On Mondy night against Clemson, LSU quarterback Joe Burrow will have a chance to make a little bit more history in what has already been a historic season. When Burrow leads LSU in the College Football Playoff National Championship Game on Monday night in New Orleans, he will attempt to become the first Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback to end the season holding up the national championship trophy.
This is the sixth year of the College Football Playoff and, for just the second time, a Heisman Trophy quarterback will play in the national championship game. Burrow is the first quarterback to win the Heisman Trophy and play in the title game since Marcus Mariota of Oregon played in the inaugural national championship game of the playoff era after winning the most prestigious award in college sports. Mariota passed for 333 yards and two touchdowns and rushed for 39 yards against Ohio State, but the Ducks came up short in a lopsided 42-20 victory by the Buckeyes. Until last season’s rout by Clemson over Alabama, that was the widest margin of victory in the national championship game. Having a Heisman Trophy winner certainly didn’t help Oregon’s chances against a storybook ending to the Ohio State season that year.
The year after Mariota, Alabama running back Derrick Henry won the Heisman Trophy and helped power Alabama to a national championship. Henry currently holds the distinction of being the only Heisman Trophy winner to ever win a College Football Playoff national championship, and he did it in the same season.
Mariota and Oregon lost in the inaugural national championship game to Ohio State. Louisville’s Lamar Jackson did not play in the playoff in 2016. Oklahoma’s back-to-back Heisman Trophy winners (and No. 1 NFL draft picks) Baker Mayfield and Kyler Murray did play in the playoff, but neither managed to get past the semifinal — Mayfield and Oklahoma lost a thriller to Georgia in the 2017 season and Murray and the Sooners were taken out by Alabama last season.
Prior to this season, players winning the Heisman Trophy were a combined 3-3 in College Football Playoff games. Burrow and LSU winning their semifinal matchup with Oklahoma pushed the Heisman winners one game over .500 all-time in the playoff. A victory by LSU would improve that record to 5-3.
Going further, players that had won a Heisman Trophy in any season are a combined 5-5 in the College Football Playoff era. Florida State and Jameis Winston were knocked out in the first College Football Playoff game (by Mariota and Oregon) and Henry and Alabama were knocked out the same day (by Ohio State).
So as far as the playoff goes for Heisman Trophy players, it’s been quite hit or miss in the previous five seasons.