Who really should have won the 2015 Heisman?

The college football season came to a end Monday night, as the Alabama Crimson Tide beat the Clemson Tigers by a score of 45-40. Alabama ended the season but not the controversy of the 2015 season. The biggest controversy this year, in my opinion, was the Heisman trophy selection. Derrick Henry was awarded the trophy because of his season where he broke the SEC single season record for rushing yards. The main problem with giving him the trophy is that there may have been a more deserving candidate out west in the Pac-12. That candidate’s name is Christian McCaffrey and he had, quite possibly, the most statistically impressive college football season by a player ever. McCaffrey set the single season record for all purpose yards by a player as well as rack up almost as many rushing yards as Heisman winner Derrick Henry.

As a caveat before I compare Henry and McCaffrey I want to talk a little bit about the third finalist, Deshaun Watson. Watson had a great year, finishing with over 4,000 yards passing and 1,000 yards rushing, he was the first college player to amass those stats in a single season. Watson was possibly the best Quarterback in the nation in the 2015 season, but is definitely the best going into next year. Watson was one of the most efficient passers in the nation completing over 67 percent of his passes. Watson and McCaffrey are on the short list of people to watch to win the Heisman next year. Watson will be the best all around prospect out of this years Heisman finalists, as he is the definition of dual-threat. Watson almost single handedly beat Alabama both with his arm and legs, look for Watson and Clemson to be back in the championship talk next season.

When comparing Henry and McCaffrey I looked at all their production both offensive and special teams. This is mainly because McCaffrey does more than carry the ball, he also returns kicks, catches passes, and even throws some. Henry had a great season overall as he amassed over 2,200 yards rushing and 2,310 overall. Alabama’s opponents in regards to total defense and yards allowed on average allowed over 413 yards of offense. This is not indicative of the teams Alabama has played, these teams also were some of the best defensive teams in the nation, (outside of FCS opponent Charleston Southern). Every FBS team the Tide faced was inside the top 100 for total defense, though most of those teams play in either in conferences with bad offenses (Clemson and all SEC teams) or play in lower tier conferences (Middle Tennessee and Louisiana Monroe). The best defense the Tide faced was Wisconsin that ended the season at number 3 in total defense. Henry had 147 yards on 13 carries.

In regards to Christian McCaffrey his team played in the Pac-12, a notoriously offensive and explosive conference. However Stanford opponents allowed a average of 413 yards of total offense, similar to Alabama’s opponents. Stanford like I said plays in a conference known for explosive offense, 6 of their opponents were known as powerhouses on offense (Cal, Oregon, Wash. St., UCLA, Notre Dame, and USC). Three teams Stanford played were in the top 35 of defense (Northwestern, Washington, and Iowa). The best defensive team that Stanford faced was either Northwestern or Iowa. I will use both for this case, as against Northwestern McCaffrey was not used as much in the offense and was mainly a kick returner. While against Iowa he was the main focus of the offense and special teams. So to begin with against Northwestern McCaffrey gained only 66 yards rushing and 171 yards overall, still more than Henry in the same week. Against Iowa, McCaffrey had 172 yards rushing on 18 carries and 368 yards overall, more yards than any game that Henry had this season.

Moving on to actual comparison statistics wise McCaffrey had only 61 yards less rushing than Henry in the same amount of games, 14 and without the CFP championship. In the regular season and conference championship, all the games played before the Heisman was awarded, McCaffrey had 1,847 while Henry had 1,986. Thats only 120 yards less, but McCaffrey wasn’t the feature of the offense until week three. If he had his average of the season from week three to the conference championship McCaffrey would have had about the same amount of yards as Henry. Even without that McCaffrey still had more all purpose yards, 3,903 compared to Henry’s 2,310. That alone should mean that McCaffrey should have won it because of his ability to create offense and make explosive plays. Henry also was the workhorse of the team with, what seemed like 40 carries a game, its really about 30-35 carries. McCaffrey only needs 23-27 carries to get more yards that Henry got, and he still was only 120 yards behind. Yes it is very impressive to carry the ball 40 times a game or even more than 30, the reason he has that many carries is because Bama always wears teams down at the end of the game because they know how to win. Stanford isn’t a juggernaut team that is always finds a way to win, but they have a good coach, not elite like Saban, and they have a smaller recruiting base and few elite level talents.

Speaking of recruiting Alabama always finds great linemen, usually at least two of them are all american or all conference. Stanford on the other hand has no all american linemen, moreover Alabama is projected to have their whole line, when eligible, get drafted into the NFL. Stanford maybe a few, Alabama also has a favorable running back style, called ground and pound, of offense compared to Stanford, who runs a more traditional passing attack. This just makes recruiting lineman easier for Alabama, Stanford almost has to convince lineman that they will try to be balanced. Balance is mostly determined by the opponent and the situation, if a team is behind they may decide to throw more, while ahead they may tend to run more.

So after all that the case for the 2015 Heisman looks pretty clear cut, McCaffrey should have won it with Watson following and Henry third. In my opinion the reason Henry won the Heisman was because of the team he played for. Yes he ran the ball a lot and got a lot of yards but every week McCaffrey outran Henry in yards. I think that if McCaffrey played in the SEC he would have won it as well but ESPN decided to schedule Pac-12 teams at the end of the day and the SEC in the prime time slot. The Heisman voters also put in their ballots before they got to see McCaffrey play in prime time, as stated above. The Heisman should not have been to Alabama but rather Pal Alto or Clemson, but no matter what McCaffrey and Watson will have better and longer NFL careers.

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