Comparing Heisman Trophy winners from year to year is something college football fans love to do, but it’s difficult to do in a scientific way. The most obvious factor complicating things is the impossibility of comparing running backs, quarterbacks, cornerbacks and other positions to each other.
And even if you try to compare quarterbacks to the other quarterbacks who have won the award, you run into issues. The most obvious issue is the eras that the quarterbacks played in — you can’t compare Baker Mayfield’s passing numbers to Roger Staubach’s.
And even if you try to contain the comparison to just one era, you’ve got problems there, too. Jason White and Tim Tebow only were separated by a few years, but they were separated by light-years in playing style. White, with two surgically reconstructed knees, couldn’t move in the pocket. Tebow, with average passing ability but the toughness and speed of a running back, ran as much or more than he passed it.
So how would you even begin to rank Heisman winners? Well, I gave it a shot, but I limited it to the BCS/College Football Playoff era. This helped me when determining team success as there was a clear national championship game and a clear hierarchy of bowls.
To try to eliminate bias, I developed a formula. It’s not a scientific formula, but it did help me to make some choices I wouldn’t otherwise have made. Here is the criteria for the formula.
Number of times voted top 5 in Heisman Trophy voting: 2 points for each nomination
Team success in year won: 5 points for national championship win, 4 points for reaching national championship game, 2 points for BCS/New Years Six Bowl win, 1 for reaching BCS/NYS Bowl, 1 for other bowl win, 1 for conference title
Percent of Heisman vote: Above 90 percent (5 points), above 80 percent (4 points), above 70 percent (3 points), above 60 percent (2 points)
Other major awards: 1 point each
So for each player, I show you what my formula ranked them and I show what I ranked them before the formula. For the final ranking, I used a combination of the two.