Kerry Collins has been shut out of the College Football Hall of Fame two years in a row — but the third year might be a charm for the legendary Penn State signal-caller.
A few weeks ago, Collins was announced as one of 75 candidates — and 10 quarterbacks — vying for a spot in the hall. But where does Collins stack up among the gunslingers? And will it be enough to get him a bust in Atlanta?
We broke down each HOF candidate at quarterback and settled on what signal-callers, if any, had the advantage over Collins. Let’s take a look, starting with Collins’ resume:
Kerry Collins, Penn State
Collins led the Nittany Lions to a 12-0 record, Big Ten title and No. 2 final ranking in 1994. That season, he was a consensus first-team All-American and won the Maxwell and Davey O’Brien Awards.
The fourth-place Heisman finisher led the country in passing efficiency (172.9) and threw for 2,679 yards and 21 touchdowns. He guided the most prolific offense in Big Ten history — 512.7 yards per game.
It’s one of the most impressive seasons for a collegiate quarterback in the last three decades.
The one thing Collins has working against him is outside of 1994, his resume isn’t really there. A position battle with John Sacca and injuries took care of that.
Good thing for the Nittany Lion? Consistency wasn’t the forte of the other quarterback candidates, either.
Michael Bishop, Kansas State
▪ 1998 Heisman Trophy runner-up
▪ Winner of 1998 Davey O’Brien Award
▪ Big 12 North title in 1998
Advantage: Collins. Bishop, while his resume is solid, didn’t win the conference in his marquee season. The Big Ten didn’t stand a chance against Collins’ Nittany Lions, who had a 26.9-point margin of victory in 1994.
Matt Cavanaugh, Pitt
▪ Led Panthers to 1976 national title
▪ Guided Pitt to three consecutive bowl wins
▪ Finish career ranked second all-time with 3,916 yards of total offense
Advantage: Collins. Yes, Cavanaugh has a national title — but many believe Penn State should’ve been crowned the No. 1 team in 1994. More importantly, Tony Dorsett was the focal point of the Pitt offense, and Cavanaugh wasn’t even a top-10 finisher in the Heisman voting in 1976. Cavanaugh deserves to make it, but I’m going with Collins here.
Tim Couch, Kentucky
▪ Fourth in 1998 Heisman voting, ninth in 1997
▪ Led Wildcats to first win over Alabama in 75 years
▪ Set seven NCAA, 14 SEC and 26 school records
Advantage: Couch. He was a Heisman finalist twice. That speaks for itself.
Eric Crouch, Nebraska
▪ 2001 Heisman winner
▪ Led the Huskers to the 2001 national title game
▪ Helped Nebraska finish with a 42-9 record and four bowl berths in four years
Advantage: Crouch. The Nebraska quarterback has longevity — and that cast bronze Heisman. If the votes weren’t split between Collins and Ki-Jana Carter, Penn State could’ve had a Heisman winner in 1994. Still, Crouch is the most deserving signal-caller on the list.
Rick Leach, Michigan
▪ Third in 1978 Heisman voting
▪ Led Wolverines to three straight Rose Bowl games
▪ Set Michigan record for wins by a quarterback (38)
Advantage: Collins. Leach was a four-year leader, but he never completed more than 51.7 percent of his passes in a given season. Leach’s rushing touchdowns — 34 over four years — help, but Collins’ 1994 season is more iconic.
Cade McNown, UCLA
▪ 1998 consensus first-team All-American
▪ 1998 Pac-10 Co-Offensive Player of the Year
▪ Led Bruins to conference titles in 1997 (shared) and 1998
Advantage: Collins. McNown had back-to-back 10-win seasons in 1997 and 1998, but the Penn State quarterback’s 1994 campaign tops both.
Shawn Moore, Virginia
▪ Fourth in 1990 Heisman voting
▪ Led Cavaliers to first-ever No. 1 ranking
▪ 1990 ACC Player of the Year
Advantage: Collins. That No. 1 mark in 1990 is a little deceiving — after Virginia reached the top of the rankings in Week 8, the Cavaliers lost four of their final five games. Virginia finished with an 8-4 record in 1990. Not good enough.
Jake Plummer, Arizona State
▪ 1996 Pac-10 Player of the Year
▪ Led Sun Devils to undefeated regular season in 1996
▪ Threw for more than 2,000 yards in three consecutive seasons
Advantage: Plummer. He has the consistency, and if it weren’t for a close 20-17 loss to Ohio State in the Rose Bowl, Arizona State probably would’ve been named national champions in 1996. If Collins had another season like 1994, we’d have a different conversation.
Antwaan Randle El, Indiana
▪ First player in FBS history to pass for 6,000 yards and rush for 3,000 yards in a career
▪ Rushed for more yards than any quarterback in FBS history at end of career
▪ 2001 consensus first-team All-American
Advantage: Randle El. “He is just the whole offense,” Joe Paterno said of the first player in college football history to tally 2,500 yards four straight seasons. Randle El was otherworldly. Watching his highlights on YouTube will never, ever get old.
It’s not a shoo-in for Collins to reach the hall.
Normally, there’s two — maybe three — quarterbacks inducted each year. Crouch is in, and Randle El was such a different kind of standout he’ll be hard to ignore.
But outside of those two, the case can be made for Collins.
We’ll see if he gets the nod when the Class of 2018 is revealed in January.