ESPN.com is hosting an online vote to determine what fans believe to be the greatest individual season in college football history. It’s harmless, if not fun, filler until the start of the college football season on Aug. 23.
But it’s also an exercise in futility. Regardless how fans vote, there’s a clear answer. In 1988, Oklahoma State running back Barry Sanders set the bar by which all performances should be set.
Oklahoma State football’s official Twitter account shared Sanders’ stat line from his Heisman-winning campaign and it’s simply mind-blowing.
— Cowboy Football (@CowboyFB) August 7, 2014
One would be hard-pressed to match those numbers on the defunct NCAA Football video game series.
Of course, there’s no guarantee Barry Sanders wins. He’s up against Vince Young’s 2005 season at Texas, which culminated with Young scoring the game-winning touchdown in the BCS Championship.
A play that lives in the annals of college football history to be sure, but not enough to stack up with Sanders.
Here’s Barry Sanders’ first play of 1988:
Talk about setting a tone. He reached the end zone a remarkable 43 more times that season, 42 of which were on rushes. A single highlight reel doesn’t do Barry Sanders justice.
IronicallyCoincidentally, what I consider to be the second best individual season in college football history was also in 1988. Alabama’s Derrick Thomas recorded 27 sacks that season. Twenty-seven! That’s one fewer than Kansas State, Oregon and Penn State recorded as teams in 2013.
Thomas lost his first-round matchup in ESPN.com’s vote to 1997 Heisman Trophy winner Charles Woodson, a gross injustice sadly fitting of Thomas’ treatment of his 1988 season. He finished 10th in the Heisman voting that Barry Sanders won by a landslide.
But even Sanders’ runaway Heisman victory is proof that a consensus is impossible to reach. He failed to garner every first-place vote, which is just shocking when you look at the above stat sheet.
Indeed, no one will ever agree 100 percent on anything. But if you don’t agree Barry Sanders had the greatest individual season of all-time, understand that you are wrong.