Heisman Trophy 2013: Making the Case for Every Finalist

Sean Frye@Sean_E_FryeFeatured ColumnistDecember 11, 2013

Heisman Trophy 2013: Making the Case for Every Finalist

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    Not since 1994 have there been six finalists that have made the trip to New York City for the Heisman Trophy presentation. But in what has been one of college football's wildest years, it seems only fitting that six men make the trip.

    Heading to the City That Never Sleeps are quarterbacks Jameis Winston of Florida State, AJ McCarron of Alabama, Johnny Manziel of Texas A&M (last year's winner) and Jordan Lynch of Northern Illinois, as well as running backs Tre Mason of Auburn and Andre Williams of Boston College.

    Check out the case that can be made for each Heisman Trophy finalist to win the nation's most coveted individual award.

AJ McCarron, QB, Alabama

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    Season Totals: 2,676 yards passing, 26 TDs, five INTs, 165.9 QB rating

    Best Game: Sept. 14 at Texas A&M, 20-of-29 passing for 334 yards and four TDs

    AJ McCarron will leave college football as one of its best winners of all time. He's won two national championship rings as Alabama's starting quarterback and has a career 36-3 record. 

    In 2013, his statement game came in Week 3, when the Crimson Tide exacted their revenge on Johnny Football and the Texas A&M Aggies in College Station with a 49-42 victory. In that game, McCarron went toe-to-toe with Manziel and had a season high in touchdowns and second-most yards of the year.

    When McCarron finally graduates and moves on from Tuscaloosa, he'll leave as the school's all-time leader in wins and touchdown passes in a season (30 in 2012). He was also named the 2013 Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Award winner, which honors the nation's best senior quarterback.

    Statistically, McCarron's numbers may not leap off the page, but they are as sound as anyone else's. He averages more than 220 yards passing per game for a team that would usually rest him for the majority of fourth quarters.

    In Alabama's only loss, the heartbreaker in the Iron Bowl to Auburn, McCarron looked brilliant with 277 yards, three touchdowns and no picks.

    To his credit, McCarron was humble about his Heisman status.

    "It is a tremendous honor to be selected as a finalist for the Heisman Trophy," McCarron said in a statement. "This will be my first trip to New York City, and I can't put into words how much it means to me. I am truly privileged to have the opportunity to represent our team at the Heisman ceremony."

    McCarron's Heisman moment may not be just one particular game, but rather his whole body of work over his career, which is as good as almost anybody who's ever played the game.

Jameis Winston, QB, Florida State

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    Season Totals: 3,820 yards passing, 38 TDs, 10 INTs, 190.1 QB rating

    Best Game: Oct. 19 at Clemson, 22-of-34 passing for 444 yards, three TDs and one INT

    Widely considered the favorite for the Heisman, quarterback Jameis Winston is the latest freshman sensation to dazzle the gridiron.

    "One hundred percent, he’s going to win. Like, there’s no way he’s not going to win," HeismanPundit.com's Chris Huston told the Sun-Sentinel. "He’s as much of a cold-stone lock as you can get at this point."

    Winston has replaced two-year starter EJ Manuel at Florida State with a swagger that has been missing from the Seminoles. Despite being a redshirt freshman, Winston is a charismatic leader who can handle all the adversity and pressure of being a quarterback under the intense limelight.

    “I think when you talk about Heisman you talk about great players,” FSU coach Jimbo Fisher told the Sun-Sentinel. “I define great players like this: it's a great performance over a long period of time and the consistency which you play with, and I think the thing that he has done from start to finish.”

    On the field this year, no quarterback has been more effective than Winston. He's 12th in the nation in completion percentage (69.7), eighth in yards (3,820) and second in passing touchdowns (38). 

    He's also led the Seminoles to a perfect 13-0 record, an ACC championship and a date with the Auburn Tigers in the BCS National Championship Game. That's more than what Johnny Manziel was able to do for Texas A&M last year.

    What's even crazier is that Winston has put up these numbers while rarely seeing the field in the fourth quarter. Each of FSU's 13 wins has been well into the double-digit margin.

    Nobody's competed higher at the BCS level than Winston this season. His play has the Seminoles poised to win a national title.

Andre Williams, RB, Boston College

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    Season Totals: 2,102 yards rushing, 17 TDs, 6.4 yards per carry

    Best Game: Nov. 16 vs. NC State, 42 carries for 339 yards and two TDs

    If there's anybody who has been forced to put the team on his back this season at the BCS level, it's Boston College running back Andre Williams.

    The nation's leader in rushing by more than 200 yards has gotten at least 20 carries in all but two games this year, and one of those was the season finale against Syracuse in which he injured his shoulder.

    Williams' season high for carries is 42, where he racked up 339 yards and two touchdowns in a 38-21 win over the NC State Wolfpack.

    Overall, the Eagles are just a 7-5 team with a 4-4 record in ACC play, which is probably what's holding Williams back from the Heisman the most. However, if Williams didn't carry the load for Boston College this year, the Eagles likely wouldn't even be bowl eligible. It's hard not to consider him responsible for at least a healthy chunk of wins considering he has five games of more than 200 yards on the ground.

    Williams is one of college football's unsung war heroes of 2013. Who wouldn't love to see a guy like that win the Heisman Trophy?

Tre Mason, RB, Auburn

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    Season Totals: 1,621 yards rushing, 22 TDs, 5.7 yards per carry

    Best Game: Dec. 7 vs. Missouri (SEC championship game), 46 carries for 304 yards and four TDs

    College football is undoubtedly a "what have you done for me lately" world.

    By that motto, Auburn Tigers running back Tre Mason has a legitimate claim to the Heisman Trophy. In the SEC Championship Game against Missouri, which Auburn won 59-42 to secure a bid to the BCS National Championship Game, Mason racked up 304 yards and found pay dirt four times.

    In the Iron Bowl just one week prior, he had 164 yards and one touchdown while averaging over five yards per touch against arguably the nation's staunchest defense.

    Mason has hit the century mark in games eight times this season, including in each of his last five outings.

    The Auburn back is somewhat of a surprise late entry into the Heisman race. But when you look at the numbers and examine where Auburn is right now largely due to Mason's production, it's clear why he is an elite back worthy of the Heisman Trophy.

Jordan Lynch, QB, Northern Illinois

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    Season Totals: 2,676 yards passing, 23 TDs, seven INT, 140.8 QB rating; 1,881 yards rushing, 22 TDs, 6.9 yards per carry

    Best Game: Oct. 19 at Central Michigan, 316 rushing yards, 155 passing yards and four total TDs

    Nobody, absolutely nobody, means more to his team than Northern Illinois' Jordan Lynch.

    A jack of all trades at the quarterback position, Lynch is second in the nation in rushing, trailing only Boston College's Andre Williams in that category.

    Twice this season he's set the FBS record for rushing yards by a quarterback in a game. He had 316 against Central Michigan in October and then rushed for 321 against Western Michigan in late November.

    Against Eastern Michigan this year, Lynch threw, caught and ran for a touchdown.

    Had the Huskies not fallen to Bowling Green in the MAC Championship Game, Lynch and Co. would almost certainly be heading to a BCS bowl game. Instead, the 12-1 Huskies are relegated to the Poinsettia Bowl. 

    Although Northern Illinois watched its dreams of a second straight BCS berth slip away in the season's final week, the Huskies owe nearly all of their success over the past two seasons to Lynch. The guy has done it all and then some for his team and is almost the sole reason it's relevant on a national stage.

    “If you can play football, you can play, it doesn’t matter what level it is," Lynch said on a media conference call, via Chicagonow.com.

    In fact, the argument could be made that without Lynch, the Huskies would struggle just to get to bowl eligibility. That's why Lynch deserves to hoist the Heisman Trophy.

Johnny Manziel, QB, Texas A&M

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    Season Totals: 3,732 yards passing, 33 TDs, 13 INT, 170.4 QB rating; 686 yards rushing, eight TDs, 5.2 yards per carry

    Best Game: Sept. 14 vs. Alabama, 562 total yards and five passing TDs

    After becoming the first freshman to ever win the Heisman Trophy last year, Texas A&M gunslinger Johnny Manziel is making a return trip to NYC.

    Johnny Football had yet another electrifying season, racking up more than 4,400 total yards and 41 total touchdowns.

    Although it's rare for someone's Heisman moment to come in a loss, Manziel's may very well have this year. In Texas A&M's loss to Alabama, Manziel was the only one keeping the Aggies alive late. He had 562 total yards, including 464 through the air against the Crimson Tide defense, and he threw for five scores.

    That game was very much a microcosm of Texas A&M's season as a whole—Manziel doing everything he could to win and the Aggies defense just unable to keep up. Texas A&M ranks just 106th in total defense in the FBS and gives up more than 30 points per game.

    Interestingly, perhaps the Aggies' terrible defense helps Manziel's Heisman candidacy, considering that Texas A&M still had a pretty decent year in a season that saw the SEC get even more competitive with the rise of Missouri and Auburn. The Aggies finished with an 8-4 overall record and are slated for the Chick-fil-A Bowl against ACC runner-up Duke.

    It's tough for anybody to win anything back-to-back, but Manziel did absolutely everything he could this year to earn a second Heisman Trophy.