In nine days the Heisman Trophy will be awarded to the best college football player in the nation, and while Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston remains the overwhelming favorite, questions about his role in an alleged sexual assault could affect voters when they hand in their ballots.
Before Thursday’s press conference held by the Florida State Attorney’s office, ESPN reported that Winston will not face any charges. But as Heisman voters prepare to hand in their ballots on Monday, it remains to be seen if their opinions will be swayed with the freshman’s name tied so closely to such a heinous accusation.
If voters only focus on his stats, Winston is a shoe-in to be the 79th Heisman winner. Named ACC Offensive Player of the Year and overall conference Player of the Year, Winston’s completed 68.8 percent of his passes for 3,490 yards and 35 touchdowns, all while leading the Seminoles to their first No. 1 ranking in more than 13 years.
Another win over No. 20 Duke on Saturday, and Florida State will have locked up a spot in the national title game, and much of the credit is due to Winston.
Based off odds from Sportsbook, Winston is still the outright favorite, but several other players have also proven worthy of the award. The field is loaded with quarterbacks, with only two running backs under any serious consideration.
Jordan Lynch, QB Northern Illinois
After Winston, Lynch is the next best favorite according to the odds. He’s led the Huskies to a perfect 12-0 record with 2,457 passing yards and 22 touchdowns, while rushing for 1,755 yards and another 20 scores. Northern Illinois is currently ranked No. 16 in the country, but even a victory in Friday's MAC championship game can’t erase the fact the Huskies haven’t beaten or even faced a ranked opponent this season.
Braxton Miller, QB, Ohio State
Miller’s put together a stellar junior year, totaling 1,759 passing yards, 21 touchdowns and 891 yards rushing for the No. 2 Buckeyes. A monumental performance in the Big Ten title game over Michigan State’s fourth ranked defense could earn Miller some first place votes, and also guarantee Ohio State a slot in the national title game. But Miller still needs Winston to falter for any real shot at the trophy.
Bryce Petty, QB, Baylor
Eighth in the country with 3,557 passing yards and 28 touchdowns, Petty’s notched an incredible season for the nation’s most potent offense. However, the junior missed out on his Heisman moment in the Bears' 49-17 loss at Oklahoma State last month.
A.J. McCarron, QB, Alabama
One of the most incredible and improbable moments in college football history may have knocked McCarron out of the final Heisman-vote tally, despite throwing three touchdowns including a 99-yard score in the fourth quarter in the 28-21 loss to Auburn. The Crimson Tide’s only loss can’t be pinned on McCarron, but he also didn’t surpass his numbers from last year’s national title run. His stats also pale in comparison to Winston’s numbers.
Teddy Bridgewater, QB, Louisville
One loss quickly marred Bridgewater’s Heisman campaign back in October. It would have been difficult for Bridgewater to overcome the Cardinals lack of a quality opponent in the AAC and in their non-conference schedule. However, Bridgewater’s numbers are highly comparable to what Winston has put up. His consolation prize is a first round selection in April’s NFL draft.
Andre Williams, RB, Boston College
The nation’s top running back with 2,102 yards and 17 touchdowns, Williams still couldn’t do enough to help the Eagles avoid five losses and a fourth place finish in the ACC Atlantic standings.
Johnny Manziel, QB Texas A&M
A few weeks ago, it looked like Manziel was the only one capable of challenging Winston, and he could have been the just the second player to win back-to-back Heismans. Still, the Aggies two straight losses to LSU and Missouri, and a huge drop-off in his rushing yardage from last season, all but dethroned Manziel and assured a new Heisman winner.
Ka’Deem Carey, RB, Arizona
Marcus Mariota, QB, Oregon
Tajh Boyd, QB Clemson