A MAC player winning the Heisman Trophy? It's not impossible, at least not to Las Vegas.
Most Vegas sportsbooks have Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston as the overwhelming favorite to win the Heisman Trophy. According to many bookmakers the only other player in the country remotely close is Northern Illinois quarterback Jordan Lynch. Even then it's a long shot.
Presently Winston is -2000 on the money line to win the Heisman. Next up is Lynch at +400. After that there is a significant drop off, with Ohio State quarterback Braxton Miller coming in at +1000, and AJ McCarron of Alabama, Andre Williams of Boston College, Johnny Manziel of Texas A&M, and Teddy Bridgewater of Louisville all at +2500.
Those last five names aren't going to win the Heisman. McCarron certainly could have found himself near the top of the list before this past Saturday. The Alabama senior completed 17 of 29 passes for 277 yards and 3 touchdowns without throwing an interception last Saturday at Auburn. The loss was so shocking and destructive to Bama's season however, that voters will disregard what was actually a pretty solid performance. Johnny Football did not go out nearly as gracefully. 2012's Heisman recipient was tiger bait November 23rd in Baton Rouge. The Texas A&M sophomore had the worst game of his collegiate career in a 34-10 loss to LSU, completing 16-41 passes for 224 yards, 1 touchdown, and a pair of interceptions. Last week's loss to Missouri cemented his fate, as the Aggies dropped to 8-4. Quarterbacks for four loss teams don't get the Heisman Trophy.
Bridgewater could've found himself in contention were it not for subpar showings at home against inferior opponents. Louisville's sophomore quarterback produced very pedestrian performances in one touchdown wins against Houston and Memphis at home the last two games. Williams may have the best collection of eye popping performances in 2013, he averaged 299 yards rushing in three games between November 9th and November 23rd, but he also struggled with injuries and threw up some duds. Williams rushed for 38 yards against USC, 70 against Clemson, and 29 against Syracuse. For the season Williams has topped 2100 yards.
Braxton Miller may be the top dual threat on this list. Ohio State's junior quarterback has led the Buckeyes to an undefeated season thus far, and will face off with Michigan State on Saturday in the Big Ten Championship game. Certainly it could be argued that Miller missing two games earlier in the season against California and Florida A&M irreparably derailed his Heisman hopes, but the true reason runs deeper than that. First the big criticism, Miller isn't spectacular with his arm, only once this season did he top 250 yards passing. What he did on the ground however was Lynch-esque....almost. In his last 3 games Miller has averaged over 160 yards rushing. The reason Miller will not win the Heisman Trophy however, is the perception of the OSU strength of schedule. Already there has been talk of Auburn leap frogging the Buckeyes to earn a spot in the BCS Championship Game, even if they were to knock off Michigan State on Saturday. As MAC fans we should be particularly aware anytime this injustice occurs as we are constantly hit with the question, "Well who did you play?" Don't get me wrong, you should still root against Ohio State, because they are Ohio State, but don't blame the Buckeyes or Braxton Miller because Northwestern was drunk at the wheel for all of October and most of November. Either way, Miller's name won't be called on December 14th.
So we're left with Winston and Lynch. Both quarterbacks have a game to play before the announcement. Winston and the Seminoles meet Duke in the ACC Championship game on Saturday, Lynch and the Huskies get Bowling Green in the MAC Championship game on Friday. Northern Illinois is favored by just 3 over the Falcons, Florida State is favored by a staggering 29 points against the Blue Devils. Northern Illinois is essentially playing for a second consecutive BCS appearance, Florida State for a berth in the national championship game. A Duke upset is nearly unthinkable, this is a dominant Florida State squad. But a poor performance against the Blue Devils for Jameis could open the door just wide enough to garner Lynch enough attention to steal the award.
Winston, the Seminoles' freshman signal caller has led FSU to an undefeated season and several impressive blowout wins. Seven times this season FSU topped the 50 point mark. For the season Winston has thrown for just shy of 3500 yards, and 35 touchdowns against 8 interceptions. While many of his contemporaries have produced gaudier numbers, it's worth mentioning Winston has rarely found himself in a close matchup. FSU's tightest game this year has been a 48-34 shootout with Boston College on September 28th. In that game Winston completed 17 of 27 passes for 330 yards, four touchdowns, and an interception. Since that road game the closest an opponent played the Seminoles was Miami, 41-14, on November 2nd. Florida State gets out in front, early and often, and Winston rarely finds himself needing to throw the ball late in games. If Florida State wins this game comfortably, and Winston puts up average numbers, say 15-28 for 200 yards and a touchdown, his on the field performance will be enough to win the Heisman Trophy. What remains to be seen however, is how voters will react to the ongoing sexual battery investigation that Winston is at the center of.
Finally, there's Lynch. The Northern Illinois senior signal caller and Chicago product has produced a season never before witnessed in college football. Lynch's production on the field causes many to question how the position of quarterback is defined. October 19th against Central Michigan Lynch broke the NCAA record for rushing yards by a quarterback in a single game, blasting the Chippewas for 316 yards on 32 carries. Five weeks later Lynch topped his own record, carrying the ball 27 times for 321 yards against Western Michigan. For the season Lynch has eclipsed 2400 yards passing, 1700 yards rushing, thrown for 22 touchdowns, and rushed for another 20. Northern Illinois won't deviate from the gameplan on Friday. Bowling Green fields the 4th ranked passing defense in all of FBS football. While Lynch has demonstrated he can air it out in MAC play, 345 yards against Ball State, 4 touchdowns against Eastern Michigan, don't expect him to test the Falcons secondary often.
Lynch will attack Bowling Green with his legs. Who knows? Maybe Duke comes out with an inspired effort, stifling Winston, Lynch rushes for 200+ in a Huskie win, and the Heisman race gets much more interesting. The possibility exists that in one year the MAC could earn back to back BCS appearances, provide the number one pick to the NFL draft, and field a Heisman Trophy winner. Not too bad for a small conference.
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