Thursday, October 24, 2013

Can Jameis Winston Make it Two in a Row?

And by two in a row, I mean two freshman to win the Heisman Trophy. Last year, Johnny Manziel became the first freshman, true or redshirt, to win the Heisman. His awarding was a historical landmark that many people might forget happened only six years after the Heisman was first awarded to a sophomore. In 2007, Tim Tebow broke the long tradition of upperclassmen receiving the award thanks to a ridiculous regular season. While this was totally unprecedented, it actually set in motion three sophomores receiving the Heisman in succession (2008: Sam Bradford, QB, Oklahoma; 2009: Mark Ingram, RB, Alabama). I obviously wasn't alive in the 70s and 80s, but for some reason there was a stigma against giving underclassmen the Heisman trophy. But recently, people have begun to put those prejudices aside in favor of the player who commands your attention.

Manziel had a fantastic year last year. He set the SEC record for total yards, beat who was thought to be unbeatable in Alabama, and wrecked Bob Stoops's defense in the Cotton Bowl. Winston hasn't done quite all of that yet, but what he has accomplished this season has ignited the same sort of frenzy that Manziel created last year. In his debut against Pitt, he was almost flawless. He completed 25 of 27 passes (one was actually a catch that was called incomplete) for four touchdowns and 356 yards. Since then, he hasn't let off the gas. On the year, he has almost 1900 yards, 20 touchdowns and only three interceptions. He had his true Heisman moment last week against Clemson in primetime. Winston picked the Clemson defense apart at will, albeit with a lot of help from some very athletic receivers. For the night, Winston completed 65% of his passes for a staggering 444 yards and three touchdowns against only a single pick that came on a wrong route by the receiver. Clemson was absolutely defenseless against him. This was following a 393 yard, five touchdown performance in an annihilation of 25th ranked Maryland. Winston has the numbers right now to wow over voters across the country.

What Winston also has going for him that Manziel didn't last year was the fact that he has his team in title contention. By this point last year, Texas A&M had already suffered two losses that had put them out of any realistic shot at an SEC Championship game, let alone a title. But at the moment, Winston has his team in a prime position to secure a spot in the last BCS Championship game. In the most current AP Poll, Florida State is third behind Alabama and Oregon while garnering two 1st place votes. In the BCS rankings which were released this Sunday, Florida State was sitting in second place only behind Alabama. Depending on how Florida State and Oregon perform the rest of the year, one of them will probably be playing for the title against Alabama. At the moment, Marcus Mariota of Oregon is Winston's biggest competition. Oregon has to play UCLA this week and Stanford next week which could give Mariota his time to shine in the spotlight and regain voter's attention. Winston will get a chance to retaliate with a game against currently 7th ranked Miami at home which could put the focus back on him. If the Gators weren't having a down year, that would give Winston a huge advantage as a final showing before voting at the end of the year. So the odds are both of these teams are undefeated when the regular season ends, but they will need to be at their best and not allow any slip ups.

While I still think Mariota is in the lead right now and should be, statistically (28 total touchdowns, 0 INT), I ultimately imagine that the voters will fall in love with Winston, especially if the Seminoles are undefeated. Oregon might end up playing Alabama, but Winston has taken college football by storm which grabs people's attention and demands the respect of voters. Remember, no one was picking Manziel or Cam Newton to win the Heisman until eight games into their seasons'. A good number of analysts and writers predicted that Winston could have a major impact this year, but I really doubt few envisioned this. His year has been full of moments that make you just go "holy shit, dude". And really, isn't that what the Heisman is all about? The Maxwell Trophy is supposed to go to the best player while the Heisman goes to the most outstanding. And right now in college football, there is no one more outstanding than Jameis Winston.

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