The 79th Heisman Trophy presentation, which is Saturday in New York, will prove that the top candidates for the award can come from off the pace.
By BLAIR KERKHOFF
The Kansas City Star
Favorite Jameis Winston wasn’t on anybody’s preseason watch list. He hadn’t played a game as a Florida State redshirt freshman.
Running backs Tre Mason of Auburn and Boston College’s Andre Williams were less heralded than others in their conferences.
And preseason Heisman favorites, such as quarterbacks Teddy Bridgewater of Louisville, Ohio State’s Braxton Miller and Oregon’s Marcus Mariota, had terrific seasons but not good enough to receive an invitation to New York.
But no suspense is expected. The award appears to be Winston’s to lose.
JAMEIS WINSTON, Florida State quarterback
• Why he’ll win it: A combination of two important factors make Winston the favorite: He had an outstanding season, and he’s not suspended. The former is based on NCAA freshman records for passing yards (3,820) and touchdowns (38) for the top-ranked Seminoles. The latter is based on Winston not being charged with sexual battery after an incident that occurred a year ago.
• Why he won’t: If enough voters omitted him from their ballots because of potential legal issues, Winston might be in a tight race. But being a redshirt freshman won’t hurt him. Johnny Manziel broke through in his rookie season last year.
• Best Heisman finish from Florida State: Charlie Ward won the 1993 Heisman, and Chris Weinke won it in 2000.
JOHNNY MANZIEL, Texas A&M quarterback
• Why he’ll win it: Johnny Football had better passing numbers — 3,732 yards and 33 touchdowns — in 2013 than last season, when he became the first freshman Heisman winner. He also rushed for 686 yards and eight touchdowns, and his 562 yards of total offense against Alabama were one of the season’s best individual performances.
• Why he won’t: Ohio State running back Archie Griffin is the only two-time Heisman winner, and that distinction seems safe for another year. It also didn’t help that Manziel’s Aggies fell to 8-4 from 10-2 last year, and lost their signature game against the Crimson Tide.
• Best Heisman finish from Texas A&M: Manziel won the award in 2012, and John David Crow won in 1957.
ANDRE WILLIAMS, Boston College running back
• Why he’ll win it: He’s the nation’s top rusher with 2,102 yards, including a two-game stretch against New Mexico State and North Carolina State in which he rushed for 634 yards. Williams topped 200 yards five times and had a five-touchdown game against Army.
• Why he won’t: Once upon a time, a player with Williams’ numbers would have made him a sure bet. But quarterback numbers are huge these days, and two of Williams’ lowest outputs came against two heavyweights, Southern California (38 yards) and Clemson (70).
• Best Heisman finish from Boston College: Doug Flutie won the award in 1984.
AJ McCARRON, Alabama quarterback
• Why he’ll win it: McCarron is one of the greatest winners and leaders in college football history, with a 36-3 record as a starter and two straight BCS championships. In his team’s biggest game of the season, he tossed a 99-yard touchdown pass.
• Why he won’t: The Heisman isn’t a lifetime achievement award, and in that game in which McCarron threw the 99-yarder, the Crimson Tide lost to Auburn. Also, McCarron wasn’t the SEC’s all-conference quarterback. Manziel was.
• Best Heisman finish from Alabama: Mark Ingram won the 2009 Heisman.
JORDAN LYNCH, Northern Illinois quarterback
• Why he’ll win it: His production is overwhelming. Lynch is the nation’s second-leading rusher at 1,881 yards and 22 touchdowns, and he has thrown for 2,676 yards and 23 touchdowns. Three of the four other quarterbacks who have rushed and passed for at least 20 touchdowns in a season won a Heisman: Tim Tebow, Cam Newton and Johnny Manziel. The other was Colin Kaepernick.
• Why he won’t: Lynch’s chances would be improved had Northern Illinois finished the regular season with a perfect record. Instead, the Huskies fell to Bowling Green in the Mid-American Conference championship game and missed out on a second straight BCS appearance.
• Best Heisman finish from Northern Illinois: Lynch is the school’s first Heisman finalist. He finished seventh in last year’s voting.
TRE MASON, Auburn running back
• Why he’ll win it: Mason is the definition of a player running into Heisman contention. With a 304-yard, 46-carry, four-touchdown performance against Missouri in the SEC championship, Mason had perhaps the best game of any player this season. That followed a 164-yard effort against Alabama. His season total stands at 1,621 rushing yards and 22 touchdowns.
• Why he won’t: Mason wasn’t on the Heisman radar until the season’s final weeks. The question becomes: Will Mason be the highest finisher among running backs?
• Best Heisman finish from Auburn: Three Tigers — Pat Sullivan in 1971, Bo Jackson in 1985 and Cam Newton in 2010 — won the Heisman.
To reach Blair Kerkhoff, call 816-234-4730 or send email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him at twitter.com/BlairKerkhoff.