As the season winds down, there are still a number of questions swirling around the Heisman hopefuls. Can Jameis Winston overcome the off-field allegations surrounding him? Can Johnny Manziel join Archie Griffin as the only player to win two Heismans? Can Marcus Mariota or Bryce Petty overcome the odds and leapfrog the competition?
The answers to those questions remain to be seen, but here’s what each player can do to change the answers to the questions surrounding them into a resounding ‘Yes!’
There’s no denying that Jameis Winston has lit the football world afire since becoming the Seminoles’ starting QB. The redshirt freshman’s completed over 70 percent of his passes, boasts a four-to-one touchdown:interception ratio and hasn't lost a game.
Winston seems like the favorite at this point, but it’s no sure thing. In order to emerge from a talented group of contenders, Winston and his squad need to take care of business against their remaining opponents, Idaho and Florida. In fact, taking care of business is putting it mildly.
The Vandals and the Gators have combined for just five wins in the season. Winston and his Seminoles need to obliterate the teams and compile the statistics that voters drool over.
The enigmatic Johnny Football is an interesting case. Last year’s Heisman winner hasn't made nearly the same kinds of impact running the ball, but his passing numbers have improved tremendously. Manziel’s completing 73 percent of his passes and has already eclipsed his passing TD total from last season with 31. 17 of those scoring throws have come in just the past four games.
So why isn't Manziel the favorite? Simple, he doesn't have a signature victory this season. Last year, Manziel toppled top-ranked Alabama and forced football fans to take notice. This year, he and the Aggies have lost close ones to Bama and Auburn.
Fortunately for the audacious signal-caller, he’s still got an opportunity to take down a top-tier opponent. A & M’s got No. 22 LSU and No. 8 Missouri left on the schedule. If Manziel could spearhead winning efforts down the stretch, he’ll force voters to take notice once again.
Remarkably, the Hawaii native has yet to throw a pick this season. Coupled with that, he’s thrown 25 touchdowns and tallied nine more on the ground. Those numbers are right on par with his contemporaries and would seem to make Mariota a front-runner to take home the Heisman trophy, right? Well, not exactly.
Mariota began the season with a bang, posting 235 rushing yards and three touchdowns in his first two outings. Since then, however, he’s had trouble regaining the mojo that made him such a dual-threat. In his last three contests, Mariota’s totaled all of -16 rushing yards, and no, that isn't a typo.
In order to reclaim his spot amongst Heisman hopefuls, Mariota must regain his early-season form and make opponents pay with his legs.
Baylor’s off to an improbable 9-0 start this year, and that’s largely on the strength of quarterback Bryce Petty. Petty’s been mistake-free all season long, tossing just one interception. Along with that, he’s accounted for 35 total touchdowns. Though not much of a running threat, Petty’s proven to have a nose for the end zone, finding pay dirt on the ground in all but one contest this year.
What’s playing in Petty’s favor is that he’s got another three games with which to impress voters. Petty can’t play much better than he has to this point, so in order to sway voters, he simply has to continue winning games and proving his affinity for the end zone. If he can tally around 50 total touchdowns, he’ll be tough for voters to overlook.