FSU QB EJ Manuel's strong start to the 2012 season has him primed to be a major factor in the race for the Heisman Trophy.
In the two instances that Florida State won a national title, the Seminoles were led by a pair of quarterbacks that would also claim the Heisman Trophy during their careers in Tallahassee.
After piling up 482 yards of total offense in FSU’s 49-37 win over Clemson on Sept. 22, senior quarterback E.J. Manuel jumped into the race to join past Seminole legends Charlie Ward (1993) and Chris Weinke (2000) in claiming the famous bronzed statue.
Considering that performance was in prime time against a Top-10 opponent and vaulted Jimbo Fisher’s club into a position to make a run at a national title, Manuel has a great shot to climb up the list of contenders.
How can Manuel strengthen his case to make a trip to New York City in December?
Here are four ways E.J. Manuel can win the Heisman Trophy.
Given that Florida State has so much firepower and a newfound ability to run the football, Manuel may not produce the eye-popping stats that 2011-12 winner Robert Griffin III of Baylor was able to.
However, the 6’5”, 240-pounder has completed more than 73 percent of his passes, he's thrown nine touchdowns and only one interception.
Manuel may not pass for 4,000 yards nor rush for 1,000 yards. However, if he keeps putting up solid numbers (he completed 19 of 26 pass attempts for 242 yards and one touchdown in a 30-17 win over USF last weekend) and minimizes his mistakes, the ‘Noles should keep winning big and that should help his case to stay in the hunt for college football’s most prized individual award.
As accurate as Manuel has been to this point in the season, his ability to elude pressure and make big plays with his legs makes for a devastating combination for opposing defenses to deal with.
His 102 yards on the ground against Clemson made him and FSU’s offense practically unstoppable on a night that saw FSU roll up 667 yards of total offense.
Given that Fisher has a history of utilizing dual-threat signal-callers, it will be interesting to see if he unleashes Manuel for the rest of the season in the same he way did against the Tigers.
Perhaps the biggest reason why we may not see Manuel taking off and using his legs more is because of a concerted effort made by Fisher and his coaching staff to keep their starting quarterback healthy for an entire season.
Dating back to 2008, the Seminoles star has missed at least one game due to injury.
Last season, Manuel missed all or portions of three games after leaving the Oklahoma game with a bum shoulder.
Anything that would cause him to miss action would essentially act as a poison pill for his Heisman chances.
Assuming Manuel stays healthy, the biggest thing that will keep him in the Heisman chase is winning.
It’s no secret that quarterbacks on teams that remain in the national title hunt are prime contenders to end up with a front-row seat at the ceremonies in the second week of December.
With a loaded team and a potentially huge season finale against rival Florida looming, Manuel has the stage set up for him to potentially join Ward and Weinke in the Seminoles’ Heisman fraternity.