consensus national champion for that season.
Over the last 40 seasons, only seven times has the winner of the Heisman Trophy been on the national championship team. Although, three of those instances have been in the last five years, including Mark Ingram from Alabama in 2009, Cam Newton from Auburn in 2010, and Jameis Winston from Florida State last season.
From those numbers, it would seem that having a Heisman winner doesn’t guarantee your success for a national title, but not every great college football player wins the Heisman. Looking at the players that were in the top five in Heisman voting in that season, 12 times there was a member of a national championship team that didn’t win the Heisman Trophy.
So, in the last 40 seasons, 19 times there has been a player that has been in the top five in Heisman voting and also won the national championship with their team. That seems like a surprisingly low number, and it could bring cause for concern for some programs this season especially.
Mississippi State has been great so far this season, and their star quarterback Dak Prescott, who is considered the current Heisman trophy favorite by many, is a big reason why. The rest of that Bulldogs team is talented, but are they good enough to make it to the national championship? Believe it or not, where Prescott finishes in the Heisman trophy voting could be a big reason why or why not. The Bulldogs and Prescott could continue the recent trend set by Ingram, Newton, Winston and their respective teams, or they could falter and be another case of a great talent that couldn’t quite lead his teammates to the Promised Land. It will be fun to watch and find out for sure.