The 2013 Heisman Trophy Debate

The 2013 Heisman Trophy will be awarded on Saturday night and will almost certainly be given to Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston. When the decision was made not to press charges against Winston for sexual assault in a case dating back to last year, it cleared the way for voters who were inclined for the Seminole quarterback, and all indications are that there were enough such voters to create a landslide win.

Whether it will be a landslide is open for debate–it’s possible that the legal charges will leave a bad taste in voters’ mouths, and it’s not as though Winston was acquitted–the DA simply felt there was not enough evidence to move forward. If you were looking for a reason to vote against the Florida State quarterback, the story alone may have been enough to move you.

The entire situation is sad, as we have either a young woman denied justice or a young man who has permanently lost his reputation with a large chunk of the public. Neither can be taken lightly, there is no middle ground and I have no idea which it even is. From a football standpoint, I will say this–if you believe Winston should win the award based on his performance, then you should vote for him and defer to the legal system.

I don’t feel like Winston should win the Heisman though, and I write as one who was quite open to his candidacy after he lit up the Pitt Panthers on Labor Day night to start his college career. I liked Winston’s relatively quiet public approach and his efficient game, and I welcomed the relief from the constant media coverage of Johnny Manziel of Texas A&M and his various on-field and off-field dramas. When Winston lit up Clemson for 444 yards in a 51-14 road win, I was on board the Jameis-for-Heisman bandwagon.

Winston’s performance against Miami concerned me though. Though he was 21/29 and his team won easily, Winston threw a couple interceptions. He did the same in the ACC Championship Game against Duke last Saturday night. Florida State is not like Texas A&M–the Seminoles can play defense extremely well and they have an excellent running game with Devonta Freeman. Winston has a supporting cast along the lines of Alabama’s A.J. McCarron , as opposed to having a carry a team and take chances like a Manziel.

None of this means that Winston’s season isn’t tremendous, but the Heisman debate elevates all standards to their highest level. I’m looking for another candidate.

That candidate is in Winston’s own conference. Andre Williams, the running back for Boston College, went for over 2,100 yards and averaged 6.4 yards per carry. This is in spite of the fact that every defense knows if you stop Williams you stop BC. He lifted a program that had fallen to two wins in the 2012 college football season, and they won seven games and reached a bowl game this time around.

Williams’ performance was singularly spectacular and it was enough to get him invited to New York City on Saturday night. Though I’m not optimistic about the outcome, it should be enough to get him the trophy.

The other invitees include three more quarterbacks, McCarron, Manziel and Northern Illinois’ Jordan Lynch. Auburn running back Tre Mason also made it, coming off his incredible 304-yard rushing performance against Missouri in the SEC Championship Game.

Six invitees is the most I can remember. On the reverse side, the 2005 banquet only saw three players invited. USC running back Reggie Bush won it, and his Trojan quarterback Matt Leinhardt was also there, along with Texas quarterback Vince Young. I’d like to see the Heisman people standardize the invitation process and have a set number.

The debate over who makes it to New York has become an intriguing subplot to this whole process and it would serve that debate well–and therefore the award itself–for there to be a fixed number of invitees.

My ideal number would be five, if only because that’s the figure we most often see. This year, along with Williams, I would have gone heavy on running back. Mason would be there, as would Arizona’s Ka’deem Carey and Stanford’s Tyler Gaffney. Then fill out the ticket with Manziel and Lynch. That leaves me without room for Winston. I’ve got the presumptive landslide winner out of the picture entirely. I’m nothing if not counter-cultural (which I guess doesn’t necessarily mean smart).

TheSportsNotebook did a complete breakdown of the 2013 college football conference MVPs as part of awards week. If some miracle happens and an upset happens in New York on Saturday, we’ll come back with some more thoughts. Otherwise, college football coverage here will pick up again late next week when we start previewing the first games of the bowl season that starts Saturday, December 21.