Heisman Trophy: Tale of the Tape for the Top 3 Contenders

Brandon Oliver@@BOatBRContributor INovember 1, 2013

The 2013 season looks as if it will provide a dramatic ending to the BCS era. A number of teams could finish undefeated, and most are led by Heisman Trophy candidates at quarterback.

A case can be made for Baylor's Bryce Petty, who leads the nation's best offense,  Texas A&M's Johnny Manziel, last year's Heisman winner, Oregon's Marcus Mariota and Florida State's Jameis Winston.

Petty has the stats but needs to shine on the big stage in order to sway voters, and Manziel has been nothing short of spectacular his sophomore season. But Mariota is considered the leading candidate by most pundits, with Winston hot on his heels.

Petty and the Bears will have a chance to make a statement in front of Heisman and BCS voters when they take on No. 10 Oklahoma in front of a national audience Thursday night.

Despite his hot start, which has helped Baylor ascend into the Top 10 of the BCS, Petty isn't considered to be as much of a threat to win the Heisman Trophy as the top three contenders.

The numbers are pretty comparable among the three leading candidates. Manziel's numbers are on par with his record-setting 2012 campaign. But Texas A&M has lost twice, while Oregon and Florida State are undefeated as they battle it out for No. 2 spot in the BCS.

If one of them is able to guide his team to an undefeated season and the other loses a game, it would likely be the unbeaten QB's award to lose.

Winston and Florida State have a much easier road to finish unbeaten, but that could wind up hurting the freshman sensation. The rest of the schedule includes games against Wake Forest, Syracuse and Idaho.

The Seminoles play Miami (Fla.) this weekend and finish the regular season against rival Florida. The Gators are struggling, but their defense is outstanding, and voters won't ignore their status as an SEC power.

If the Seminoles finish the regular season undefeated, a rematch with a ranked Miami team in the ACC Championship Game is likely. Another big game for Winston against the Hurricanes would be an opportunity to prove himself on a big stage just before the voting takes place.

Mariota has passed two big tests on national TV in recent weeks, with a dominant performance at Washington and a solid showing last week against No. 12 UCLA. His next biggest opportunity comes when Oregon travels to Stanford for a Thursday night matchup against the No. 5 Cardinal.

Making a big play or creating a memorable moment at the right time can be the difference between being a Heisman finalist and the Heisman winner.

However, it is possible to win the award without having that one moment that everyone thinks of when it comes down to the voting. Sometimes an entire season of spectacular play is more than enough to convince the voters that one remarkable play isn't needed for a player to win the trophy.

Remaining games for top Heisman candidates
Player (Team)This weekNext weekNov. 16Nov. 23Nov. 30Dec. 7
Mariota (Oregon)Bye@ No. 5 Stanford (Nov. 7)vs. Utah (4-4)@Arizona (5-2)vs (6-2) Oregon St (Nov. 29)Pac-12 CG?
Winston (FSU)vs. No. 7 Miami (Fla.)@Wake Forest (4-4)vs. Syracuse (3-4)vs Idaho (1-7)@Florida (4-3)ACC CG?
Manziel (Texas A&M)vs. UTEP (1-6)vs. Miss. St (4-3)Bye@ No. 13 LSU (7-2)@ No. 9 Mizzou (7-1)SEC CG?
Petty (Baylor)Byevs. Okla. (Nov. 7)vs. No. 15 Texas Tech@ No. 18 Okla. St@ TCU (3-5)vs Texas (5-2)

None of the top candidates have had that defining moment through the first two months of the season, but all of them will have plenty of opportunities to state their case in the season's final weeks.

Winston already made his statement by guiding the Seminoles to the most impressive win of the season thus far. He threw for 444 yards and three touchdowns and added a touchdown on the ground in a dominant 51-14 victory at No. 3 Clemson.

Manziel did everything he could as he tried to lead the Aggies back from a 42-21 deficit against No. 1 Alabama. His 95-yard touchdown pass to Mike Evans from inside his own end zone cut the lead to seven and struck fear in the Crimson Tide.

He has history working against him, as Ohio State's Archie Griffin remains the only player to win the award twice. Despite that, Manziel would likely be the leader in this year's Heisman race if not for two Texas A&M losses through eight games.

Mariota has to deal with being labeled as a system quarterback. That label can hamper some Heisman campaigns, but history shows that he shouldn't have to worry about that keeping him from winning the award.

Baylor's Robert Griffin III overcame that label to win the award in 2011, and Oregon would likely have had a Heisman winner if not for Dennis Dixon's torn ACL in 2007.

Manziel proved that a freshman can win the award, so Winston's biggest drawback is the lack of marquee games for Florida State down the stretch in the ACC.

Leading Heisman Trophy candidates by the numbers
Marcus Mariota144225642,281200178.49565119.139
Jameis Winston12818369.92,177234206.98441262.863
Johnny Manziel185252732,594228181.95894975.586
Bryce Petty12217669.32,453181219.0128732.616

The top three candidates all have a legitimate case as the season winds down. With limited opportunities remaining, it will come down to who shines on the biggest stage and helps his team remain undefeated.

Mariota is the leader for now, and the schedule should allow him to pull away from the field if he continues to perform at a high level. If his outstanding play guides the Ducks to the BCS Championship Game, he should walk away with Oregon's first Heisman Trophy.



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