Heisman Watch 2013: Grading Top Contenders' Performances from Week 11
It's the time of year when great teams begin to flex their muscles, conference championship races tighten and, of course, we start to see who really has a shot at the Heisman Trophy.
It was a big week in the annual race for college football's most prestigious award, as several of the top contenders played on a national stage against quality opponents.
Let's take a look at how the top five contenders fared and grade out their respective performances.
All stats via ESPN. The top five were taken from the latest edition of ESPN's 2013 Heisman Watch.
Alabama QB AJ McCarron
AJ McCarron had a chance to really state his case as a viable Heisman contender on Saturday against LSU, and he seized the opportunity with authority.
McCarron completed 14 of his 20 passes for 179 yards and three scores without a turnover in the Crimson Tide's 38-17 win over the Tigers.
The numbers look relatively modest compared to some of gaudy stats being put up on a weekly basis, but the performance came against an aggressive Tigers defense that boasts one of the best secondaries.
Of course, for McCarron, it will come down to how much the voters weigh the fact that his stats are aided by perhaps the best collection of skill-position talent in the country. Regardless, the senior quarterback with a pair of national titles to his name continues to make good decisions that put his team in position to win each week.
Similar numbers against another team might not be considered all that great, but McCarron improved his stock against LSU.
Baylor QB Bryce Petty
Baylor quarterback Bryce Petty has flown under the radar up to this point, which is fair considering the lack of quality competition he faced. A dominant performance against Oklahoma changed that narrative, though, and suddenly, with several big games left on the schedule, the Bears quarterback has a serious shot to win the trophy.
Against the Sooners, Petty completed just 50 percent of his passes, but he threw for 204 yards and three touchdowns while rushing for two more.
The five total scores propelled his team to its biggest victory of the season.
The question for Petty now is whether he's able to win it on his own or if he still needs some help. In any case, a trip to New York for the ceremony is probably in his future.
Texas A&M QB Johnny Manziel
Johnny Manziel has been a media sensation ever since he captured the Heisman Trophy last December. He may very well be in his way to another one, which would be only the second time in the award's history that a player won it for a second time.
Manziel is your stats candidate—the guy who will always put up impressive numbers, regardless of the opponent.
Against Mississippi State, he threw for 446 yards and five touchdowns, although his three picks do need to be taken into consideration. Against a team like LSU, the team's next opponent, those could ultimately cost the Aggies the game and put a damper on Manziel's Heisman chances.
The super sophomore hasn't rushed the ball as much this season, though he remains as elusive as ever, and he tallied 46 yards on the ground against the Bulldogs.
At the end of the day, the effort probably bumps him up a little bit, but his rising number of turnovers could cost him the award.
Florida State QB Jameis Winston
It was an unusually quiet performance from Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston on Saturday, as his teammates did most of the work in the Seminoles' 59-3 victory over Wake Forest.
Some people will tell you that he had a great game because he didn't need to do much, while others will call his 159 yards passing with two touchdowns and one pick ugly numbers. The truth, however, is somewhere in the middle. You never want to turn the ball over against a team like Wake Forest, so the pick is regrettable, and the 60 percent completion rate is neither good nor bad.
At the end of the day, you can probably chalk this game up as one that won't hurt him in the race, but it won't necessarily vault him into an insurmountable lead either.
With several games remaining against bad teams, Winston will probably need a couple of big efforts in the stats column to win the Heisman Trophy.
Oregon QB Marcus Mariota
Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota saw whatever lead he previously had in the Heisman Trophy race evaporate entirely after the Ducks' 26-20 loss at Stanford.
Against the best defense Mariota will face all season, the sophomore looked hesitant in the backfield and overthrew several targets—most notably wide receiver Josh Huff, who was wide open for a touchdown.
Of course, it was later reported that he has a partial MCL sprain, which would explain his inability to run the ball effectively. Still, he was unable to lead a single scoring drive in the first three quarters. And while his numbers weren't terrible, a bevy of mistakes by him and the Ducks' playmakers resulted in a 26-0 deficit with little more than 10 minutes remaining in the game.
Mariota threw for 250 yards and two touchdowns without a pick, which still leaves him without an interception on the season. The performance, in all honesty, doesn't take him out of the race entirely. In fact, had the Ducks been the team to control the clock and run the ball, that same stat line would probably give Mariota a huge lead in the race.
But he didn't make the big plays that Heisman winners make in big games, and for that, he takes a major step back in the race.