Wisconsin Football: Making a Case for Montee Ball and the Heisman Trophy

Sean LansingContributor IDecember 9, 2011

MADISON, WI - NOVEMBER 26:  Montee Ball #28 of the Wisconsin Badgers runs against the Penn State Nittany Lions at Camp Randall Stadium on November 26, 2011 in Madison, Wisconsin. Wisconsin defeated Penn State 45-7.  (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

38 touchdowns.

Let that sink in for a moment. 38 touchdowns.

Only one player—Hall of Famer and football god Barry Sanders—has ever scored more in a single season.

Still, for whatever reason, Wisconsin running back Montee Ball has struggled to reach front-runner status in the race for this year’s Heisman Trophy.

When you consider the numbers of winners past, Ball’s inability to crack through becomes even more baffling.

Take, for example, fellow Badger running back Ron Dayne’s Heisman season in 1999.

When Dayne won the hardware, he ran 303 times for 1,834 yards and 19 touchdowns, with just one catch.

This season, Ball has run for 1,759 yards on just 275 carries to go along with 20 catches for 255 yards and his 38 scores.

Although you could argue that Dayne was more of a legacy winner for the work he put in over a stellar four-year career in Madison, there is no denying that his numbers were spectacular.

Ball’s are even better, and he deserves the same recognition that the NCAA’s all-time leading rusher received a decade earlier.

It’s also not like any of Ball’s competition has had a season unlike any ever seen before. Alabama running back Trent Richardson, Baylor quarterback Robert Griffin III, Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck and LSU defensive back Tyrann Mathieu have all had excellent seasons, but their stats aren’t unparalleled.

Ball, on the other hand, has proven himself to be the second-most prolific scorer in NCAA history, and he did it while leading the Badgers to the Big Ten championship and a return trip to Pasadena to play in the Rose Bowl.

Of the five finalists, only LSU’s Mathieu can also claim a conference title.

Montee Ball has the stats, accolades and team success to be a serious contender for the Heisman Trophy.

It’s a shame that it was questionable if he’d even receive an invite to the Nokia Theater, and it will be equally disappointing if he doesn’t become the second Wisconsin running back in just over 10 years to win college football’s most coveted individual prize.