Debating the merits of each Heisman Trophy contender is one of the most entertaining parts of the college football season. That continues to ring true, but few are giving anyone a legitimate chance outside of Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston.
According to Sportsbook, Winston is a -15,000 favorite with every other player in the nation coming in at +2,500. It's easy to see why Winston is an overwhelming favorite, but all six finalists have their merits as well.
Alabama quarterback A.J. McCarron and defending Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel of Texas A&M probably represent Winston's toughest competition, but what about the other finalists? As it turns out, a legitimate case can be made for each of them to secure the most coveted award in sports.
Andre Williams, RB, Boston College
After three average seasons at Boston College, nobody could have possibly foreseen running back Andre Williams' breakout senior campaign coming. Prior to the 2013-14 season, Williams had never rushed for more than 584 yards and four touchdowns in a single year. Williams topped those numbers in a big way this season to the tune of 2,102 yards and 17 scores. He also averaged a career-best 6.4 yards per carry, which illustrates just how dominant he has been.
Williams really started to pick up steam as a Heisman candidate late in the season as he rushed for 295, 339 and 263 yards against New Mexico State, NC State and Maryland, respectively. Unfortunately, he didn't make a great final impression on the voters. He had to leave BC's regular-season finale against Syracuse early due to injury, and he ended up with just 29 yards rushing in that game. Despite that, he still won the Doak Walker Award, given to college football's best running back, according to ESPN College Football.
The biggest factors working against Williams are the status of Boston College and the ACC as a whole. The Eagles had a successful season, but they aren't elite by any means. Also, the ACC was down this year aside from Florida State. Williams did rise to the occasion against the Seminoles' dominant defense earlier in the season, though, as he rushed for 149 yards, and BC challenged Florida State more than any other team. Williams can't be faulted for the schedule that he played against because he stepped up on the biggest stage when given an opportunity.
Jordan Lynch, QB, Northern Illinois
Quarterbacks have won the Heisman Trophy in 10 of the past 12 seasons, so Northern Illinois signal-caller Jordan Lynch has that working in his favor. Aside from that statistic, though, Lynch's prospects look bleak. The fact that he plays in the MAC is difficult to overcome, especially when you consider that no player from a non-BCS school has won the Heisman Trophy during the BCS era. If anyone can potentially buck that trend, though, it is Lynch.
Statistically speaking, it can be argued that Lynch is more deserving of the Heisman than anyone. Not only did he pass for 2,676 yards and 23 touchdowns, but he was also dominant as a runner. Lynch set an FBS record for rushing yardage by a quarterback with 1,881 yards, and he also added an incredible 22 rushing scores. In addition to his on-field conquests, Lynch is as squeaky clean as they come off of it, according to radio personality Jim Rome.
That latter point is important since it's likely that some voters will take character into account. Although Winston was not charged with any crimes, it is well-known that he was accused of sexual assault. Even if the accusation was fabricated, it's only natural that some people are going to look at Winston differently. There are no questions about Lynch's character, and his numbers are eye-popping, so it wouldn't be an abomination to award the Heisman Trophy to him by any means.
Tre Mason, RB, Auburn
Although Auburn running back Tre Mason broke the 1,000-yard barrier last season, he didn't enter the 2013-14 campaign with much fanfare surrounding him. That has changed significantly over the past several weeks. Mason has rushed for at least 115 yards and a touchdown in five straight games entering the Heisman ceremony, and he has been the driving force behind the Tigers' surprising renaissance. If not for Mason, there is no way Auburn would be on its way to the National Championship Game.
Not only does Mason have 1,621 yards and 22 touchdowns on the season, but he has risen to the occasion when it matters most. He rushed for 164 yards and a score in a huge Iron Bowl win over rival Alabama. He then topped that performance with 304 yards and four touchdowns against Missouri in the SEC Championship Game. No running back has won the Heisman since Bama's Mark Ingram in 2009, but Mason's numbers this season are far superior, according to SportsCenter.
Mason may not have as much yardage as Williams, but he is the driving force behind the No. 2 team in the country. Auburn has the nation's best rushing attack, and it has a legitimate chance to beat Florida State in the National Championship Game because of that. With that in mind, it wouldn't be a big surprise to see Mason finish second in the voting behind Winston. Beating Winston might take a miracle, but few would scoff at the notion that Mason is deserving of the Heisman.
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