The Heisman Trophy Trust asks its voters to select and rank three players that best fit the description of "the most outstanding college football player." With Heisman hype and debates raging in full force, we try to identify the different schools of thought employed by the 870 media voters and 50+ former Heisman winners across the country.
Best Player, Best Team
Alabama quarterback AJ McCarron : This argument for Alabama's title-winning quarterback lost a little bit of momentum when the Tide offense sputtered and stumbled its way to a 20-7 victory on the road against Mississippi State. McCarron completed 18 of 32 passes for 187 yards (5.8 yards per attempt) in his first two-interception game all season. The "Best Player, Best Team" argument doesn't require amazing stats, there were a lot of eyes on McCarron after the LSU win and that kind of performance was not ideal for his Heisman chances.
Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel : Texas A&M had the week off, but Manziel's dominance will be tested against two ranked opponents in the final two weeks of the regular season. The Aggies finish the year on the road against LSU and Missouri, with the latter being a game that could decide the SEC East winner. Both defenses rank in the top four of the SEC in yards per play allowed, so more stat-stuffing performances will only boost Manziel's Heisman chances.
Baylor quarterback Bryce Petty : Petty's two most important statistics for Heisman purposes are his touchdown-interception ratio (24 touchdowns, one interception) and record (9-0). His nation-leading 206.2 passer rating and 12.8 yards per attempt are worth mentioning -- as is his 10 rushing touchdowns, ranking second among Big 12 rushers -- but if Petty is going to win the Heisman over a Winston, Manziel or Mariota; the Bears will need to be undefeated. The other players have comparable statistical dominance, but only Winston also still undefeated.
Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston: Winston was near-perfect in limited action against Syracuse, completing 19 of 21 passes for 277 yards and two touchdowns before taking a seat and letting the backups take over. The Seminoles have one of the country's best defensive units and a host of talented playmakers, but Winston is the public's MVP of this BCS title contender.
Auburn quarterback Nick Marshall : There is a very brief, but very real opportunity for Auburn's starting quarterback to make a late push into the Heisman Trophy discussion. Of course, capitalizing on this opportunity requires an upset of No. 1 Alabama in Jordan-Hare Stadium on Nov. 30. If Marshall can knock off the top-ranked Tide and send Auburn, a team that was 3-9 a year ago, to the SEC title game then you can count on most Heisman voters in SEC country adding his name to their ballot.
Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston: Winston is buzzworthy for the wrong reasons, as the state attorney investigates allegations regarding his potential involvement in a sexual battery complaint filed to the Tallahassee Police Department in Dec. 2012. Winston denies any wrongdoing, and the Florida State coaching staff feels comfortable enough with the situation to play the star quarterback; but the allegations are enough to play a role in the thinking of Heisman voters.
Northern Illinois quarterback Jordan Lynch : As we mentioned earlier, AJ McCarron demanded the spotlight after the LSU win and now the momentum of his Heisman push has slowed after an inconsistent performance against Mississippi State. As the wins and career totals begin to add up, Northern Illinois quarterback Jordan Lynch will creep back into the minds of Heisman voters. Lynch completed 26 of 32 passes for 345 yards and added 123 yards on 20 carries in a four touchdown performance against Ball State to claim a lead in the MAC West, and a victory over Toledo this week will clinch a spot in the MAC title game. Consider this: Lynch has been responsible for at least one touchdown in 24 consecutive games for the Huskies. If a second MAC title is in the works, Lynch's career achievements will be more intriguing for Heisman voters.
Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota : While some Heisman voters may have knocked Mariota from serious consideration as a winner, Oregon's opportunity to win the Pac-12 title (thanks USC) will turn the spotlight back on the high-flying Ducks. Mariota threw for 288 and three touchdowns against Utah, and recently told reporters that the knee injury which visibly limited him in the loss to Stanford is "feeling better every week." Mariota's dual-threat skill set and 6-4, 212-pound frame make him the No. 3 overall prospect in the 2014 NFL Draft class according to CBSSports.com. If the streak of passes without an interception continues, it will be hard for voters to avoid putting him back on the ballot.
Boston College running back Andre Williams : The nation's leading rusher needs just 190 yards to record the first 2,000-yard season in FBS play since UConn running back Donald Brown did so in 2008. His 339-yard performance against N.C. State made Williams the ACC's new single-season rushing leader and made Boston College bowl eligible for the first time since 2010. The senior running back has three of the top 10 rushing performances of the season, including the top spot, so why can't he get a little Heisman love?
To Be Decided: As we mentioned above, Manziel will be playing on the road against top SEC defenses each of the next two weeks. McCarron has an opportunity to redeem himself in the Iron Bowl or SEC Championship Game and Winston will also have the benefit of a conference title game. The dark horse Heisman Moment candidate for Week 13 might be Bryce Petty. The Cowboys are the most daunting opponent left on the Bears schedule, and a big-time performance in Stillwater could add some intangibles to Petty's stat-heavy candidacy.