Sam Bradford Wins The Heisman
Oklahoma QB Sam Bradford
Oklahoma QB Sam Bradford
Posted Dec 13, 2008

The Oklahoma offense was tinkered with this off-season. The results? One of the most devastating attacks in college football history and its ringleader, Sam Bradford winning the 2008 Heisman Trophy with Colt McCoy coming in second and Tim Tebow third. In the end, Bradford and his offense won over the voters.

Sam Bradford Wins The Heisman

McCoy 2nd, Tebow 3rd

By Pete Fiutak  

- 2007 Tebow the first sophomore to win it
- 2006 Troy Smith wins in a landslide

“What are they doing? They’re screwing up the nation’s best quarterback?” – B.K.

“Please calm me down. It’s not like Bradford was bad, but it seems like this new offense is only going to keep him from reaching his potential. What was so bad about the way the offense was working?” – J.H.

Heisman Trophy Tally
Player 1st 2nd 3rd Total
S Bradford 300 315 196 1,726
Colt McCoy 266 288 230 1,604
Tim Tebow 309 207 234 1,575

These are snippets from two of the dozens of e-mails that came in late this spring from Oklahoma fans concerned about the tinkering being done with an offense that was among the most efficient in the nation. The Sooners were implementing a quick-tempo, quick-hitting attack that deemphasized the downfield passing game, at least a little bit, and revolved around getting the ball out of Sam Bradford’s hands as quickly as possible and in a rhythm to keep defenses on their heels. While Bradford was hardly bad in spring ball, he struggled for a few stretches and he threw a few (gasp!) interceptions in scrimmages. Little did anyone really know that the groundwork was being set for, arguably, the most devastating offense in the history of college football.

Oklahoma sophomore Sam Bradford won the 74th Heisman Trophy with Texas QB Colt McCoy finishing second and Florida QB Tim Tebow falling short of a second straight Heisman by finishing third. However, Tebow received the most first place votes (309) with Bradford finishing second (300). Texas Tech’s Graham Harrell and Michael Crabtree finished a distant fourth and fifth, respectively. Tebow broke the sophomore barrier when it came to Heisman winners last year, and Bradford made it two in a row.

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Bradford wasn’t the most valuable player in college football this season. (Actually, a case could be made that he would’ve earned the mythical MVP last season when he led the nation in passing efficiency, completing 70% of his throws for 3,121 yards and 36 touchdowns with eight interceptions. As a freshman, he was never in the Heisman race in a crowded year for upper-classmen.) McCoy and Tebow were probably more valuable to their respective teams than Bradford was; Oklahoma, with No. 2 QB Joey Halze under center, still might have gone 11-1 with its line (possibly the best in the nation) leading the way for a tremendous running game. Would OU have been amazing enough to get the style points needed to get by Texas for a spot in the Big 12 title? That debate is for another time, but the Heisman isn’t an MVP.

Bradford didn’t carry his team to a conference title like Tebow needed to do with Florida. He didn’t lead his team in rushing, like McCoy had to do with Texas. He didn’t lead the nation in total offense, completion percentage (McCoy led the way completing 78% of his throws), was 12th in the nation in passing, and was third in passing yards. However, the Heisman is supposed to go to the nation’s most outstanding player, and by that criteria, it’s almost impossible to argue against what Bradford did.

By sheer numbers, on the biggest stage week after week after week in the best division in the country, by far, Bradford was flawless. Cincinnati is going to the Orange Bowl. Bradford threw for 395 yards and five touchdowns in a blowout win over the Bearcats. TCU used its phenomenal pass rush to hit Bradford over and over against. 411 yards, four touchdowns, 35-10 win. In his one relative dud of a game, a 58-35 win over Kansas State, he still threw three touchdown passes without an interception. Over the last seven games of the year, he threw 25 touchdown passes and just one interception with three rushing scores. Of course, that came after the loss to Texas.

McCoy came away with the 45-35 win over the Sooners, but Bradford was fantastic with 387 yards and five touchdown passes with two interceptions. Tebow answered his loss to Ole Miss by challenging himself and his team to be better and more focused. McCoy answered his loss against Texas Tech by being the same, steady, brilliant self he was before. Bradford answered his loss to the Longhorns by leading the way to the greatest run over offensive production ever seen.

It took a lot to convince pollsters to vote for the Sooners over the Longhorns considering the head-to-head defeat, and Bradford made it happen by leading the way to 45 points against Kansas, 58 against Kansas State, 62 against Nebraska, 66 against Texas A&M, 65 in the national showcase game against Texas Tech, 61 in another spotlight moment against Oklahoma State, and 62 in the Big 12 title game against Missouri. No Citadels in that group.

More impressive than the numbers was the ruthless, brutal efficiency of the attack. Bradford made it look so, so easy. Oklahoma State rolled up 452 yards of total offense and returned a kickoff for a touchdown and still wasn’t even close to keeping up the pace. Kansas State threw for 486 yards and got blown away by 23 points. Texas Tech threw for 361 yards and got destroyed. The new Big Red Machine (Nebraska needs to do more to get the name back) was unstoppable. Fine, the Big Crimson Machine.

Bradford always seemed to make every right decision and every big play needed to not just generate points, but do it so quickly and so breathlessly that games went from competitive to over in a blink of an eye. And it wasn’t being done with a gimmick.

This isn’t Texas Tech’s run ‘n’ shoot; Oklahoma was second in the Big 12 and 19th in the nation in rushing, averaging 206 yards per game. Bradford isn’t a superior college player with no hope of doing much in the pros, like fellow Heisman winners Jason White, Eric Crouch, Chris Weinke, or in the view of some, Tebow. Bradford is considered to be a possible top five overall draft pick if he leaves early this year (he’s a third-year sophomore and eligible to turn pro if he chooses), if not No. 1 overall. He’s a superior talent running a superior offense in a superior year for Heisman candidates.

If Tebow is tremendous and Florida beats Oklahoma in the BCS Championship, then the Heisman world might wish it had a chance to do a redo. If Tebow and Bradford struggle, and if McCoy lights up Ohio State like a Christmas tree in the Fiesta Bowl, then there might be buyer’s remorse when it comes to voting him second. But in a year when the margin between the three finalists, at least when it came to arguing the choice, is paper thin, Bradford earned the Heisman with his special year and by doing something no one had ever seen before with the numbers put up by his offense. No matter what happens in the bowls, if nothing else, he and his offense were a whole bunch of fun to watch over a phenomenal 12 games.