Chicago Colleges: Heisman Trophy

All six finalists have made Heisman case

December, 13, 2013

Melina Vastola/USA TODAY SportsFlorida State fans have made their pick, but Jameis Winston is just one of six Heisman finalists.
Six Heisman Award finalists will head to New York for Saturday’s ceremony, the most that have received invites to the ceremony since 1994, when there were also six. The last time there were more was in 1988, with eight.

Although the favorite entering the ceremony is Florida State QB Jameis Winston, all six have made a solid case of why they are the best player in the country this season.

QB Jordan Lynch, Northern Illinois
Although Northern Illinois' bid to be a BCS buster was ended in the MAC Championship Game, Lynch’s dual-threat ability kept the Huskies in it all season. He had 321 rushing yards against Western Michigan, the most by a quarterback in FBS history, breaking his own record of 316 set earlier in the year against Central Michigan.

Lynch ended the season with 1,881 rush yards, also an FBS record for a quarterback.

QB Johnny Manziel, Texas A&M
Manziel’s bid to join Archie Griffin as the only multiple Heisman winners saw a transformation of his game. While his 2012 season was built more on his legs, his 2013 campaign saw him develop as a passer.

Manziel added a yard to his yards per attempt (from 8.5 in 2012 to 9.5 in 2013). His touchdown percentage also increased from 6.0% in 2012 to 8.4% this year. Also in 2013, 63 percent of his completions this season have gone for a first down or a touchdown, compared to 57.6 percent last year.

RB Tre Mason, Auburn
Even after a 1,000-yard rushing season last year, Mason wasn't on the short list of Heisman contenders until he finished the season with five straight 100-yard rushing games, including 304 against Missouri in the SEC Championship Game, the fifth-highest total all-time in an SEC game.

Mason’s 2,137 all-purpose yards this season broke the Auburn school record, previously held by Bo Jackson. Mason’s 22 rushing TD this season also set a school record.

QB AJ McCarron, Alabama
This is McCarron’s third season as Alabama’s starting quarterback, and he’s improved every season. His opponent-adjusted QBR was 76.7 in 2011, 81.5 in 2012 and 83.5 this season.

He was even better against the tough SEC competition. In SEC games, McCarron had an 86.4 opponent-adjusted QBR, tied for the best in the conference. Fellow Heisman candidate Manziel was third (85.5).

RB Andre Williams, Boston College
This season, Williams became just the 16th player in FBS history to run for at least 2,000 yards in a season, and the first since Donald Brown did so for Connecticut in 2008.

Williams also showed big-play ability. He had 26 runs of at least 20 yards, the most by an FBS player since Kevin Smith had 26 in 2007. His 11 touchdowns on such runs are the most for any player in the last 10 seasons.

QB Jameis Winston, Florida State
Winston is the clubhouse leader for the Heisman, and as the FBS leader in opponent-adjusted QBR (90.9), he has good reason to be. The leader in opponent-adjusted QBR in three of the last six seasons went on to win the Heisman, including Manziel last year.

Winston has also showed a clutch presence on the field throughout the year. On third downs, Winston has a 98.9 Total QBR, leading all FBS quarterbacks. Over the last 10 seasons, the highest third-down Total QBR in a completed season was also 98.9, by Andrew Luck in 2010.
Northern Illinois' communications department kicked off a Heisman Trophy campaign for Huskies junior quarterback Jordan Lynch on Wednesday.

"Yes, we are definitely starting a campaign for Jordan," Northern Illinois associate athletic director for communications Donna Turner wrote in an e-mail on Wednesday. "At this point, we definitely feel like what he is doing for our team is worthy of mention and comparable to any other quarterback in the country.

"We're working up a website, Facebook page (Jordan Lynch for 6), using the hashtag #VoteLynch and will be getting him out to do some media locally and nationally (interviews, etc.). We also will have multiple videos, including a weekly 'Lunch with Lynch.' A lot of these are still in developmental stages, but we're having fun with it and raising awareness of not only Jordan Lynch, but of Northern Illinois Football!"

Lynch currently leads the country in total offensive yards (3,169), is No. 2 in rushing yards (1,185), No. 1 in touchdowns responsible for with 32 (rushing and passing), broke the NCAA record for most consecutive 100-yard rushing games by a quarterback with seven, tied Garrett Wolfe for the school record for most consecutive 100-yard rushing games in a season, has thrown 146 passes over five games without an interception, has thrown 17 touchdowns to three interceptions, is No. 1 in the MAC and No. 23 nationally with a 152.2 passing efficiency, is No. 16 nationally with 10.0 points a game and the Huskies are 8-1 this season.

"I think the guy should be on the Heisman list," Northern Illinois coach Dave Doeren said recently. "He's close to breaking the all-time record for quarterbacks in rushing, throws four TDs, averages 130-plus a game (rushing). He doesn't turn the football over, he's playing so hard and ... he's a clutch player. I love the guy.

"There wasn't a lot of attention on him (earlier this season) because he hadn't earned it yet. You have to have a body of work, and now he does. If he can keep doing it, and we can keep winning while he's doing it, then he'll be a guy that's in those conversations and he deserves to be. The people that compete against him, they know where I'm coming from. A lot of running quarterbacks don't throw the ball well, so teams put everybody in there, and they stop him. Last week, he threw for four touchdowns. He threw for a bunch (of yards) against Army, who put everybody in (the box). Teams that want to play back in coverage, then he runs."