Heisman Finalists 2013: Breaking Down Top Contenders for Presitigious Award

Matt FitzgeraldCorrespondent IIIDecember 8, 2013

CHARLOTTE, NC - DECEMBER 07:  Quarterback Jameis Winston #5 of the Florida State Seminoles reacts against the Duke Blue Devils during the ACC Championship game at Bank of America Stadium on December 7, 2013 in Charlotte, North Carolina.  (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

The Heisman Trophy had never been won by a freshman until last season, and now college football's most prestigious individual award may fall into the hands of another first-year phenom.

Florida State Seminoles quarterback Jameis Winston accounted for 389 total yards and four touchdowns in his team's 45-7 win over Duke to clinch a spot in the BCS national title game on Saturday.

The success the Seminoles have enjoyed combined with Winston's brilliance under center make him the clear-cut favorite, but there are other players who should at least challenge him.

Let's take a closer look at Winston, along with the other finalists that should join him for the ceremony in New York City next Saturday—and maybe, as improbable as it may be, steal the hardware.

Note: Order of top Heisman contenders are based on B/R's latest rankings, which can be viewed here. Team statistics were obtained from NCAA.com.


1. Jameis Winston, QB, Florida State

CHARLOTTE, NC - DECEMBER 07:  Quarterback Jameis Winston #5 of the Florida State Seminoles celebrates on stage after defeating the Duke Blue Devils 45-7 in the ACC Championship game at Bank of America Stadium on December 7, 2013 in Charlotte, North Caroli
Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

The two interceptions Winston threw on Saturday against the Blue Devils can be overlooked due to the fact that he continued breaking new ground in setting new numerical standards for future freshmen to aspire to.

Winston set the freshman record for passing yards and touchdowns in dominating Duke, per ESPN:

While the offensive supporting cast and a stout defense deserve a lot of the credit for the Seminoles' 13-0 record, the most important position on the field has been solidified by Winston under the weight of huge expectations and pressure.

No matter how good of a position a player is put in to succeed on the gridiron, he still needs to stand and deliver. That is something Winston has done time and again this year, and he has improvised when necessary to create offense when the play breaks down.

For good measure, Winston put together his second-highest rushing total of the season in the ACC championship, showing off the whole package and why he's a deserving Heisman winner.


2. Tre Mason, RB, Auburn

Despite a stellar season, Mason may not have been at the forefront of any Heisman discussions until Saturday's virtuoso performance in the SEC Championship Game.

The junior ran for a whopping 304 yards and four touchdowns on 46 carries, driving the No. 3 Tigers to a 59-42 win over fifth-ranked Missouri.

That eventually proved enough to get Auburn to the national title game against Florida State, which heightens the magnitude of Mason's efforts.

Mason failed to find the end zone in just one game this season and boosted his TD total to 22 with his four trips to paydirt against a Mizzou defense that was stout against the run all season and yielded 545 yards on the ground.

Quarterback Nick Marshall threatens defenses with his blazing speed and helps open up lanes for Mason to run through, but the runner's amazing showing in the Georgia Dome was impossible to ignore.

Unfortunately for Mason, it may be too little, too late for a serious shot at the Heisman.


3. Andre Williams, RB, Boston College

CHESTNUT HILL, MA - NOVEMBER 2: Andre Williams #44 of the Boston College Eagles scores a touchdown in the first quarter against the Virginia Tech Hokies at Alumni Stadium on  November 2, 2013 in Chestnut Hill, Massachusetts. (Photo by Darren McCollester/G
Darren McCollester/Getty Images

Any shot Williams had of stealing the show was upended by Mason's explosion on Saturday, especially since the Eagles workhorse running back wasn't playing.

Boston College has a weak passing game to complement what Williams does, yet the gritty senior just kept pounding away at opponents all season long.

Williams has run for 2,102 yards on 329 carries (6.4-yard average) with 17 touchdowns despite defenses crowding the box to stop him. That alone should merit serious consideration for being college football's most outstanding player.

Even against Florida State earlier this season, Williams managed 149 yards on 28 carries in a 48-34 loss.

But the Eagles sport a mediocre 7-5 record, which pales in comparison to the two players perceived as being ahead of Williams in the race for the trophy.

The more suspenseful announcement should be for the Doak Walker Award, given to the nation's top running back. Williams, Mason and Arizona's Ka'Deem Carey are all worthy.


4. Johnny Manziel, QB, Texas A&M

BATON ROUGE, LA - NOVEMBER 23:  Quarterback Johnny Manziel #2 of the Texas A&M Aggies warms up before taking on the LSU Tigers at Tiger Stadium on November 23, 2013 in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.  (Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images)
Sean Gardner/Getty Images

The last two games of the regular season are likely going to prevent Manziel from being a serious threat to successfully defend his Heisman award. However, that is not to take away from what Johnny Football has done as a followup to his amazing maiden season.

Manziel faced scrutiny rarely if ever seen by a college athlete with some of his off-field incidents this past offseason, including an alleged profiting off autographs scandal.

Amid those concerns, he came to play, showed improvement as a pocket passer and amassed 41 total touchdowns and 4,418 yards of total offense.

In two losses against Alabama and Auburn, respectively, Manziel accounted for 1,064 of those total yards, having to rescue a putrid defense that is ranked 105th in total yards allowed per game (460.3 YPG).

Whether it was injury or the quality of opponent, LSU and Missouri figured out how to stymie Manziel and cause his Heisman bid to lose steam.