Is Back-to-Back Heisman Trophies Impossible Goal in Modern College Football?

Michael FelderNational CFB Lead WriterNovember 26, 2013

BATON ROUGE, LA - NOVEMBER 23:  Quarterback Johnny Manziel #2 of the Texas A&M Aggies is sacked by defensive end Danielle Hunter #94 of the LSU Tigers at Tiger Stadium on November 23, 2013 in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.  (Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images)
Sean Gardner/Getty Images

Winning the Heisman Trophy in back-to-back seasons is far from impossible. Although, it is quite high on the improbable scale.

Archie Griffin, who pulled off the feat in 1975 as the starting running back for Ohio State, is the only player to be awarded college football's most prestigious individual honor in consecutive seasons.

The most recent possible repeat players were not sabotaged by voter hatred or bias against a two-time winner. Rather, repeat Heisman hopefuls have come up short because circumstances swung in another contender's favor.

A look at the most recent Heisman winners eligible for a second award shows that nothing is easy about winning two in a row.

Despite receiving the most first-place votes in 2008, Tim Tebow, the 2007 winner, lost to Oklahoma quarterback Sam Bradford. The Sooners quarterback, a sophomore like Tebow was in his winning campaign, won the award on the strength of his arm. Although Tebow put together a great season, it was Bradford's 50 passing touchdowns that put him over the edge.

ARLINGTON, TX - SEPTEMBER 05:  Quarterback Sam Bradford #14 of the Oklahoma Sooners on the sidelines after suffering an injury against the Brigham Young Cougars at Cowboys Stadium on September 5, 2009 in Arlington, Texas.  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty
Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

In 2009, Bradford looked to win the award again, but he fell victim to the injury bug. Against BYU, in the Sooners' first game, the reigning Heisman champ suffered a sprained AC joint that kept him out in all but two games for the rest of the season. Tebow attempted to win his second award, albeit not back-to-back, but Mark Ingram rose up to snatch it away from him.

Ingram, Alabama's starting running back, rode the Crimson Tide's 2009 national title-winning season, Bradford's injury and beating Tebow's Gators in the SEC title game to a Heisman Trophy. The Tide running back did not have the best year at the running back position, that honor would go to Ryan Mathews or Toby Gerhart, but he still managed to take home the hardware.

As the Tide set to push for a repeat national championship in 2010, Ingram was eyeballing a second Heisman, but again, the injury bug would bite. The junior had to get his knee scoped, missing the first two games, and he never really got back into form over the course of the 2010 season.

His struggles, coupled with Alabama dropping three games, made him a non-factor in the race. A race that Cam Newton, despite scandal, would emerge from as the clear choice.

NEW YORK - DECEMBER 11:  Cam Newton, quarterback of the Auburn University Tigers, poses with the 2010 Heisman Memorial Trophy Award on December 11, 2010 in New York City.  (Photo by Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images)
Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images

The Auburn quarterback would win and move on to be the top pick in the next NFL draft, followed by 2011's winner, Robert Griffin III from Baylor, who would be the No. 2 pick of the 2012 draft after his acceptance of the trophy.

2012's winner, Johnny Manziel of Texas A&M, would be the next case study in putting together back-to-back Heisman-winning seasons.

TUCSON, AZ - NOVEMBER 23:  Quarterback Marcus Mariota #8 of the Oregon Ducks is hugged by defensive tackle Ricky Havili-Heimuli #90 on the sidelines during the final moments of the college football game against the Arizona Wildcats at Arizona Stadium on N
Christian Petersen/Getty Images

Through 10 games, Manziel was certainly on track to have a shot at repeating. The quarterback was throwing and running his way through the SEC, putting together another solid season that would most certainly land him in New York.

Players like Oregon's Marcus Mariota, who was competition in the race, had absorbed losses and essentially set up a two-man race between Manziel and Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston.

All Manziel truly needed to push himself to the top was to demolish LSU, as he had done most other defenses in 2013, and then crush Missouri's SEC Championship Game hopes.

Unfortunately, the first hurdle of the two would go uncleared. Manziel looked bad against LSU, completing fewer than half of his passes while throwing two interceptions with only one touchdown pass.

Winning the Heisman in back-to-back seasons is not an impossible goal. The voters are not going to stop greatness from being rewarded two seasons in a row. Rather, the issue is that being great in back-to-back years is the near-impossible task.

It takes a perfect storm of health, wins and the uncontrollable factor of no one else being greater, something that sank Tebow's 2008 effort.

Tebow was the closest in recent seasons. Manziel had the opportunity in his hand before LSU squashed those hopes. Ingram and Bradford did not even make it back to New York City when given the next season to try and push for a second trophy.

Winning two in a row is not an impossible goal, but it certainly is improbable.