The Big Ten’s Heisman drought continued Saturday night, but of course we knew that was going to happen.
College football’s most prestigious award is hardly an effective barometer of conference strength, but it certainly doesn’t hurt when a league consistently boasts the player judged as the sport’s best. For example, that SEC dominance we always hear about when it comes to which teams are hoisting the crystal football and sitting at the top of the polls is aided by Heisman wins, four of the last seven, to be precise.
The SEC is often viewed as the supreme conference in college football, while the Big Ten has rarely earned that title in recent seasons, this most recent one included. But there’s a reason for that: The SEC has won seven straight BCS championships. The Big Ten has finished runner-up in a pair of those games, just two of the three appearances the conference has made in the title bout during the BCS era (all by Ohio State), compared to the SEC’s 10. And now the conference has now gone seven years without a Heisman winner, too.
Ohio State quarterback Troy Smith was the last player from the conference to own the stiff-arming trophy back in 2006. Since, Big Ten players haven’t factored much in the discussion. The best finish was fourth by Wisconsin running back Montee Ball in 2011. In that stretch since Smith’s win in 2006, the lowest the SEC finished was third.
Since Smith’s 2006 campaign, the Big Ten has seen just seven players finish in the top 10 in Heisman voting. Iowa running back Shonn Greene finished sixth in 2008, while Michigan State running back Javon Ringer finished 10th. Michigan quarterback Denard Robinson finished sixth in 2010. Ball finished fourth in 2011, with Badger quarterback Russell Wilson finishing ninth. Then there’s Ohio State quarterback Braxton Miller, who finished fifth last season and ninth this year.
In that seven-year span, the SEC has seen 16 players finish in the top 10.
And though it was an ACC player — Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston — who took home the Heisman on Saturday night, three of the top six vote-getters hailed from the SEC. No Big Ten player was to be found in New York, and Miller was the lone conference representative to finish in the top 10 in voting. He finished ninth, behind two quarterbacks from non-automatic qualifying conferences: Northern Illinois’ Jordan Lynch (third) and Fresno State’s Derek Carr (eighth).
It could certainly be argued Miller deserved a higher finish, though an injury that knocked him out of three games likely had something to do with where he ended up placing. Fellow Buckeye Carlos Hyde finished as the Big Ten’s best running back, though a three-game suspension to open the season held him out of contention. Factor in the timeshare in carries in the successful Wisconsin backfield and defensive, not offensive, dominance from the conference champion Michigan State Spartans, and the Big Ten was not long on Heisman candidates.
This year’s Heisman results, despite an ACC winner, will likely be the latest bit of ammo used by those who cry “SEC good, Big Ten bad,” though if Auburn makes it eight straight national titles for the conference down south, there wouldn’t be enough awards in the world to override that argument. And for the sixth straight season, there will be no Big Ten team in the national title game.