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Does the “Heisman Curse” exist in Pasadena?

Oklahoma quarterback Baker Mayfield, winner of the Heisman Trophy, poses with the award Saturday, Dec. 9, 2017, in New York. (AP Photo/Craig Ruttle)
Does the “Heisman Curse” exist in Pasadena?

Oklahoma, The Rose Bowl, and The Heisman Trophy have their own place in college football history. The Rose Bowl has seen both the Heisman Trophy Winner and Oklahoma before, but never at the same time. Baker Mayfield is going to change that as we celebrate a new year in 2018.

The Rose Bowl was first played in 1902 before seeing a 14-year absence. Since the rebirth in 1916, the game has been played every single year–making it the oldest bowl game in college football. The “Grandaddy of Them All” was the premier bowl game through the first 27 years of its existence, but lacked one thing up until that point: a Heisman Trophy Winner.

Georgia running back Frank Sinkwich changed that in 1943. Since the debut, Heisman Trophy Winners have played in the game 11 other times. The game itself is played with immense pressure behind it, but the pressure of the Heisman hasn’t been an issue for past Award winners:

  • Frank Sinkwich, Georgia, 9-0 Win in 1943*
  • OJ Simpson, USC, 27-16 Loss in 1969*
  • Jim Plunkett, Stanford, 27-17 Win in 1971
  • Archie Griffin, Ohio State, 18-17 Loss in 1975*
  • Archie Griffin, Ohio State, 23-10 Loss in 1976*
  • Charles White, USC, 17-16 Win in 1980*
  • Desmond Howard, Michigan, 34-14 Loss in 1992
  • Charles Woodson, Michigan, 21-16 Win in 1998*
  • Ron Dayne, Wisconsin, 17-9 Win in 2000
  • Reggie Bush, USC, 41-38 Loss in 2006**
  • Jameis Winston, Florida State, 34-31 Win in 2014***
  • Marcus Mariota, Oregon, 59-20 Win in 2015*

The 7-5 overall record for the winners of the Heisman shows that the expected pressure from the award has no effect on the game. The last two Heisman Trophy Winners even won in their outings in Pasadena. Baker Mayfield won’t be alone seeking a National Championship in Pasadena, either. Ten of the 12 Heisman Trophy Winners were either playing for a National Championship or in the College Football Playoff Semifinal. Derrick Henry won his College Football Playoff Semifinal (Cotton Bowl) game in 2015 after winning the Heisman, too.

Each game has become bigger and bigger as Baker Mayfield’s career comes to a close, and the Rose Bowl will be no different. The past, however, says that Mayfield’s new title of “Heisman Trophy Winner” will add no more outside pressure than what the Rose Bowl and College Football Playoff already present.


*Rose Bowl was for National Championship
**Reggie Bush had his Heisman vacated, but they lost to Texas 41-38 in Championship game.
***Last BCS National Championship, was at Rose Bowl site twice for Championship game. 

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