Commentary

Heisman Predictor: Method explanation

Breaking down the formula that predicted the past six Heisman winners

Originally Published: August 12, 2009
By Ryan McCrystal | ESPN Stats & Information

At first glance, predicting the Heisman Trophy winner is no easy task. With over 800 voters spread evenly across the country, the opinion as to what defines a Heisman Trophy winner varies greatly. There are voters who strongly favor the conference they cover. There are voters who favor the hometown players. There are voters who strategically leave off candidates to increase the chance of "their guy" winning the award. However, when taken as a whole, the Heisman voters are a predictable bunch.

The following formula details exactly how one can predict the Heisman winner by simply analyzing a player's statistics from a given year. Before getting into the details of the equation, however, there are two key points to keep in mind:

1. This is simply a prediction of who will win the trophy; not who I, or anyone else, believes should win.

2. There is a certain amount of subjectivity to this formula. Given a pool of a few thousand players that are eligible for the award, analyzing the statistics of each one would be an impossible task. To create a more realistic prediction, only the most likely candidates' statistics are taken into account.

Now on to the fun stuff: the math behind the madness. The formula takes into account 11 different variables, and awards points in a variety of ways. Here is a quick rundown of the categories taken into consideration and the weight assigned to each variable:

Conference affiliation: 15 points are awarded to each player from a BCS conference; 5 bonus points for teams from the Big 10, Big 12, SEC and USC and Notre Dame

Player position: 25 points for all offensive players; 25 additional points for a QB, 15 points for an RB

Total touchdowns (broken down by position):

• QB: .5 points for each touchdown; 2.5 bonus points for reaching 40 TD, 7.5 points for 45 TD, 15 points for reaching 50 TD; for "system quarterbacks," bonus points are not awarded until reaching 60 touchdowns (5 points)

• RB: 1 point for each touchdown; 5 bonus points for reaching 20 TD, 10 points for reaching 25 TD, 20 points for reaching 30 TD; for non-BCS running backs, bonus points are not awarded until reaching 30 TD (5 points)

• WR: 1.75 points for each touchdown; 5 points for reaching 10 TD, 10 points for reaching 15 TD, 25 points for reaching 20 TD; for non-BCS receivers, bonus points are not awarded until reaching 20 TD (5 points)

• Defense: 10 points for each touchdown

• Special teams: 2.5 points for each touchdown

Total yards: 5 points for 2,000 rushing yards; 5 points for 1,500 receiving yards

Team wins: 1.5 points for each victory; 10 bonus points for undefeated BCS teams, 5 points for undefeated non-BCS teams; 5 points for defeating the No. 1-ranked team (at time of game). NOTE: These points are only available for quarterbacks.

Win streak: 2.5 points for teams that end the season with 5 or more consecutive wins

Bowl game: 5 points if the team is selected to a BCS bowl, 10 points for the championship game

Previous year's Heisman voting: 10 points for finishing in the top 10 in the voting; only 2.5 points for the defending Heisman winner

Defending champion: 5 points for playing on the defending national champion

Team improvement: 7.5 points for BCS teams that improve by 5 or more wins from the previous season; 2.5 points for non-BCS teams

Performance vs. top-10 opponents (broken down by win or loss): Players can only accumulate up to 15 points through the season in this category.