- Jeff Barlis, College Football
- 0 Shares
It's the Season, as in singular. There can be only one, which means along the way we had to make some some gargantuan choices.
This is what we set out to determine -- one great season by an individual that can be considered the best in the history of all 128 FBS schools. ESPN.com writers and editors, in consultation with sports information directors, settled on one player for each school.
As you would imagine in the SEC, there were some incredibly close calls. These are the top three, and we'd like your help to see if we got it right.
Cam Newton, quarterback, 2010
Newton played just one season at Auburn, and boy, was it epic. He won the Heisman Trophy in a landslide, led the Tigers to an undefeated season and the BCS National Championship. His numbers were eye-popping: 4,369 yards of total offense, 51 touchdowns to lead the nation, 1,473 yards rushing to lead the SEC. It was, quite simply, one of the most dominant individual efforts in NCAA history.
Bo Jackson, running back, 1985
Twenty-five years before Newton, Jackson became a legend at Auburn with his intoxicating blend of speed, power and grace. He won the Heisman Trophy after running for 1,786 yards and 17 touchdowns. He averaged 6.4 yards per carry, which at the time was the best in SEC history. Jackson was recently named the greatest athlete of all time by ESPN Sport Science.
Peyton Manning, quarterback, 1997
Few question Manning's place as the greatest Vol of all time. Heck, they even renamed one of the roads leading to Neyland Stadium, changing it to "Peyton Manning Pass." He surprised many by returning to Tennessee for his senior year and delivered an SEC championship after a 10-1 season. He threw for 3,819 yards and 36 touchdowns, which earned him the runner-up spot to Michigan cornerback Charles Woodson in the Heisman Trophy voting. Manning was, however, a consensus first-team All-American and won plenty of hardware after his memorable final season at Tennessee, including the Maxwell Award, the Davey O'Brien Award and the Johnny Unitas Award.
Reggie White, defensive end, 1983
Before he became known as the "Minister of Defense," White was a relentless, dominating defensive end for the Volunteers. After a subpar junior year (by his standards), White was a force of nature in his final season wearing Tennessee orange. He set the school's single-season record with 15 sacks, and also had nine tackles-for-loss and an interception. White recorded 100 tackles, including 72 solo stops -- ridiculous numbers for a lineman. He was named the SEC Player of the Year, a Lombardi Award finalist and was a consensus All-American.
Eli Manning, quarterback, 2003
Manning holds most of the Ole Miss passing records, but his senior season stands above the rest. He threw for a school-record 3,600 yards and 29 touchdowns in leading the Rebels to a 10-3 record, a share of the SEC West crown and a Cotton Bowl victory. He was a first-team All-American and racked up several honors, including SEC Player of the Year, the Maxwell Award as the nation’s best all-around player, and the Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Award.
Archie Manning, quarterback, 1969
The patriarch of the first family of Southern football, Archie Manning is revered in his home state. He held several of the school records that were eventually broken by son Eli. In his junior season, Archie was named SEC Player of the Year after throwing for 1,762 yards and nine touchdowns. He also ran for 502 yards and led the SEC with 14 rushing TDs. Manning won the Walter Camp Memorial Trophy, given annually to the college football player of the year. He also earned All-America and All-SEC honors and came in fourth in the 1969 Heisman Trophy voting.
You can also vote on who had the best individual season in college football history. Stay tuned throughout the week as we narrow the list from 16 to one.