Top Heisman Non-Winners, Mistakes, & More
Posted Dec 10, 2009

The greatest players to never win the Heisman, the biggest voting mistakes, and the greatest Heisman races.

5 Best Skill Players to Never Win

1. Tommie Frazier, QB Nebraska
Even though he missed several weeks with a blood clot in his leg, Frazier still won 33 games and took the Huskers to three straight national championship games with two wins and a missed last-second field goal away from winning a third. He was one of the greatest winners in college football history.

2. Vince Young, QB Texas
His 2006 Rose Bowl performance in the win over USC merits him consideration among the greatest college quarterbacks of all-time. His 2005 Rose Bowl against Michigan wasn't bad, either. Had he stayed for his senior year, he would've been a near lock for the 2006 Heisman even with Troy Smith having his great season at Ohio State.

3. Anthony Carter, WR Michigan
Considering he played for the stodgy Bo Schembechler Wolverines, Carter's touchdown numbers (37) and all-purpose yards per play (17.4) made him one of the most explosive players ever. The ultimate home run hitter averaged nearly a touchdown every four catches.

4. Keith Jackson, TE Oklahoma
Arguably the greatest tight end to ever play (along with Pitt's Mike Ditka), Jackson caught 62 passes for 1,470 yards and 14 touchdowns averaging an unbelievable 23.7 yards per catch over his four-year career. He also ran a for 66-yard touchdown. Remember, Oklahoma was always among the bottom nationally in passing with its wishbone offense.

5. Peyton Manning, QB Tennessee
Despite being considered the ultimate "yeah, but" player having never won a national title and going 0-4 against Florida, Manning rewrote the SEC record book as the career leader in total offense (11,020) and passing yards (11,201) along with holding the NCAA record for lowest interception rate (2.39%) throwing 33 in 1,381 attempts.

5 Best Non-Skill Players to Never Win

1. Hugh Green, DE Pitt
Green gave it a good run for the Heisman in 1980 as the best defensive player in the country that season finishing second behind George Rogers at South Carolina and just ahead of Georgia's freshman sensation Herschel Walker. Even with teams tying to stay away from him, Green still made 441 career tackles to go along with 51 sacks.

2. Dick Butkus, C/LB Illinois
The premier college football linebacker of all-time finishing with 373 career tackles Butkus was also a fantastic center as the anchor of the Illinois team for three years.  He finished third in the 1964 Heisman race behind Notre Dame's John Huarte and Tulsa's Jerry Rhome.

3. Deion Sanders, CB Florida State
Considered the best cover cornerback to ever play the game, Sanders was the top defensive back of his era setting standard for defensive back greatness. As good a corner as Sanders was, he was just as good returning punts leading the nation in 1988 with a 15.2 yard per return average while setting the FSU record with 1,429 career punt return yards.

4. John Hannah, G Alabama
The greatest offense alignment to ever play college football, Hannah was the dominant figure on two great Alabama teams going 21-3 over Hannah's final seasons winning two SEC championships.

5. Tommy Nobis, LB/G Texas
As the rock on a national championship team and "the best two-way player" Darrell Royal ever coached, Nobis was something truly special. As a linebacker, Nobis averaged 20 tackles per game during his career with an ability to run down any ball carrier. On offense, he was one of the top blockers on one of the nation's most devastating running teams. He finished seventh in the 1965 Heisman race.

5 Biggest Heisman Voting Mistakes

1. 1967 UCLA QB Gary Beban over USC RB O.J. Simpson

One of the all-time blunders, Beban won for having a great 1966 and a nice career. Simpson ran for 1,543 rushing yards and scored 16 touchdowns while beating Beban's UCLA on the way to the national title. The voters made amends the next year by making Simpson one of the biggest landslide winners ever.

2. 1953 Notre Dame HB Johnny Lattner over Minnesota HB Paul Giel
More of a lifetime achievement award for Lattner, he won because he was the best all-around player on the nation's most visible team. However, he didn't even lead the Irish in passing, rushing, receiving or scoring. Giel lost by 56 points in one of the closest battles ever. At least the Gopher star was named the UPI Player of the Year.

3. 1975 Ohio State RB Archie Griffin over California RB Chuck Muncie and USC RB Ricky Bell
Griffin won the Heisman as much for what he did in 1974 is for what he did in '75. The yards were there but Pete Johnson took up all the touchdowns rushing first 26 while Griffin scored four times. In his biggest game of the year against Michigan,
Griffin had his only non-100-yard day of the season. Muncie and Bell were more productive, and Tony Dorsett and Joe Washington were even more dynamic.

4. 2001 Nebraska QB Eric Crouch over Florida QB Rex Grossman
It's this simple; had Grossman been a senior and Crouch a sophomore the tables would have been turned in one of the bigger landslides and Heisman history. While Crouch wasn't bad, this was as much a lifetime achievement award as anything else.  Grossman lost by just 62 points.

5. 1957 Texas A&M HB John David Crow RB over Iowa DT Alex Karras
It wasn't like Crow was bad, it was that there weren't any skill players to provide any competition in the Heisman battle. Crow only played in seven games having problems early in the season with injuries. Alex Karras was a dominant player for Iowa, but he was a defensive tackle, not a halfback.

5 players who likely would've won if the voting was done after the bowls

1. 2005, Vince Young, QB Texas over USC RB Reggie Bush

Bush was incredible in the Texas Rose Bowl win over USC with 275 yards of total offense, but Young completed 30 of 40 passes for 267 yards and ran 19 times for 200 yards and three touchdowns in what many consider to be the greatest individual performance in college football history.

2. 1995, Tommie Frazier, QB Nebraska over Ohio State RB Eddie George
George was certainly worthy of the Heisman, but Frazier set the NCAA record at the time for rushing yards by a quarterback in a bowl game with 199 highlighted by a 75-yard gallop in the national title win over Florida. Leading the Huskers to the title likely would've been enough to boost Frazier over George, whose Buckeyes lost to Tennessee in the Citrus Bowl.

3. 2000, Josh Heupel, QB Oklahoma over Florida State QB Chris Weinke
Weinke won one of the closest Heisman races in history beating Heupel by just 76 points, but Heupel won the biggest prize beating Florida State 13-2 in the Orange Bowl for the national title. Weinke completed 25 of 51 passes for 274 yards and two interceptions, while Heupel completed 25 of 39 passes for 214 yards and an interception to go along with 23 rushing yards.

4. 1992, Marshall Faulk, RB San Diego State over Miami QB Gino Torretta
No one was excited about voting for Torretta, who beat Faulk by just 320 votes. Basically, Torretta was a senior and Faulk was a sophomore. After Miami got pasted 34-13 by Alabama in the Sugar Bowl, Faulk likely would've been voted the winner.

5. 1990, Rocket Ismail, WR/KR Notre Dame over BYU QB Ty Detmer
Detmer set every passing record in the book and had a signature win over Miami early in the 1990 season, but Ismail was a big play weapon all season long helping the Irish to the Orange Bowl against Colorado. While Detmer flopped in a 65-14 Holiday Bowl loss to Texas A&M, Ismail is remembered for one of the most thrilling kick returns that wasn't in college football history getting a would-be game-winning return called back on a phantom clip in a 10-9 loss.

5 Best Heisman Races

1. 1981
The Heisman race normally wouldn't even be close if someone ran for 2,342 yards in a season, but 1981 was not your average year. Georgia sophomore Herschel Walker was college football's greatest sensation and put up a good fight, but USC's Marcus Allen was simply too dominant setting the NCAA single-season rushing record. BYU  QB Jim McMahon, who finished third, Pitt QB Dan Marino finished fourth. Ohio State QB Art Schlichter was fifth, and Michigan great Anthony Carter and Texas DT Kenneth Sims were also in the mix.

2. 1982
Herschel Walker finally won the Heisman he was just as deserving of getting his previous two seasons, Stanford quarterback John Elway was second,  SMU RB Eric Dickerson third, Michigan WR Anthony Carter fourth, legendary Nebraska center Dave Rimington fifth, and national-title winning Penn State QB Todd Blackledge sixth. Pittsburgh's Dan Marino finished ninth, and 1983 Heisman winner Mike Rozier finished 10th.

3. 1997

Still one of college football's greatest arguments, Michigan CB/KR Charles Woodson barely beat out Tennessee superstar Peyton Manning while Washington State phenom Ryan Leaf, Marshall sophomore WR Randy Moss, Texas RB Ricky Williams, and Penn State RB Curtis Enis all put up Heisman-caliber seasons.

4. 2008
Oklahoma QB Sam Bradford won the Heisman in one of the closest races ever. How tight was it? Florida's Tim Tebow, the 2007 winner, finished third overall but got the most first place votes. Bradford finished with 1,726 points, Texas QB Colt McCoy finished second with 1,604 points, and Tebow was third with 1,575 points. The Texas Tech passing combination of Graham Harrell to Michael Crabtree finished a distant fourth and fifth, respectively.

5. 2004
There was no wrong answer in 2004. USC QB Matt Leinart was a solid winner while Oklahoma freshman RB Adrian Peterson was second, Oklahoma QB Jason White, the 2003 Heisman winner, was third, future first pick in the NFL draft, Utah QB Alex Smith, was fourth, and 2005 winner Reggie Bush was fifth.