Mike Huguenin has spent more than 29 years in sports journalism, many of them closely associated with college football. As a longtime Heisman Trophy voter and one who will cast his ballot again at the end of this season, Huguenin takes a weekly look at the Heisman race.
Heisman race loses contenders
The off-field element to the Heisman Trophy race has become the focal point of the season: Florida State redshirt freshman quarterback Jameis Winston is accused in a sexual-assault case from December 2012, and the decision as to whether to charge Winston likely determines who wins the Heisman -- and could determine who wins the national title.
Prosecutors in Tallahassee, Fla., have said they don't expect to make a decision on charges in the case until after Thanksgiving, which means Winston almost certainly will start next Saturday when Florida State ends its regular season with a game at archrival Florida. But Florida's season has spiraled out of control -- the Gators have lost six in a row, including a setback Saturday to an FCS team -- and Winston should be able to light up the Gators. But will Winston be available for the ACC title game on Dec. 7 or a postseason game? FSU is on track for an appearance in the BCS championship game. FSU can win the ACC title without Winston, but the Seminoles can't win the national title without him.
Winston moves to No. 1 this week on this list of top Heisman contenders, in part because he played well while other challengers crumbled a bit. Winston won't win the Heisman if he is charged, and he might not win even if he isn't charged. But three other contenders saw their teams lose Saturday, and it will be well-nigh impossible for Texas A&M's Johnny Manziel or Oregon's Marcus Mariota to get back in the Heisman hunt. But Baylor quarterback Bryce Petty has two games left and could return to the mix.
There also are two quarterbacks from outside the major conferences: Fresno State's Derek Carr and Northern Illinois' Jordan Lynch. Three running backs should garner votes: Boston College's Andre Williams, Arizona's Ka'Deem Carey and Washington's Bishop Sankey.
Two guys you won't see on this list: Louisville junior quarterback Teddy Bridgewater and Alabama senior quarterback AJ McCarron. Bridgewater seems to be the most pro-ready of any quarterback in the nation, but his production against a weak schedule doesn't warrant his inclusion on the list. As for McCarron, the Heisman is supposed to go to the most outstanding player in the nation; he isn't even the most outstanding player on Alabama's offense, much less the entire Tide team or the nation. I get it: He wins games (and I'm sure McCarron cares the most about that, as he should). But I'd say there are about 20 other quarterbacks nationally who could win as many games if they were surrounded by the kind of talent -- not to mention the coaching -- that surrounds McCarron in Tuscaloosa.
Here are this week's top 10 contenders as this Heisman voter sees them:
10. QB Tajh Boyd, Clemson
2013 stats: 295.3 passing yards per game, 29 TDs, 7 interceptions, 67.3 completion percentage, 8 rushing TDs.
Saturday's stats: 21 of 28 for 288 yards, 5 TDs, 0 interceptions, 20 rushing yards in win over The Citadel.
The skinny: Boyd, a senior, has thrown at least three touchdown passes seven times this season, and Saturday's performance was the second time he tossed five TD passes. He played poorly in Clemson's loss to Florida State, which ended his Heisman hopes. But his play remains a major reason Clemson is in the top 10 and still in the running for a BCS berth. He leads the Tigers in rushing TDs and became the ACC's career leader in TD passes (passing Philip Rivers) earlier this season.
9. QB Marcus Mariota, Oregon
2013 stats: 284.3 passing yards per game, 27 TDs, 2 interceptions, 64.4 completion percentage, 48.1 rushing yards per game, 9 TDs.
Saturday's stats: 27 of 41 for 308 yards, 2 touchdowns, 2 interceptions, 52 rushing yards in loss to Arizona.
The skinny: Mariota, a third-year sophomore, has thrown at least one touchdown pass in all 24 games of his career, but threw his first two interceptions of the season against Arizona. Saturday's game was his fifth 300-yard outing of the season, and he set a career high in attempts. He looked like a lock to be at least a top-three Heisman finisher three weeks ago; now, it likely will take a miracle to finish that high.
8. QB Bryce Petty, Baylor
2013 stats: 335.1 passing yards per game, 26 TDs, 1 interception, 64.1 completion percentage, 10 rushing TDs.
Saturday's stats: 28 of 48 for 359 yards, 2 TDs, 0 interceptions in loss to Oklahoma State.
The skinny: Petty, a junior, has nine 300-yard games and five games with at least three touchdown passes this season. When Baylor lost to Oklahoma State on Saturday, conventional wisdom seemed to be that Petty was done as a Heisman candidate. Why is that? He has excellent stats (look at that TD-to-interception ratio) and he quarterbacks a team that should win 11 games. A big negative for Petty is that Baylor played its worst game in late November, but he still has two games left to impress voters. Petty is one of nine quarterbacks averaging 300 passing yards per game, but he has by far the fewest attempts (by 75) and the fewest completions (by 66) among those nine. He averages 11.9 yards per attempt, the highest figure in the nation.
7. TB Ka'Deem Carey, Arizona
2013 stats: 155.9 rushing yards per game, 16 TDs, 26 receptions, 1 TD.
Saturday's stats: 48 rushes, 206 yards, 4 TDs in win over Oregon.
The skinny: Carey, a junior, led the nation in rushing last season and is second this season. He has rushed for at least 119 yards in each of his 10 games, and Saturday's performance was his second 200-yard outing of the season; it also was the second time he had four rushing TDs. He also can handle a heavy workload. But his 5.4-yards-per-carry average is the second-lowest among the nation's top-10 rushers (Buffalo's Branden Oliver, who is fifth in yards per game, is the only one lower).
6. QB Johnny Manziel, Texas A&M
2013 stats: 321.5 passing yards per game, 32 TDs, 13 interceptions, 69.1 completion percentage, 60.5 rushing yards per game, 8 TDs.
Saturday's stats: 16 of 41 for 224 yards, 1 TD, 2 interceptions, 54 rushing yards in loss to LSU.
The skinny: Manziel, a third-year sophomore, basically saw his Heisman hopes end in the loss to LSU. Can he still get to New York as a finalist? It was the worst passing day of his career, and the first time this season he completed fewer than two thirds of his pass attempts; it also was his third game with one or fewer touchdown passes. He had been leading the nation in completion percentage among quarterbacks who qualify, but plummeted to seventh after Saturday. He is tied for third in TD passes and is second nationally in total offense (382 yards per game).
5. RB Bishop Sankey, Washington
2013 stats: 143.2 rushing yards per game, 17 rushing TDs, 24 receptions, 1 receiving TD.
Saturday's stats: 23 carries, 179 yards, 3 touchdowns in win over Oregon State.
The skinny: Sankey, a junior, has eight 100-yard games this season, and he has scored at least one rushing TD in each of the Huskies' 11 contests. He has eight 100-yard games and two 200-yard outings. He is fourth in the nation in rushing, tied for third in rushing TDs and is third in rushing attempts (249). Sankey also is a workhorse who has been extremely productive against a tough schedule (four opponents are in the current top 25). So why doesn't he get more national acclaim? Interestingly, in 18 fewer carries than Arizona's Ka'Deem Carey, Sankey has 16 more yards, one more TD and averages almost a half yard more per carry.
Week 13: Top RB performances
Boston College's Andre Williams had his lowest rushing output in three games, but he still led the way on our list of the top 10 RB performances of Week 13. More ...
4. TB Andre Williams, Boston College
2013 stats: 188.5 rushing yards per game, 16 rushing TDs.
Saturday's stats: 32 carries, 263 yards, 2 TDs in win over Maryland.
The skinny: Williams, a senior, is the nation's leading rusher and is the first 2,000-yard rusher in the FBS ranks since Donald Brown did it for UConn in 2008. Williams' performance against Maryland was his third game in a row with at least 263 yards and his fifth 200-yard game this season; he also has had nine 100-yard performances, including 149 against Florida State. As for handling a heavy workload, Williams has had at least 23 carries in 10 of BC's 11 games, and six times he has had at least 30 carries; he leads the nation with 320 carries.
3. QB Derek Carr, Fresno State
2013 stats: 394.8 passing yards per game, 39 TDs, 4 interceptions, 69.7 completion percentage.
Saturday's stats: 27 of 37 for 527 yards, 7 TDs, 0 interceptions, 26 rushing yards in win over New Mexico.
The skinny: Carr, a senior, leads the nation in passing yards per game and TD passes. Saturday's game was his first 500-yard outing of the season and the second of his career; this fall, he has had six 400-yard games, eight 300-yard games, three games with at least five touchdown passes and seven games with at least four touchdown passes. He also set a season high with his rushing total Saturday. Fresno State is unbeaten and in line for a BCS bid, which further raises Carr's profile.
Week 13: Top QB performances
Fresno State's Derek Carr threw seven TD passes Saturday, but it wasn't enough to earn the No. 1 spot on our list of the top 10 QB performances of the weekend. More ...
2. QB Jordan Lynch, Northern Illinois
2013 stats: 219.8 passing yards per game, 21 TDs, 5 interceptions, 66.3 completion percentage, 130.4 rushing yards per game, 17 rushing TDs, 1 receiving TD.
Wednesday's stats: 17 of 22 for 202 yards, 0 TDs, 0 interceptions, 28 carries, 161 yards, 3 TDs in win over Toledo.
The skinny: Lynch, a senior, has started 25 games in the past two seasons, and NIU is 23-2 overall and 11-0 this season. He showed off his dual-threat skills on national TV on Wednesday night when NIU beat Toledo to wrap up the Mid-American Conference West Division title and remain in line for a second consecutive BCS bid. Lynch is sixth nationally in total offense per game (350.2 yards per game) and seventh nationally in rushing. His performance against Toledo was his third consecutive game with at least 100 rushing yards, and he has six of those on the season. He has rushed for 14 TDs in the past six games. Lynch set a single-season FBS record for rushing yards by a quarterback with 1,815 last season; he is on a pace to break that record this season.
1. QB Jameis Winston, Florida State
2013 stats: 287.5 passing yards per game, 32 TDs, 7 interceptions, 69.6 completion percentage, 3 rushing TDs.
Saturday's stats: 14 of 25 for 225 yards, 4 touchdowns, 0 interceptions in win over Idaho.
The skinny: Winston is bidding to become the second consecutive redshirt freshman to win the Heisman. He played barely more than a half against Idaho; that was his fourth game with at least four touchdown passes and his 10th with at least two scoring tosses. Winston has five 300-yard games this season. He is tied for third nationally in touchdown passes, and his yards-per-attempt average (11.1) is second among those who qualify.