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HEI2MAN WATCH: Matt Corral doesn’t have to be perfect to win

History shows that the voters can think outside the box.

NCAA Football: Tulane at Mississippi Marvin Gentry-USA TODAY Sports

Since the year 2000, 17 Heisman Trophy winners were on a top-five team. 10 of those players who hoisted the trophy in front of the Downtown Athletic Club and former winners were on the No. 1 team in the country. These two statistics further perpetuate the narrative that this trophy has started to go to the best player on the best team and not simply the best player, as it was originally intended.

But, there have been a few times over the last 25 years that the Heisman Trophy winner came from a team that was NOT in the top-five or a New Year’s Day bowl game or the College Football Playoff. These few instances could potentially bode well for Ole Miss quarterback Matt Corral who has all of a sudden surged to the top of the Heisman Trophy odds leaderboard.

Updated Bovada Heisman Odds, Top 5

  • Matt Corral +210
  • Bryce Young +230
  • Spencer Rattler +1800
  • CJ Stroud +1800
  • Desmond Ridder +1800

Through three games, Corral leads the No. 1 scoring offense and total offense. Ole Miss is now ranked 13th in the nation, Corral just tied the school record for total touchdowns in a game (seven), and he has 14 total touchdowns and zero interceptions.

For now, he is the leader of the pack as he and the Rebels head into their week five matchup with No. 1 Alabama. Ole Miss is undefeated but conference play has yet to start and we want to be careful with expectations and hope. With that said, the boys look damn good heading into the bye week.

So let’s say Ole Miss doesn’t go 12-0 in the regular season, then what happens?

What if Corral continues to put up fantastic numbers but Ole Miss falters a few times in 2021? Will he automatically be removed from the top spot? Well, if history has shown us anything, it hasn’t happened often, but there have been a few exceptions.

Lamar Jackson — 2016

Regular season record: 9-3

The current Baltimore Ravens quarterback set the college football world on fire in 2016, scoring 51 total touchdowns (30 passing, 21 rushing). The Heisman moment everyone remembers was the dismantling of No. 2 Florida State on national television.

Jackson and Louisville lost a high-scoring affair on the road against Clemson before rattling off five-straight victories only to lose their final two games of the season to Houston and Kentucky.

But, Jackson’s performance throughout the year was enough for him to win the trophy over finalists Deshaun Watson, Dede Westbrook, Jabrill Peppers, and Baker Mayfield.

Johnny Manziel — 2012

Regular season record: 10-2

The most successful on the field on this list, Manziel sort of left zero doubt once he beat, you guessed it, Alabama on the road. The Crimson Tide were ranked No. 1 at the time and Texas A&M’s first ever trip to Tuscaloosa catapulted Johnny Football to the top of most voters ballots that day.

Manziel became the first freshman to win the award and only the fifth player in NCAA history to pass for 3,000 and rush for 1,000 yards in a season, reaching that mark two games earlier than any other player. He also set the SEC record for total yards in a season (5,116) that would be broken seven years later by LSU’s Joe Burrow.

Manziel edged out Manti Te’o, Collin Klein, Marqise Lee, and Braxton Miller that year.

Robert Griffin, III — 2011

Regular season record: 9-3

Maybe one of the better comparisons for the sake of this article is RG3’s 2011 season. Ironically enough, Ole Miss offensive coordinator Jeff Lebby was on staff in Waco during Griffin’s magical run at the stiff-arm trophy.

Again, the common theme of defeating a highly-ranked team continues here as Griffin’s primetime performance against the 5th-ranked Sooners is thought by many to be his “Heisman Moment”. He became the first Baylor player to win the award after closing out the regular season with a dominating 48-24 win over No. 22 Texas.

Griffin finished the year with 4,293 passing yards, 37 passing touchdowns, and just six interceptions to go along with 179 rushes for 699 rushing yards and ten rushing touchdowns. He was also the first Heisman winner to NOT play in the national championship game since Tim Tebow in 2007.

Griffin won one of the more closely-contested trophy races (1,687 votes) over Andrew Luck (1,407), Trent Richardson, Montee Ball, and Tyrann Mathieu.

Ricky Williams

Regular season record: 8-3

The last on the list is a bit of a throwback. The Texas Tornado broke Tony Dorsett’s 22-year old NCAA Division I-A all-time rushing record (6,082) against No. 6 Texas A&M Thanksgiving weekend. He not only got the record in this game, but he scampered 60-yards for a touchdown on the record-breaking carry.

This all but wrapped it up. And for good reason.

He also broke the NCAA Division I-A career rushing touchdowns and career scoring records in 1998 with 73 and 452 respectively. Williams ran for 200 or more yards in 12 different games and helped the Longhorns close the year with authority, defeating 25th-ranked Mississippi State in the Cotton Bowl, 38-11.

Williams ended 1998 with 2,327 yards rushing and 29 touchdowns. He won with 85.23 percent of the vote, whipping finalists Michael Bishop, Cade McNown, Tim Couch, and Donovan McNabb.