Derrick Henry is the presumptive Heisman Trophy winner for 2015. Henry leads FBS in rushing yards (1,986) and rushing touchdowns (23) despite having a rather pedestrian 5.86 yards per carry average (34th in FBS). Henry's numbers certainly put him in the discussion for the 2015 Heisman, but how do his numbers compare with Ezekiel Elliott's over the past calendar year?
The 2014 Heisman voting closed on December 8, 2014, the day after the CFB Playoff teams were announced. Here's what Ezekiel Elliott and Derek Henry have accomplished since the close of last year's Heisman voting:
As you can see, Zeke beats Henry in every category except 200-yard+ games, in which each player has four. And Zeke beat Henry in their only head-to-head matchup in last year's Sugar Bowl, as Zeke had 20 carries for 230 yards (11.5 ypc) and 2 TDs, while Henry had 13 carries for 95 yards (7.3 ypc) and 1 TD. Zeke followed up his Sugar Bowl performance with 36 carries for 246 yards (6.8 ypc) and 4 TDs in the 2014 National Championship Game.
Heisman Candidate Games Total Rushes Rush Yards Yds/Carry Yds/Game Touchdowns 100-yard+ 200-yard+ Ezekiel Elliott 14 318 2,148 6.75 153.4 25 13 4 Derrick Henry 14 352 2,081 5.91 148.6 24 9 4
However in this year's Heisman voting, Zeke will get no credit for his performances in last year's Sugar Bowl or National Championship Game, which came after the 2014 Heisman vote but were not part of the 2015 season. In reality, he probably got little credit last year for his 20 carry, 220 yard, 2 TD performance in the 2014 Big Ten Title Game. Although that game took place on December 6th, and thus before the nominal close of the 2014 Heisman balloting, the voting had been open since November 24th and many voters had probably submitted their 2014 ballots before Zeke's record-setting performance. So Zeke's epic achievements during the Buckeyes' three-game national title run - 76 carries, 696 yards, 9.2 ypc, 232 ypg, 8 TD - were almost completely ignored by the Heisman voters due to a flaw in the voting procedure. As things turned out, Zeke was the best player on the best team in 2014, but he was never recognized as such.
As far as Heisman voters are concerned, games that occur after the vote simply don't exist - they aren't eligible for the current year and they can't be considered for the following year. In other words, what you accomplish against your best competition in your most important games of the season - CCGs, bowls, and playoffs - doesn't matter to Heisman voters, but what you do against the cupcakes on your schedule matters a whole lot.
Back in the early days, the final national championship polls were taken before the bowl games, the bowls being considered mere exhibitions that had no bearing on the actual college football season. Since 1973, both major polls (AP and coaches) have recognized the importance of bowl games, and their pollsters have submitted their final ballots after the bowl games. Since 1998, postseason games have been used to determine the college football national champion (BCS until 2013 and now the playoff). A team's ultimate success is determined by what it does during the postseason.
Maybe the Downtown Athletic Club should get with the times and push the Heisman voting back until after the completion of the entire college football season, and consider what each candidate does in the games that matter the most. If they had done so last year, then maybe Ezekiel Elliott would have become Ohio State's eighth Heisman Trophy winner in 2014.
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