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.
The Winston Issue
We opened this weekly series with a discussion of how the Heisman Trophy is not really won anymore; contenders "lose" the award one-by-one after being elevated to status of Heisman frontrunner by fans and the media. We are less than week away from ballots being turned in, and Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston is the last player standing. Winston has checked nearly all of the boxes for a Heisman winner -- star quarterback on the nation's No. 1 team, incredible statistics (leading the nation with a 192.64 rating), a camera-friendly personality and skill set that has NFL scouts drooling. However, the ongoing investigation into a sexual assault complaint from Dec. 2012 puts Heisman voters in an awkward position of deciding whether to let an open case impact their choice.
The Heisman Trust asks voters to take character into consideration when making a selection for the annual winner. There will be Heisman voters that keep Winston out of the No. 1 spot (voters fill out three choices) because of this; there will also be voters who leave Winston off their ballot entirely due to "character concerns." Oddsmakers have set Winston is the runaway favorite to win the award, and if he does it will be because of his on-field greatness. The Heisman Trophy is given to the most outstanding player in college football, and Florida State's 12-0 redshirt freshman quarterback has been exactly that most Saturdays this fall.
Winston may win, but the off-field issues will lead to an interesting vote. Let's check out some of the rationale behind the other possible finalists.
Best Player, Undefeated Team
Lynch had the best rushing performance of Week 14 as the senior quarterback rumbled for 321 yards and three touchdowns on 27 carries as Northern Illinois wrapped its second-straight undefeated season in MAC play. If you've watched the Huskies (an issue for his Heisman candidacy, no doubt), you know that Lynch is without a doubt the most dominant player of the field. Taking the role of a linebacker with wheels, Lynch averages 7.3 yards per play of total offense and has a knack of demoralizing defenses. With the headliners falling from contention, more eyes will be on Lynch against a very good Bowling Green defense in the MAC title game.
Miller's season totals will be hurt because he missed time due to injury, but his spectacular performances in the month of November have launched him back into the Heisman Trophy conversation under the "Best Player, Best Team" line of thinking. Buckeye fans could make an argument for Carlos Hyde as the best player in the Ohio State offensive backfield, but off-field issues will divert that Heisman hype to Miller.
Williams broke through the 2,000-yard barrier just in time, as a shoulder injury prevented him from padding the season totals in the regular season finale against Syracuse. Eagles coach Steve Addazio expects Williams to be healthy for the team's bowl game, putting him 84 yards from securing the No. 4 spot on the all-time single-season rushing list. Being a 2,000-yard rusher is no longer a guarantee for Heisman consideration, but his contributions -- leading Boston College back to a bowl game in year one under Addazio -- and a lack of other contenders give him a shot to make a rumble in the voting.
Because People Are Stubborn
All four of these players have been outstanding, at different times, this season, but none have a realistic shot of winning due to "losing the Heisman" at one point or another. McCarron's candidacy needed an SEC title, Manziel needed strong performances against LSU and Missouri, Petty and Mariota could not afford to lose; and the latter did twice. Still, the season totals and/or career achievements are impressive enough that Heisman voters, particularly in the region of relevance, will keep those stars on the ballot.