Heisman Race 2013: Ranking the 2013 Heisman Trophy Finalists

Sebastian Lena@SP7988Analyst IDecember 10, 2013

Heisman Race 2013: Ranking the 2013 Heisman Trophy Finalists

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    Will Winston (center) be holding up even more hardware after this weekend?
    Will Winston (center) be holding up even more hardware after this weekend?Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

    Only days away from Saturday’s Heisman Trophy presentation (8 p.m. ET on ESPN), everybody wants to know: Who will be leaving New York with college football’s most coveted hardware?

    On Monday night, ESPN revealed the six finalists for the award. The list includes Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel, Boston College running back Andre Williams, Alabama quarterback AJ McCarron, Auburn running back Tre Mason, Northern Illinois quarterback Jordan Lynch and the favorite, Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston.

    Will Manziel become the first back-to-back Heisman winner since Archie Griffin? Can McCarron cap a sensational career with the one trophy that has eluded him? Does Winston extend the streak of freshmen winning the award to two?

    All of these questions and more will be answered by weekend’s end.

    But why wait?

    Join B/R as we take a closer look at all six candidates and power rank them based on their chances of hoisting the trophy on Saturday night.

6. QB Johnny Manziel (Texas A&M)

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    Manziel will be hoping to make history this weekend.
    Manziel will be hoping to make history this weekend.Michael Chang/Getty Images

    Team W-L: 8-4

    Season Stats: 69.1 CMP%, 3,732 YDS, 33 TDS, 13 INTS, 170.4 RAT, 133 CAR, 686 YDS, 8 TDS

    The Skinny

    Let’s be honest, Johnny Manziel has absolutely no chance to win his second consecutive Heisman. But there’s no doubt that the sophomore belongs at the ceremony in New York City this weekend.

    Sure, his season might not be as spectacular as last season, but Manziel has focused on becoming a better passer in 2013.

    And given that he has set new career highs in passing yards and passer rating, it’s safe to say Manziel has accomplished that goal.

    Why He Deserves to Win

    Time after time, Manziel has put the Aggies on his back.

    There’s no other option when your team’s defense concedes 30.9 points and 460.3 yards per game.

    Six times this season Texas A&M has allowed opponents to top 30 points. But thanks to Manziel, the team has won four of those games.

    Furthermore, the Kerrville, Texas, native had one of the more impressive stretches of the season at one point.

    In a four-game stretch from Oct. 19 to Nov. 9, Manziel racked up 1,651 total yards of offense while finding the end zone 20 times. That includes passing for at least four touchdowns in each contest.

    It’s hard to argue against those facts.

    Why He Won’t Win It

    Although his hot streak was impressive, Manziel fell flat on his face when Texas A&M needed him most.

    During the team’s final two games—both on the road versus then-No. 22 LSU and then-No. 5 Missouri—Manziel lost his footing. He threw for just 419 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions on 52.3 percent passing during the games while being held to only 75 rushing yards on 23 carries.

    The losses not only dropped the Aggies out of contention for a BCS bowl but also moved the team to 0-4 against Top 25 opponents this season.

    That’s not going to get it done.

    What They’re Saying

    Manziel told the media (via The Houston Chronicle's Brent Zwerneman), "I wasn’t even in (the race) for a long time last year and didn’t really get much into (following) it last year. I’m the same way this year. My sole focus is, and I want nothing more than, to win these last two games and get into a good bowl game."

5. QB Jordan Lynch (Northern Illinois)

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    Lynch has had a dynamite season.
    Lynch has had a dynamite season.Andrew Weber-USA TODAY Sports

    Team W-L: 12-1

    Season Stats: 63.1 CMP%, 2,676 YDS, 23 TDS, 7 INTS, 140.8 RAT, 274 CAR, 1,881 YDS, 22 TDS

    The Skinny

    Has any other quarterback been as hard to stop as the Huskies’ Jordan Lynch?

    After breaking onto the scene last year during the team’s improbable run to the Orange Bowl, the senior proved that his impressive numbers were no fluke. He nearly matched his passing statistics while outdoing his numbers on the ground.

    It all combines to make Lynch a very special player.

    Why He Deserves to Win

    Lynch has been absolutely dominating with his legs.

    The Chicago, Ill., native has rushed for 80 yards or more in all but two games. Furthermore, he has topped the century mark in five consecutive contests and six of his last seven.

    That includes breaking the FBS record for rushing yards by a quarterback not once, but twice.

    Against Central Michigan on Oct. 19, Lynch originally set the mark by racking up 316 yards and three touchdowns on 32 carries. Then on Nov. 26, he bested that output by five yards, rushing for 321 yards and three scores on 27 carries against Western Michigan.

    Why He Won’t Win It

    Simply put, he proved to be too one-dimensional in Northern Illinois’ final two games.

    Overshadowed by his record-breaking rushing numbers against the Broncos was the fact that Lynch struggled through the air. He threw for just 39 yards and a touchdown on 5-of-17 passing. 

    While some would like to blame the weather for that letdown, it continued in the MAC title game against Bowling Green last Friday.

    With the Huskies' BCS hopes fading, Lynch couldn’t convert the big passes, throwing for 219 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions on 21-of-40 passing.

    Northern Illinois lost, 47-27.

    What They’re Saying

    Lynch showed his gratitude through social media, posting via Twitter: "NYC here I come thanks to coaches, teammates DEFO and media relations for making this possible!!"

4. QB AJ McCarron (Alabama)

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    McCarron has been one of the most successful quarterbacks in college football history.
    McCarron has been one of the most successful quarterbacks in college football history.Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

    Team W-L: 11-1

    Season Stats: 67.6 CMP%, 2,676 YDS, 26 TDS, 5 INT, 165.9 RAT

    The Skinny

    AJ McCarron will go down as one of the most successful quarterbacks in college football history.

    Over five years in Tuscaloosa, the senior has compiled a 36-3 record as a starter, has won three BCS title rings and has broken several school records along the way. When you think of a great leader, you’d be hard-pressed not to include the Mobile, Ala., native.

    Earlier this week, the Associated Press reported that McCarron was the winner of the Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Award.

    Could he add the Heisman Trophy to his catalog after this weekend?

    Why He Deserves to Win

    McCarron has stepped up big time for the Crimson Tide this season.

    In years past, he has earned himself the tag of being a game manager. But this season, McCarron has done his best to shred that moniker.

    For instance, when Alabama’s secondary couldn’t solve quarterback Johnny Manziel and the Texas A&M offense, McCarron had its back. He threw for 334 yards and four touchdowns on 20-of-29 passing.

    Most recently, in a back-and-forth battle with Auburn on Nov. 30, McCarron once again performed at a high level. He threw for 277 yards and three touchdown passes, including a 99-yard bomb that seemingly put the game out of hand.

    Furthermore, McCarron concluded the year by throwing multiple touchdowns in six consecutive games—a career high.

    His previous best was two.

    Why He Won’t Win It

    Although he was impressive for most of the game against the Tigers, McCarron just couldn’t close it out.

    The Tide had several opportunities to shut the door on Auburn. That included a critical turnover on downs with less than six minutes to play in Tigers territory.

    With the loss, Alabama was denied a third straight appearance in the BCS title game and will instead have to settle for a berth in the Allstate Sugar Bowl.

    What They’re Saying

    It is a tremendous honor to be selected as a finalist for the Heisman Trophy. This will be my first trip to New York City, and I can't put into words how much it means to me. I am truly privileged to have the opportunity to represent our team at the Heisman ceremony. None of this would be possible without my coaches and teammates. The offensive line, wide receivers, running backs and tight ends have done an unbelievable job all season, and our coaches always put us in a position to be successful. 

    -McCarron, via Rolltide.com

3. RB Andre Williams (Boston College)

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    Williams has easily been one of the top running backs this season.
    Williams has easily been one of the top running backs this season.Mark Konezny-USA TODAY Sports

    Team W-L: 7-5

    Season Stats: 329 CAR, 2,102 YDS, 17 TDS

    The Skinny

    There hasn’t been another running back more dominant than Andre Williams this season.

    The senior leads the nation in total yards, attempts and yards per game (175.2). Furthermore, he has rushed for 160 yards or more seven times this season.

    Just when you think you’ve seen the best he has to offer, Williams will go out and top it the very next week. He’s a large reason the Eagles have more than tripled their win total from a year ago (two).

    Not to mention, Williams has led the team to its first bowl game since 2010.

    Why He Deserves to Win

    Williams has showed up in big games.

    After Boston College got off to a 3-4 start, the team’s bowl hopes were fading fast. But thanks to sensational play from the Schnecksville, Pa., native, the Eagles raced out to four consecutive wins.

    During that span, Williams averaged a ridiculous 265.8 yards per game while finding the end zone eight times.

    That’s the definition of carrying the team to victory.

    Why He Won’t Win It

    Playing at a school like Boston College, it was expected that Williams wouldn’t get much recognition. That already put him at a disadvantage.

    It certainly didn’t help that Williams got injured early in his final opportunity to impress voters who were finally taking notice of his huge season. He rushed for 29 yards and a touchdown on nine carries in a 34-31 loss to Syracuse on Nov. 30 before leaving in the first quarter.

    But most of all, the Eagles’ five losses are the icing on the cake.

    It’s near impossible to win a Heisman Trophy when playing for a team that is just a game or two over .500.

    What They’re Saying

    Williams' take on his Heisman nomination (via the Boston Herald's Rich Thompson):

    I haven’t been able to wrap my mind around it yet, I’m still really blown away about it, and I’m still sifting through all the congratulations. I know it’s a big deal but I don’t know what the whole experience is going to entail. I’m looking forward to it and being around all the other great athletes. 

2. RB Tre Mason (Auburn)

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    Will Mason be making a speech about winning the Heisman after Saturday?
    Will Mason be making a speech about winning the Heisman after Saturday?Kevin Liles-USA TODAY Sports

    Team W-L: 12-1

    Season Stats: 283 CAR, 1,621 YDS, 22 TDS

    The Skinny

    After a relative slow start to the season, running back Tre Mason picked up his production at just the right time.

    The junior has found holes in every defense that has stood in his way and leads a Tigers rushing attack that ranks No. 1 in the nation (335.7 YPG). Behind his strong play, the team has won nine straight games.

    More importantly, Mason has Auburn poised to give top-seeded Florida State all it can handle in the BCS title game next month.

    Why He Deserves to Win

    Four words: the SEC title game.

    Just a week after dethroning No. 1 Alabama, Mason and the Tigers headed to Atlanta to take on then-No. 5 Missouri for the conference crown. It was a chance to cement the team’s resurgence, just a year after winning only three games.

    Fortunately, Mason was more than up to the task.

    In a shootout, the Palm Beach, Fla., native rushed for a career-high 304 yards and four touchdowns to help Auburn come out victorious 59-42. That includes two fourth-quarter scores that put the game out of reach.

    Heisman Trophy winners save their best efforts for the big games.

    In 2013, Mason did just that, rushing for 100 yards or more in five of the Tigers' six contests against opponents ranked in the Top 25.

    Why He Won’t Win It

    Simply put, Mason struggled right out of the gate.

    Although his second-half numbers are mind boggling—100 rushing yards or more in seven of the last eight games—Mason didn’t have success early on. He topped the century mark just once over Auburn’s first five games.

    In a regular year, Mason would still be in good shape.

    However, with front-runner Jameis Winston putting up numbers since Week 1, Mason will come up just short of landing college football’s most-coveted hardware.

    What They’re Saying

    When I heard the news, I was in disbelief. For me to be invited to the Heisman ceremony, I am honored and blessed. I couldn't have done it without my teammates; this is an honor for all of them, also.

    -Mason, via Auburntigers.com's Charles Goldberg

1. QB Jameis Winston (Florida State)

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    Winston has put his body on the line all season for the Seminoles.
    Winston has put his body on the line all season for the Seminoles.Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

    Team W-L: 13-0

    Season Stats: 67.9 CMP%, 3,820 YDS, 38 TDS, 10 INTS, 190.1 RAT, 77 CAR, 193 YDS, 4 TDS

    The Skinny

    The Seminoles wouldn’t be having the success they’re having in 2013 if it wasn’t for quarterback Jameis Winston.

    From Week 1, he has been hurdling every obstacle thrown in his path. Thus far, Winston leads the nation in passer rating and yards per attempt. 

    Displaying poise and leadership beyond his years, it’s hard to believe he is just a redshirt freshman.

    Thanks to Winston’s contributions, Florida State heads into next month’s BCS title game as the only undefeated squad in the nation.

    Why He Deserves to Win

    There’s no doubt that Winston has been the most consistent candidate throughout the season.

    He started his season by throwing more touchdown passes (six) than incompletions (five) over his first two games. Then Winston added three dominating victories over Top 25 opposition—63-0 over then-No. 25 Maryland, 51-14 over then-No. 3 Clemson and 41-14 over then-No. 7 Miami.

    He capped it all off with a 330-yard, four-touchdown performance that netted the Seminoles their second straight ACC title, topping then-No. 20 Duke, 45-7.

    What more could Winston possibly do?

    Why He Won’t Win It

    Honestly, there is really no reason why the Bessemer, Ala., native doesn’t deserve the Heisman.

    His worst performance was arguably on the road against Wake Forest on Nov. 9. Winston threw for just 159 yards, two touchdowns and an interception on 17-of-28 passing for a season-low rating of 124.8.

    Then again, he didn’t play most of the second half, and Florida State won the game 59-3. 

    You can’t fault Winston on his team’s overall dominating performance.

    What They’re Saying

    Head coach Jimbo Fisher said about Winston (via the Orlando Sentinel's Brendan Sonnone):

    I think when you talk about Heisman you talk about great players. I define great players like this: it's a great performance over a long period of time and the consistency which you play with, and I think that's the thing that he has done from start to finish.


    All stats and rankings used in this article are courtesy of NCAA.com.

    For complete coverage and everything college football, you can reach Sebastian on Facebook, on Twitter and via email at Sebastian.LenaBR@gmail.com.