Jameis Winston Delivers Heisman Moment in Blowout of Maryland

Brian LeighFeatured ColumnistOctober 5, 2013

From its birth back in 1935 until just last season, the Heisman Trophy was awarded 76 times to 75 different people. It took 77 years before a freshman, Johnny Manziel in 2012, was able to break the glass ceiling and win college football's most precious award.

Could it honestly happen twice in a row?

That seems like a real possibility after Saturday, when Jameis Winston, already being floated as a dark-horse Heisman candidate, played his first career ranked opponent and enjoyed the best performance of his life, leading the Florida State Seminoles to a 63-0 trouncing of No. 25 Maryland.

He finished the day 23-of-32 passing for 393 yards and five touchdowns, and while those numbers are eye-popping, they barely do justice to Winston's dominance. Almost every pass he threw—especially down the field—was pinpoint and effortless, and he frequently kept plays alive with his legs.

Maryland isn't exactly Alabama, and the Terps' defensive backfield is badly hampered by injury. But as ESPN's David Hale pointed out, it's also far from a scrub opponent:

On top of his stats, his flair and the Seminoles' dominant result, Winston also produced a signature play—an early candidate for the "Heisman moment" folks are so eager to talk about and fawn over.

Even with the outcome no longer in doubt, this scrambling 12-yard touchdown pass to Nick O'Leary was an image that should endure:

Winston's Heisman candidacy is no longer a question. He's already the best player on an undefeated team, and if the Seminoles make a legitimate run toward the BCS National Championship Game, it will be impossible to ignore his claim.

The new question is this: Has Winston become the Heisman front-runner? Probably not. That distinction still belongs to Oregon's Marcus Mariota and reigning champ Johnny Football. But Winston has a shot to steal the title soon.

Remember that Manziel, whose numbers were elite all season, didn't become the favorite until A&M's biggest game of last year, an upset win over No. 1 Alabama on the road. Like Winston against Maryland (and all year to date), he had put up Heisman numbers and highlights, but he hadn't won that Heisman game.

In two weeks, coming off a bye, when Florida State travels to play No. 3 Clemson, Winston will have that same opportunity. And unlike in other contests, he won't need to set the world on fire statistically. He has already (and should continue to) put up Heisman-esque figures in the box score.

If he beats Clemson in two weeks, Winston becomes the immediate Heisman favorite. If he plays well in a loss—not unlike Manziel at Alabama in Week 3—he still has a shot, but it won't be as promising.

Either way, what Winston is doing this year has been remarkable. He's revolutionized Florida State's offense to an unthinkable mode of efficiency. The Seminoles have started a top-16 NFL draft pick at quarterback in each season since 2008.

And yet they've never had anyone quite like Jameis.