Heisman odds long for ACC, "Johnny Football" repeat
Posted July 11, 2013
The surest bet about the approaching college football season is that on Dec. 14 in New York City, a new Heisman Trophy winner will be introduced. If 2012 winner "Johnny Football” Manziel of Texas A&M turns out to be "Johnny Two Times," it will be one of the truly rare accomplishments in athletics.
That’s not to say Manziel, an impulsive red-shirt sophomore quarterback, is in line to have a letdown season. Amazingly elusive and unpredictable, he will remain a defensive coordinator’s nightmare and will continue to make the Aggies’ transition from the Big 12 Conference to the SEC a compelling national story.
But since halfback Jay Berwanger of the University of Chicago won the first Heisman (then named the Downtown Athletic Club Trophy) in 1935, only once has there been a repeat winner – Ohio State tailback Archie Griffin in 1974 and ’75. Even then, it took some doing by Griffin, who had to overcome heavy voting support for fellow rushing stars Chuck Muncie (California), Tony Dorsett (Pittsburgh), Ricky Bell (Southern Cal) and Joe Washington (Oklahoma) in ’75.
Even former Florida quarterback Tim Tebow, the 2007 winner as a sophomore and an athletic matinee idol for the ages, slipped to third in the 2008 voting and fifth as a senior in 2009.
Quarterback Jason White was an easy winner in 2003 at Oklahoma but dropped to third behind Southern Cal quarterback Matt Leinart and Sooner tailback teammate Adrian Peterson in ’04.
“Winning it once is tough. Winning it twice is just about impossible,” South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier (’66 winner at Florida) said after sophomore running back Mark Ingram of Alabama won in a 2009 race that included Texas quarterback Colt McCoy in addition to Tebow.
Since the lot of returning quarterbacks and running backs is generally nondescript, Manziel will begin the season as the prohibitive favorite by default. By early November, however, it’s a virtual lock that other candidates will have emerged and Manziel, even if he continues to dodge serious injury, will be just one among many.
But will there be an ACC contender in the group?
Probably not. And certainly not if recent trends hold. These are the only ACC players to finish in the voting top 10 since Florida State quarterback Chris Weinke won in 2000:
- 2001: UNC defensive lineman Julius Peppers finished 10th. Nebraska QB Eric Crouch won.
- 2003: N.C. State QB Philip Rivers finished 7th. White won.
- 2006: Georgia Tech wide out Calvin Johnson finished 10th. Ohio State QB Troy Smith won.
- 2007: Virginia defensive lineman Chris Long finished 10th. Tebow won.
- 2009: Clemson running back C.J. Spiller finished 6th. Ingram won.
Since the ACC was formed in 1953, only Weinke and another Seminole quarterback, Charlie Ward in 1993, have won.
The ACC’s best overall season in the voting was 1999 when Georgia Tech QB Joe Hamilton finished second to Wisconsin tailback Ron Dayne, and FSU wide out Peter Warrick (6th) and Virginia tailback Thomas Jones (8th) made impressive bids.
If there’s an ACC breakthrough in this season, here are the best three preseason bets:
- Tajh Boyd, Clemson quarterback: Threw for 36 touchdowns as a junior last season and for 33 as a sophomore in 2011. My preseason pick for league player of the year.
- Sammy Watkins, Clemson wide out: Boyd’s top target, Watkins has almost 2,000 receiving yards and 15 TD catches in two seasons.
- Devonta Freeman, FSU running back: Basically the second running option behind Chris Thompson most of last season, he still rushed for 660 yards.