The Heisman Trophy race has taken a strange evolution throughout the season.
Several preseason favorites, including Louisville's Teddy Bridgewater and Clemson's Tajh Boyd, fell completely off the radar. Meanwhile, Oregon's Marcus Mariota seemed to be running away in the race only to stumble in the latter half of the season.
Last year's winner, Texas A&M's Johnny Manziel, suffered the same fate, as two poor performances late in the year effectively ended his Heisman chances. He'll still be a finalist along with four others, all of whom will be chasing finalist No. 6, Jameis Winston.
In leading Florida State to a national title appearance with a remarkable season, he stands as the favorite. The lone smudge on his resume was caused by a sexual assault investigation.
Will those issues outside the lines cause enough voters to reconsider Winston for the Heisman?
We'll stack the six Heisman Trophy finalists up against each other and break down who holds the biggest piece of the bronze pie.
Chances: 1 Percent
Dec. 6 was a bad day for Jordan Lynch and Northern Illinois.
The Huskies entered the Mid-American Conference title game against Bowling Green with enormous aspirations. A win would give them the MAC title and a BCS berth.
For Lynch, a strong performance in victory would provide him a massive boost in the Heisman race. However, NIU was stomped by BGSU, 47-27, eradicating the Huskies' three biggest dreams all at once.
Lynch had a fantastic senior season, finishing as the No. 2 rusher in the nation with 1,881 yards—far ahead of any other quarterback. He added 2,676 passing yards to finish No. 2 nationally in total offense with a combined 4,557 yards.
Even through the incredible campaign, Lynch will be held to a (much) higher standard coming from a small-conference team. If his squad were still undefeated and BCS-bound, his odds would be higher.
But that loss will prove crippling to his Heisman hopes.
Chances: 1 Percent
Andre Williams was quietly having an excellent season but then exploded onto the scene late with three straight games with more than 250 yards rushing.
With no runaway winner late in the race, Williams had an opportunity to steal some Heisman consideration.
If he could have added a fourth massive game in a row to close the season, he might have a better shot at the trophy. However, he fell injured in his team's last game against Syracuse, notching just 29 yards and a touchdown in a 34-31 loss.
Williams still ended up as the nation's leading rusher with 2,102 yards, which made him the first back to hit 2,000 since Connecticut's Donald Brown in 2008.
At an average of more than 175 yards per game, there is no arguing that Williams has Heisman-caliber numbers. However, on a mediocre 7-5 Boston College team against a rather soft schedule, Williams is a paper tiger in the race.
Although he won't win it, it would have been fun if he did. Williams claimed he would literally give the trophy to his linemen—all of them.
Chances: 1 Percent
Through much of the season, it looked like Johnny Manziel was destined to repeat as the Heisman Trophy winner.
His team suffered a pair of close losses to Auburn and Alabama, but Manziel led the Aggies all along the way. He showed that he's the same electrifying playmaker who won the Heisman last season, as Johnny Football ran circles around opposing defenses and posted huge numbers in the process.
Leading one of the most productive offenses in college football, Johnny Football had two last opportunities to claim the Heisman against LSU and Missouri.
However, the redshirt sophomore had been banged up through the latter half of the season, and those issues finally caught up with A&M in its final two games. Manziel turned in two of his worst performances of the season when the Aggies fell to the two Tigers.
Manziel finished No. 3 nationally in total offense, logging 4,418 yards, but he was left far shy of the 5,116 from his sensational campaign a year ago.
Despite the dip in numbers, Chris Baldwin of CultureMap Houston opined that, though Jameis Winston will be named the winner in New York on Saturday, Manziel is still college football's best:
Jameis Winston is the sure Heisman Trophy winner...but that doesn't make Winston the equal of the last two Heisman winners.
Winston isn't even the most exciting offensive player of the 2013 college football season. That's still Manziel, who will be like a living ghost hanging over Winston's shoulder at Saturday's trophy ceremony, showing off true star power. Manziel's been invited back to New York as one of the six Heisman finalists, even though everybody knows he has no shot of repeating.
He still might be the most exciting player in the game, but he isn't going to win Heisman No. 2.
Chances: 2 Percent
With Jameis Winston's extracurricular issues, the Heisman race was wide open over the final few weeks of the season.
As a result, the term "career achievement" was thrown around regarding Alabama quarterback AJ McCarron's Heisman chances. Going into the Iron Bowl in the last week of the regular season, he carried a 36-2 record as a starter and had led the Crimson Tide to two consecutive national titles.
It looked like he might be on his way to winning ring No. 3 and perhaps adding a Heisman to his resume...if he could lead 'Bama over Auburn and Missouri to close the season.
McCarron even added his own "Heisman moment," hitting Amari Cooper for a 99-yard touchdown pass in the fourth quarter that looked like it would be the kill shot in the Iron Bowl. However, Auburn made a miraculous comeback, and McCarron's Heisman hopes effectively ended on a play where he was watching from the sideline.
Even after that defeat, Oklahoma head coach Bob Stoops said he still believes McCarron should be the Heisman winner.
"I think AJ McCarron's the best player in the country," Stoops said on Sunday's Sugar Bowl teleconference, per Andrew Gribble of AL.com. "I really do. If I had a (Heisman) vote, that's who I'd vote for."
If the Tide were 13-0 and gearing up for the BCS championship right now, it might be a push between McCarron and Winston for the Heisman. But as Alabama sits Sugar Bowl-bound at 11-1, that isn't the case.
Chances: 5 Percent
Before the last two weeks of the season—and really just before the SEC Championship Game—Auburn's Tre Mason wasn't even a blip on the Heisman radar.
Make no mistake, the junior was having a great season for the Tigers, but it wasn't until the Iron Bowl that the nation began to take notice. Mason gashed Alabama, one of the best rush defenses in the country, for 164 yards and a touchdown.
The next week, Auburn took on Missouri for the SEC title in a sure shootout. The Palm Beach, Fla., native rewrote the SEC title game record books, taking 46 carries for 304 yards and four touchdowns in his team's 59-42 win. That weekend, Auburn slid into the national title game, and Mason staked his claim for college football's most coveted award.
While that output shocked many, it didn't surprise anyone on The Plains. As tight end C.J. Uzomah told Brandon Marcello of AL.com, Mason should have garnered more Heisman consideration from the get-go:
Someone said he was the darkhorse. I don't really see how he's the darkhorse because we put the ball in his hands and told him to do what he does, and he did that [Saturday]. He has done that every week this year. ... For him not to be mentioned for the Heisman up until this point is kinda out there to me and kinda bizarre, especially after the performance tonight.
He finished the regular season as the No. 1 rusher in the stacked SEC, tallying 1,621 yards and 22 touchdowns.
As the most valuable player on a team that will play for a national title, Mason has earned his Heisman consideration. But given his body of work compared to award favorite Jameis Winston's, it's hard to tab the back as the nation's most outstanding player.
Chances: 90 Percent
It will be an enormous upset if Jameis Winston doesn't win the Heisman. Brian Edwards of Sporting News tabbed him as 1-to-10 chalk. HeismanPundit.com recently published a straw poll with Winston taking the honor in a landslide.
The hype surrounding the redshirt freshman was simmering before the season, but he cranked up the heat with a remarkable debut against Pitt in Week 1. Since that five-touchdown debut, Winston was a staple in the Heisman conversation.
There were several games in which Winston didn't have to do much—the Seminoles clubbed their opponents by more than 40 points per game on average. But as Winston and his team excelled, the steam continued to rise off his Heisman chances.
His campaign was nearing its peak, and he was moving to become the overwhelming favorite when off-field issues cut the heat and dumped ice in his Heisman pot in November. The Bessemer, Ala., native was entangled in a sexual assault case that dominated college football headlines for weeks.
Eventually, authorities decided not to charge Winston, which restored his chances. Some voters still might shy away from him because of the allegations, but it won't be enough to keep him from winning the trophy.
As the best player on the best team in college football, Winston will win the Heisman.