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Howard vs. Woodson: Comparing Heisman years

Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

It's Michigan day on "College Football Live," which starts its 50 States Tour with the Great Lake State. Former University of Michigan standouts Desmond Howard and Charles Woodson will be guests on Monday's show (ESPN, 3:30 p.m. ET).

One topic that undoubtedly will come up is whether Howard or Woodson had the better Heisman Trophy season. So before the debate begins on the tube, let's look at the tale of the tape.

My take -- This isn't a clear-cut decision because both men dominated their respective positions. Both men also had terrific seasons the year before they won the Heisman, with Howard racking up 1,025 receiving yards and 11 touchdowns in 1990 and Woodson recording five interceptions and 15 pass breakups in 1996. And both players were extremely versatile, making their mark in a variety of statistical categories.

While Howard had arguably the better numbers and won the Heisman by a landslide -- he received 86.7 percent of the first-place votes -- it's hard not to give the nod to Woodson. He was the first primarily defensive player to win the Heisman, and he'll most likely be the last. Given how the Heisman has turned into a quarterback competition, it would be hard to see another defender win any time soon.

Woodson helped make cornerback a glamour position. Though it probably took some highlight-reel punt returns to secure the Heisman, he always made a difference at his primary position. He recorded five or more interceptions in each of his three seasons at Michigan and was named MVP of Michigan's national championship team in 1997. Woodson entered the starting lineup during the second game of his freshman season and never left. Plus, he beat out Peyton Manning for the Heisman.

Howard was pretty special in his own right, shattering records for scoring by a wide receiver and making big plays in seemingly every game. But Woodson's ability to stand out as a defensive player is simply too impressive to ignore.