First, this is not an article about how Derrick Henry or Deshaun Watson does not deserve the Heisman Trophy. Both of those players had outstanding seasons and will lead their respective teams into the College Football Playoff.
But the Heisman voters missed the boat here.
The trophy is supposed to go to the best player in the country and no other player did more or better than Stanford running back Christian McCaffrey. Not only was he possibly the best tailback running the football, he doubled as a kick returner and he was the best at that as well.
Handing out these trophies is based on subjective judgments by voters and McCaffrey definitely was not helped out by the Pac-12 Conference. On many occasions the Cardinal were forced to play in the late-night slot that resulted with kickoffs being at 10:30 p.m. ET. Stanford was in the conference title game, but even that game was held at the same time as the ACC championship game. The SEC title game was in a time slot where it was the only game in town, so to speak. All the voters had their eyes glued on Henry.
The majority of the voters missed McCaffrey’s dominance because they were either fast asleep or missing him altogether because they were watching Watson in the ACC title win over North Carolina. Not exactly ideal for the West Coast player.
What they missed was a tailback that racked up 1,847 yards, 142 yards per game and gained nearly six yards per carry and eight touchdowns. He also led the Cardinal with 41 receptions for 540 yards (13.2 ypc) and four more scores. The sophomore even threw for two touchdowns.
As a returner, McCaffrey was dangerous. When he touched the ball, opposing players and fans got nervous. Very nervous.
McCaffrey averaged 28 yards per kickoff return, including a 98-yard touchdown. Opponents did get smart and managed to keep punts away from McCaffrey as he only had 14 returns for 68 yards total.
The statistic that really jumps out and screams Heisman is McCaffrey averaged 269 all-purpose yards… as a running back. There are quarterbacks that don’t accumulate that kind of yardage.
It also did not help McCaffrey that Stanford is not in the football playoff. If the Cardinal had beat either Northwestern or Oregon, McCaffrey would have probably been holding up that trophy Saturday night. McCaffrey also didn’t have his best games in the loss to the Wildcats and in the win against Notre Dame in front of a national television audience.
Northwestern held him to just 66 yards on the ground and 23 yards receiving in the 16-6 loss to open the season. But even with the two losses, the Notre Dame game was one of those showcase games the media love to talk about. Stanford managed to win the game and upset the Irish, but unfortunately for McCaffrey, he didn’t play a huge role in the win.
He did have 229 all-purpose yards, but nearly half of those were on kickoff returns after an Irish score. The Cardinal defense didn’t have their best night and Notre Dame was kicking the ball off seemingly all night. McCaffrey had “just” 94 yards rushing, 19 yards receiving and was held out of the end zone.
The Pac-12 Player of the Year did finish second in the voting, however. Henry won with 1,832 votes to McCaffrey’s 1,539. Since he is just a true sophomore, McCaffrey is not eligible for the NFL draft. To Stanford’s benefit, McCaffrey will be back for his junior year to possibly lead the Cardinal to another Pac-12 title and he will be the Heisman front-runner in 2016.