Heisman Watch 2013: Breaking Down Each Candidates' Hopes Entering Week 10
With just a little over a month remaining until the 2013 Heisman Trophy winner is crowned, a handful of players have begun to separate themselves from the pack.
For some, they’ve been the beneficiary of an undefeated season and their team’s pursuit of a BCS title. For others, they’ve been the sole reason that their team has managed to win the games it has.
Either way, a lot is still up for grabs.
Follow along as we break down the top five contenders for the trophy and their chances of bringing it home.
Author’s Note: The five players chosen are in accordance to ESPN’s Heisman Watch. The numbers listed under the Expert Poll are each player's listed “Poll Points”. The amount of first-place votes is listed in parenthesis.
5. QB AJ McCarron (Alabama)
Poll Points: 10
Season Stats: 69.4 CMP%, 1,862 YDS, 16 TDs, 3 INTs, 166.6 RAT (passer efficiency)
Thanks to a stifling defense, the play of quarterback AJ McCarron has been overshadowed.
But don’t be mistaken. The senior has been absolutely fantastic this season.
Sure, he’s been more of a game manager for the Tide this year. However, when the going has gotten tough, McCarron has displayed that he can take it to the next level.
All things considered, he’s proven to be the perfect quarterback for Alabama’s offense.
One of those aforementioned tough moments came during the team’s showdown with Texas A&M back on Sept. 14.
Heading into that matchup, it was expected that Aggies quarterback Johnny Manziel would put up numbers through the air. But McCarron proved that he too could sling the pigskin with the best of them.
He threw for 334 yards—a career high at the time—and four touchdowns on 20-of-29 passing. It was one of the finer performances of his career and one that was much needed in order for the Tide to win that game.
It’s that “game manager” tag that could ultimately prove to be McCarron’s undoing in the race. He just doesn’t put up the numbers to garner real consideration.
McCarron certainly has shown he has the talent to do so, but he’s going to need more performances like the one against Texas A&M if he has any shot.
4. QB Bryce Petty (Baylor)
Poll Points: 25
Season Stats: 69.3 CMP%, 2,453 YDS, 18 TDs, 1 INT, 219.0 RAT, 28 CAR, 73 YDs, 6 TDs
Quarterback Bryce Petty has been the driving force behind the Bears’ vaunted offense this season.
The junior has thrown for at least 300 yards and two touchdowns in each of the team’s seven contests. He’s also found the end zone with his legs in six consecutive games now.
It becomes all the more impressive when you consider that he rarely lasts more than three quarters due to Baylor blowing out opponents.
But what makes Petty stand out is his ability to hit the deep pass while still playing rather mistake-free.
It’s no surprise that he leads in passer efficiency and yards per attempt (13.9).
In what was a first for the Bears this season, the team actually trailed an opponent after three quarters.
With running back Lache Seastrunk struggling to find yards on the ground—12 CAR, 59 YDS—the pressure was put entirely on Petty to lead the team out of its first road test of the year.
Although it wasn’t pretty, he did enough to lead Baylor to victory. Petty threw for 332 yards and three touchdowns on 12-of-21 passing. That includes the go-ahead score—a 54-yard strike to Tevin Reese—early in the fourth quarter.
When faced with adversity, Petty proved he could overcome.
There’s no doubt Petty has what it takes to win the Heisman. However, a weak schedule and the sensational play of Johnny Manziel, Jameis Winston and Marcus Mariota all stand in his way.
It would take some setbacks from all three of them for Petty to have any real shot.
3. QB Johnny Manziel (Texas A&M)
Poll Points: 43 (1)
Season Stats: 73.0 CMP%, 2,594 YDS, 22 TDs, 8 INTs, 181.9 RAT, 89 CAR, 497 YDS, 6 TDs
It’s never an easy task to repeat as Heisman Trophy winner, but quarterback Johnny Manziel has done pretty well thus far.
While he relied on his legs and rushing ability for most of last season, the sophomore has focused on showing off his arm strength and passing ability this year. That’s what has been most impressive of his campaign this time around.
Manziel is completing more of his passes with better accuracy, and he’s making smarter decisions with the football.
After an offseason full of criticism and ridicule for his off-the-field antics, his growth on the field has been tremendous.
It’s really hard to choose.
There were the times Manziel overcame injuries, fighting the pain to come back in and lead the Aggies offense. He did so in games against Ole Miss and Auburn.
However, his standout performance came against Alabama back on Sept. 14.
Although he threw two interceptions, Manziel also racked up a total of 562 yards of total offense while accounting for five touchdowns. None sweeter than when he avoided a sack, danced around the pocket and then found a wide receiver open in the end zone.
Manziel magic was on full display in College Station that day.
Winning the Heisman the second time around is always tougher. Some might say it’s almost darn near impossible.
But as long as Manziel keeps up his high level of play—it’s hard to pinpoint one off game for him—there’s no doubting he will remain in contention.
Anything is possible with Manziel.
2. QB Jameis Winston (Florida State)
Poll Points: 70 (7)
Season Stats: 69.9 CMP%, 2,177 YDS, 23 TDs, 4 INTs, 207.0 RAT
There hasn’t been another quarterback as impressive as Jameis Winston. Through seven games he’s done nothing but impress.
This is the same guy who had thrown for more touchdowns (six) than incompletions (five) after two games. The same guy who threw for over 440 yards and three touchdowns against then-No. 3 Clemson at Death Valley in just over three quarters.
Did we mention that he also just so happens to be a redshirt freshman?
The poise and calmness in the pocket Winston displays is beyond his years. It also makes any game with him under center look winnable for Florida State.
How do you compete with that?
Without a doubt, it has to be his performance against the Tigers.
This was a game that not only had conference implications but also would determine which team would remain in contention for the BCS title. That’s a lot of pressure for a freshman.
However, Winston came out looking like a fifth-year senior and led the Seminoles to a 51-14 thrashing of their ACC foes.
While Marcus Mariota may be favored in the polls as of this point, it’s very likely Winston can surpass him as soon as this weekend.
With No. 7 Miami next up, Winston has a chance to improve both Florida State’s national title hopes and his Heisman stock.
It’d be foolish to bet against him.
1. QB Marcus Mariota (Oregon)
Poll Points: 72 (8)
Season Stats: 64.0 CMP%, 2,281 YDS, 20 TDs, 0 INT, 178.5 RAT, 56 CAR, 511 YDS, 9 TDs
The Ducks have been one of the most explosive offenses in all of college football this season. The team is averaging 55.6 points and 632.1 yards per game.
However, none of that would be possible without the play of quarterback Marcus Mariota.
Whether it’s through the air or on the ground, the sophomore has proved almost impossible to stop. He’s thrown for over 350 yards in certain games while rushing for over 100 in others.
It’s that kind of dual-threat ability that has Mariota considered as one of college football’s elite quarterbacks.
With so many weapons, Oregon has rarely been tested this year.
But against Washington on Oct. 12—a game many thought would give the Ducks issues—Mariota stepped up to the plate in a big way. He threw for 366 yards and three touchdowns on 24-of-31 passing while rushing for another 88 yards and a score on the ground.
Mariota displayed both of his key attributes and proved critics wrong who doubted his accuracy through the air.
Other than Stanford this weekend, Oregon and Mariota may not face too much of a challenge the rest of the way. It should be expected that he will continue to keep lighting up the scoreboard.
It will ultimately come down to whether voters believe Mariota or Jameis Winston is more deserving.
All stats and rankings used in this article are courtesy of NCAA.com