College football players who don't play in the BCS conferences are always going to be at a disadvantage for winning the Heisman Trophy. It is the same struggle that mid-major basketball players would have trying to win the Naismith Award.
In fact, it might be easier for a basketball player to walk away with the Naismith, if only because of the greater chance for television exposure (multiple games against major opponents plus locla coverage) and the NCAA Tournament.
But for football players it is a struggle. If Marshall Faulk couldn't win at San Diego State, or Ben Roethlisberger at Miami, what hope is there for a player not at the top level.
They would have to have a special combination of skills and luck in order to make it over the hump, something that hasn't been seen yet from a mid-major player.
So what exactly would they need?
1. A schedule for the ages: Most mid-major teams don't play all of their non-conference games against major competition. They usually find another mid-major team to play against, or even drop down to the FCS to fill out the schedule.
The team that the player is on would have to have its eyes on getting into the BCS with the strength of its schedule, or in the future, being selected by some committee for one of the four playoff spots (really unlikely).
Even Boise State couldn't make this happen (but probably had the best attempt in 2010, with Virginia Tech, Oregon State and Toledo).
Schedules are put together too far in advance, and most coaches aren't going to push all in on a recruiting class that they have yet to even scout.
Still the stars could align and someone could break through in the right season assuming an athletic director had the stomach to actually put three or four BCS teams on the schedule.
2. Sustained success: The type of player who is going to get noticed at the mid-major level is going to almost have to be one that shouldn't have been there in the first place. Perhaps they bulked up during the last year of high school and couldn't get the scholarship to the major program. Maybe they just wanted to be close to home, or continue a legacy at a school.
Whatever the reason, the player is going to have to be beyond the normal talent level you would expect at the mid-major level. We aren't just talking Roethlisberger talent. This is going to have to be on the order of a Randy Moss... except playing quarterback or running back (see No. 4)
They will have to start as a freshman, and be so dominant that they get highlights on Sportscenter every week despite not playing in the SEC.
And they will have to continue that success, becoming a household name, and staying healthy through to their senior year.
Which brings us to ...
3. Don't leave for the NFL early: The temptation will be there. After all, winning the Heisman is going to be a long shot at best, even for the player who meats all of these criteria.
But for a player to truly be considered for the award, they are going to have succeed for four long and brutal seasons. The award will be something of a career achievement in this case. There are other players who you could argue have won the award for a career instead of a season, so it isn't out of the question.
The senior year will still have to be so dominate that major media people can't possibly question strength of schedule (see No. 1) or whether the player is just having fluke games at the right time.
Whomever gets into this position will have to come close to breaking records, and succeed in ways that make everyone take notice.
And they can't do it by... well:
You can't play in an offense designed around a single aspect of the game, and hope to win the Heisman Trophy. That is why you won't see any running back at Georgia Tech, or Navy winning the award. It is why Washington State is going to be shut out for some time with Mike Leach at the helm.
You have to play in an offense that is well-balanced, and then still destroy the competition with numbers like no one has ever seen.
A difficult task to be sure, but players like Central Michigan's Dan LeFevour registered consistently strong numbers during his four seasons, and finished with almost 13,000 yards passing and 102 touchdowns in his career. He is second all-time in total offensive yards thanks to 2,948 rushing yards and 58 yards receiving.
He didn't get a sniff from the media for the Heisman (despite strong lobbying on my part).
He also didn't meet the other criteria, but with his stats, he shouldn't have had to necessarily meet them all. Again, this is why you need all of this.
5. Change your name to Tim Tebow: Yeah, that should do it.
If one of the mid-major players were able to combine these talents, and EA Sports does anything like they did with NCAA Football 13, perhaps that player would get a shot to play for a major team after all.
Until then, fans of the mid-major leagues in football can only look at the best of the best, like some of those named, and think "What if?"
This post was sponsored by EA Sports NCAA Football 13. Check out the video for the game below.
EA SPORTS NCAA Football 13 TV: "Son" (via EASPORTS)