NEW ORLEANS — Stetson Bennett, who led Georgia to back-to-back College Football Playoff (CFP) National Championships, has been selected as the winner of the 2022 Manning Award, presented by the Allstate Sugar Bowl to the top quarterback in the nation. Bennett is the fourth straight quarterback from the Southeastern Conference to earn the honor.
The Manning Award, now in its 19th year, was created by the Allstate Sugar Bowl to honor the college football accomplishments of Archie, Peyton and Eli Manning. It is the only quarterback award that takes into consideration the candidates’ bowl and playoff performances in its balloting. The award is voted on by a panel of local and national media, as well as each of the Mannings.
“We started the Manning Award 19 years ago as a way to recognize the country’s top quarterback for the full season, including the postseason,” said Archie Manning. “I’m not sure we’ve ever had an honoree who showcased his ability and proved his worth all the way through the postseason like Stetson did this year. We’re thrilled to recognize him as this year’s Manning Award winner.
“On behalf of the entire Manning family, I want to again thank the Sugar Bowl Committee for its long-standing support of the Manning Award. The Bowl’s role in making this possible each year is greatly appreciated.”
Bennett, a native of Blackshear, Ga., has a well-chronicled and borderline unbelievable story. After walking on to the Georgia football team for the 2017 season, he opted to transfer to a junior college to get playing time and experience. After a successful year at Jones College in Mississippi, he returned to the Bulldogs on a scholarship, but remained an afterthought on the depth chart in 2019.
In 2020, he started five of 10 games and was a solid, though unspectacular performer. In 2021, Bennett rose to the occasion and led the Bulldogs to the CFP Championship – earning Offensive MVP honors at both the CFP Semifinal and the CFP Championship. However, the recently completed 2022 season was when Bennett silenced nearly all of the critics, turning in outstanding performances all season long before raising his game to another level in the postseason, leading the Dawgs to the SEC title and another CFP title.
“If anyone exemplifies what we had in mind when we helped start the Manning Award, it’s Stetson Bennett,” said Sugar Bowl CEO Jeff Hundley. “Even though he led Georgia to a perfect regular season, there were still some people who doubted his status as an elite quarterback. After what Stetson did in the postseason, there shouldn’t be any doubters left. The Allstate Sugar Bowl will be proud to present the Manning Award trophy to Stetson Bennett, a two-time national champion and the Most Valuable Player of the last five postseason games in which he played.”
In three postseason games this year (the SEC Championship, CFP Semifinal, and CFP Championship), Bennett completed 64-of-88 (72.8%) passes for 976 yards and 11 touchdowns while also running for three scores and only tallying one interception. For the full season, he was 310-of-454 (68.3%) for 4,127 yards and 27 touchdowns to go with a team-best 10 rushing TDs.
For his career, Bennett passed for 8,428 yards and 66 touchdowns, despite only starting for two full seasons. He ranks in the top five in Georgia history in pass completions, passing yards, passing touchdowns, total offense, completion percentage, and average yards per play. Most impressively, he posted a 29-3 record as the Bulldog starting quarterback.
Other finalists for this year’s Manning Award were: Max Duggan (TCU), Sam Hartman (Wake Forest), Hendon Hooker (Tennessee), Drake Maye (North Carolina), Bo Nix (Oregon), Michael Penix, Jr., (Washington), Will Rogers (Mississippi State), C.J. Stroud (Ohio State), Caleb Williams (USC) and Bryce Young (Alabama).
In its first 19 years, the Manning Award has recognized the top names in college football. It has honored quarterbacks from 14 different schools and from four different conferences. The Southeastern Conference (Bennett, Bryce Young, Joe Burrow, Mac Jones, Johnny Manziel, Cam Newton, JaMarcus Russell and Tim Tebow) leads the way with eight Manning Award honorees, while the Big 12 Conference (Kyler Murray, Baker Mayfield, Vince Young, Colt McCoy and Robert Griffin III) has had five winners. The Atlantic Coast Conference (Deshaun Watson twice, Matt Ryan and Jameis Winston) has had four Manning Award winners. Alabama (Bryce Young and Jones) joins LSU (Burrow and Russell), Oklahoma (Murray and Mayfield) and Texas (McCoy and Vince Young) as the only schools with two different winners.
Statistically, the Manning Award has seen a wide-range of quarterbacks. Sixteen of the Manning Award men threw for over 3,000 yards in their winning campaign, including 4,000-yard seasons from Bennett, Burrow, Griffin III, Jones, Marcus Mariota, Mayfield, Murray, Ryan, Watson (twice), Winston and Bryce Young. On the other hand, Manziel, Murray, Newton, Watson (in 2015) and Vince Young were all 1,000-yard rushers during their Manning years.
Perhaps most impressive among the statistics of the quarterbacks recognized by the Manning Award is touchdowns scored. Thirteen of the winners accounted for over 40 touchdowns during their successful seasons – Burrow’s 65 touchdowns (60 passing, five rushing) broke Mariota’s record (58 in 2014) for touchdowns by a Manning Award winner.
One of the more unique aspects of the Manning Award is the fact that it takes account of the quarterbacks’ bowl performances, in addition to the regular season. Sixteen of the 19 Manning Award winners won bowl games during the season they won the honor.
Fourteen Manning Award honorees led their teams to the CFP Semifinals or a BCS Championship game appearance (Bennett, Burrow, Jones, Matt Leinart, Mariota, Mayfield, McCoy, Murray, Newton, Tebow, Watson, Winston and both Bryce and Vince Young). Nine won national championships (Bennett, Burrow, Jones, Leinart, Newton, Tebow, Watson, Winston and Vince Young).
Previous Manning Award winners have also factored prominently in the NFL Draft as they all heard their names called on Draft Day. Six honorees were selected No. 1 overall (Burrow, Mayfield, Murray, Newton, Russell and Winston), while four others went No. 2 or No. 3 (Griffin, Mariota, Ryan and Vince Young).
All the Manning Award winners follow in the footsteps of the Mannings themselves. In college, Archie, Peyton and Eli Manning combined for over 25,000 passing yards and 201 touchdowns while playing in 10 bowl games and earning four bowl MVP awards. Archie was the No. 2 pick in the NFL Draft, while both Peyton and Eli were selected No. 1 overall.
In addition to the Manning Award’s yearly honor, each week during the regular season, eight quarterbacks are recognized as Manning Quarterbacks of the Week. Sixty players from 58 different schools were honored during the 2022 season and 491 different quarterbacks from 132 schools have been recognized since 2011.