The Doc 5: Best Heisman encore seasons -- No. 2 Matt Leinart

This offseason we will count down various topics from Monday through Friday, bringing you the top five of the important and definitely some not so important issues in college football. It's the Doc Five, every week until we will thankfully have actual games to discuss.



Matt Leinart laid the foundation for his Heisman Trophy by leading USC to a 2003 AP national title with a win against Michigan in the Rose Bowl.

While USC was not invited to play in the BCS National Championship, Leinart cemented himself as a quarterback to watch in 2004 and he didn’t disappoint. He threw for 3,322 yards and 33 touchdowns while completing 65.3 percent of his passes. He led the Trojans to another national championship, though it would later be vacated by the BCS.

The numbers were good enough to win Leinart the Heisman Trophy against stiff competition that included teammate Reggie Bush, Oklahoma running back Adrian Peterson, Oklahoma quarterback Jason White and Utah quarterback Alex Smith. Even though Leinart won by more than 300 votes and had an overwhelming majority of first-place votes, the 2004 Heisman race was considered one of the deepest in the trophy’s history.

And that should have set Leinart up nicely for a repeat run in 2005. But what he didn’t count on was his teammate, running back Bush, who finished fifth in 2004, having a season for the ages.

It’s tough competing with a teammate for an individual award, especially when you’re fighting for the same overall goal of team success. The 2005 Trojans achieved that with a 12-0 regular season and both Leinart and Bush were at the heart of it.

While both players had great seasons, Bush was dominant and Leinart was steady. Leinart threw for 3,815 yards and 28 touchdowns. His 65.7 completion percentage was the highest of his career, as was his 8.9 yards per attempt.

But Leinart finished a distant third behind Bush, who won in a landslide, and Texas quarterback Vince Young, who would beat the USC duo in the Rose Bowl for the BCS National Championship.

Leinart, who had a Heisman vote by virtue of being a previous winner, cast his ballot for Bush.

But in the end it was all for naught.

Thanks to NCAA violations by USC and Bush, the Trojans were forced to forfeit their wins from that season and Bush was asked to return his Heisman Trophy. The award was vacated for the year, the only year the Heisman has not be handed out since 1935.

Leinart still had an excellent career. He lost just twice in his 39 starts and left USC as the all-time leader in career touchdown passes and completion percentage. USC retired his No. 11 jersey.

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Graham Watson is the editor of Dr. Saturday on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email her at or follow her on Twitter!

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