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Controversy will impact Jameis Winston's Heisman hopes

On the official Heisman Trophy website, the mission statement says the coveted award goes to the "outstanding college football player whose performance best exhibits the pursuit of excellence with integrity."

Unless you're incredibly naïve, you know that the last word -- "integrity" -- is going to play a role in this season's Heisman race.

Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston, bidding to become the second consecutive redshirt freshman to win the award, is the current leader in most Heisman polls. But Winston's involvement in a sexual-assault case has caused angst among some voters.

We certainly understand that it likely antagonizes some folks that in the midst of a sexual-assault investigation, there are people who worry about who might or might not win a trophy, but the fact remains it is a topic of discussion.

Winston has not been charged in the case, and Leon County (Fla.) State Attorney Willie Meggs has said it might be another week or two before any decision is made on any possible charges.

All Heisman voting will be done on-line this year. Voters will receive a voting link next Monday, and all ballots must be submitted electronically by Monday, Dec. 9, at 5 p.m. ET.

It seems likely that a decision will be made on any charges by Dec. 9. But that is by no means definite.

If Winston is charged, he won't win the Heisman. Yes, he has been magnificent on the field, but a player winning the Heisman while facing sexual-assault charges? Won't happen, not in a million years.

If there is no decision or if he isn't charged? The situation might not be as simple as it would appear. At first glance, if he's not charged and a voter thinks he's the best candidate, why wouldn't it be an easy choice? Still, there likely would be some who would have trepidations about voting for him simply because he was involved in the investigation. And there also likely would be some voters looking for another candidate, if for no other reason than to soothe their conscience.

There won't be a shortage of other candidates.

Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel has a shot at winning his second consecutive Heisman, and he has two big games to close out the regular season: Saturday at LSU and next Saturday at Missouri. Those are two high-level opponents, both currently in the BCS top 25.

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Oregon sophomore quarterback Marcus Mariota was the Heisman frontrunner until the Ducks lost to Stanford. Oregon finishes out the regular season with games against Arizona and Oregon State, two solid opponents but nothing near the level of opponent Manziel will go against. Oregon also appears headed for the Pac-12 championship game, and the team the Ducks meet there almost certainly will be a BCS top-20 squad.

Baylor junior quarterback Bryce Petty has gained a lot of traction as a candidate in the past few weeks, and he likely will gain even more momentum if he can lead the Bears past host Oklahoma State in this weekend's marquee game. Baylor also has games remaining against TCU and Texas.

There also are Northern Illinois senior quarterback Jordan Lynch, who has a MAC team on the verge of a second consecutive BCS berth, and Alabama senior quarterback AJ McCarron, who is trying for his third consecutive national title.

In short, if voters are looking for other candidates, it seems likely they will have at least two and maybe three others to choose from.

I'm a Heisman voter, and I'm willing to predict that Winston won't win if there has been no decision made on the charges when the vote is due. If the decision is made that no charges will be filed, I'm not totally convinced he'll win, either. I think he will, but in an extremely close vote.

Mike Huguenin can be reached at mike.huguenin@nfl.com. You also can follow him on Twitter @MikeHuguenin.

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