In the long and storied history of college football’s Heisman Trophy, only Ohio State’s Archie Griffin has won the award twice.
Winston led his Seminoles to an ACC title and national championship game appearance behind 3,820 passing yards and 38 touchdowns through the air and 193 rushing yards and four touchdowns on the ground. It was an impressive season that never really saw Florida State challenged outside of a closer-than-expected tilt with Boston College.
So who outside of historical precedent itself stands in Winston’s way to win a second Heisman trophy in the 2014 season? Let’s dig into a few top challengers.
Marcus Mariota shocked both NFL scouts and college football fans when he decided to return to school next season for the Oregon Ducks.
Mariota directed Oregon’s high-octane offense with 3,412 yards passing, 582 yards rushing and 39 total touchdowns. According to ESPN's SportsCenter and its NFL draft analysts Mel Kiper and Todd McShay, Mariota passed up the chance to go in the top five picks by returning to school.
That means Winston will have a serious challenger from the West Coast in Mariota.
Assuming Oregon is in the mix for the initial college football playoff, he will have plenty of opportunities to shine on the national level. Look for him to have a “Heisman moment” or two against a marquee Pac-12 opponent, such as Stanford, UCLA or USC.
Had Ohio State beaten Michigan State in the Big Ten championship game, Braxton Miller would have likely been a finalist in the 2013 Heisman ceremony as the quarterback of an undefeated national title game participant.
Alas, the Spartans ended those Buckeye dreams. But assuming Miller returns to Columbus for his senior season, he will be on the short list of Heisman favorites.
Urban Meyer runs a fast-paced offense that is perfectly tailored to Miller’s vast talents. He accumulated nearly 3,000 all-purpose yards and 32 total touchdowns as a junior despite missing significant time with injury. If he stays healthy in 2014, Miller will put up eye-popping stats and possibly lead the Buckeyes to a spot in the playoffs.
Winston may have taken home the 2013 Heisman Trophy, but Auburn’s Nick Marshall would rather win the national championship against Winston on Jan. 6.
Marshall doesn’t put up incredible passing numbers, but if he returns to school as a senior quarterback and defending national champion, he will be in the spotlight all season in 2014. He tallied 23 total touchdowns and nearly 3,000 total yards through the air and on the ground as a junior, and he counts a victory over archrival Alabama on his resume.
If Winston takes home the title this season, it will be very difficult for Marshall to challenge him in the Heisman race next year.
However, if Auburn wins, Marshall will have an early leg up before 2014’s games even begin.
Alabama has a rich history at the running back position, and T.J. Yeldon is already in the process of adding his name to that illustrious list.
Yeldon tallied nearly 1,200 yards this season on the ground and scored 13 times. He is only a sophomore, which means he could very well add more muscle and physical toughness by the time he takes the field as a junior.
Alabama will certainly be in the mix for the playoffs next season, and with no more AJ McCarron, Yeldon will be an even more prominent part of the Crimson Tide’s offense. Look for him to bulldoze his way into Heisman discussions.
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