2009: MARK INGRAM VS. THE FIELD
The most recent of Heisman snubs mirrors the 2015 race in some ways. Two of the leading contenders are running backs from Alabama and Stanford, with Derrick Henry and Christian McCaffrey filling in for Mark Ingram and Toby Gerhart. Clemson also has a versatile contender for the award, although this time, Deshaun Watson received the invite C.J. Spiller was denied six years ago.
Spiller may not have been on pace to win the award in 2009, but his exclusion from the five-man finalist ceremony was just the first of many Heisman snubs that year.
Gerhart powered his way to New York City in much the same fashion McCaffrey landed there this year, captivating the nation in Stanford’s finale. The Cardinal’s win over Notre Dame Thanksgiving weekend catapulted Gerhart into the country’s consciousness, though it may have been a case of too little, too late.
The same can be said of Nebraska defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh, whose performance in the Big 12 Championship Game very nearly altered the course of the BCS landscape. Had the Cornhuskers won — and conspiracy theorists will argue Colt McCoy’s throwaway in the late-fourth quarter touched down after the clock struck zeroes — the BCS Championship Game may well have featured Mountain West champion TCU.
Nebraska failed to shake up the national title game, but Suh’s 4.5-sack, 7-tackle for loss, 12-tackle effort launched the lineman into the race — and may have cost season-long front-runner McCoy votes in the process. Among Southwestern voters, for example, Suh finished first with 254 votes to McCoy’s 216. The two ran similarly close in every region.
Of the finalists, Ingram had arguably the weakest case save only three-time finalist Tim Tebow, whose inclusion felt like more a Lifetime Achievement Award.
Ingram finished 2009 with spectacular statistics — 1,658 yards rushing and 17 touchdowns, another three scores off of 32 receptions — but he’d gone three games without a touchdown. Those three games also happened to be Alabama’s three most fiercely contested of the 2009 season, against Tennessee, LSU and Auburn.
Alabama was clearly the best team in the nation in 2009, but those three, pivotal games proved the Crimson Tide’s success didn’t hinge on Ingram — certainly not to the extent Stanford leaned on Gerhart, whose best performances came in the Cardinal’s most high-profile affairs.