Heisman Watch: Winston the clear choice, despite allegations


So my hopes for a group of Heisman Trophy finalists with zero losses and untarnished reputations a few weeks ago were ripped to shreds.

Bryce Petty and Baylor felt the pain of key players being injured when the Bears fell hard to the Oklahoma State Cowboys 49-17 to end their undefeated season and any hope at a BCS National Championship.

With one less undefeated quarterback in his way and two big road games to sway some voters’ minds, Texas A&M;’s Johnny Manziel fumbled away his opportunity to repeat as the Heisman winner. The sophomore fell to both LSU, 34-10, and Missouri, 28-21, completing just 53 percent of his passes between both games.

The door then opened for Alabama’s golden boy quarterback, A.J. McCarron, to sneak into the serious Heisman Trophy conversations despite not being able to measure up statistically to Petty or Manziel on the season. However, after last Saturday’s Iron Bowl that ended with Auburn winning in one of the most memorable conclusions in the history of college football, McCarron’s chance at a third-straight national championship and first Heisman Trophy disappeared.

So now I’m left to choose between Florida State’s Jameis Winston, still undefeated but surrounded by the negativity of an investigation into an alleged sexual assault; Northern Illinois’ Jordan Lynch, whose stats are great but beat just two BCS schools in Iowa and Purdue; and Boston College’s Andre Williams, a sensational running back on a team with five losses.

After contemplating for a few days on which player I’d vote for if I had the chance, Winston is the choice I came up with for a few reasons.

Throwing all his possible legal troubles out the window, Winston is hands down the choice. Obviously, if Winston is actually charged with rape before the polls close, losing the Heisman Trophy will be a distant disappointment for Florida State and college football in general.

Until a decision is made one way or the other, though, Winston’s on-field performance deserves to be recognized Dec. 14 in New York.

The No. 1 Seminoles (12-0, 8-0) are just one win away from a BCS National Championship game, their first since 1999, against Ohio State if they win the Big 10 Championship.

If the Seminoles can take care of No. 20 Duke, the ACC Coastal champion, and avoid being on the wrong end of the biggest upset this college football season, then Winston would have an unblemished freshman campaign on the football field in a BCS conference complimented by his stellar statistics.

Winston leads the NCAA in passing efficiency with 192.6 and has thrown 35 touchdowns – third best in the NCAA – to only eight interceptions. He also ranks third in the NCAA in yards per completion at just more than 16-yards per completion.

Even as the media attention surrounding the sexual assault investigation has grown, Winston’s production has stayed at a high level. In last week’s rivalry game against Florida, Winston sliced the Gators’ secondary for 327 yards passing and three touchdowns as the Seminoles cruised to a 37-7 victory.

Winston won’t be the first Heisman Trophy candidate with a dark cloud hovering over his name, although a rape allegation is a much darker cloud than even Manziel can create. If his name is cleared, though, there’s no reason Winston shouldn’t become the second freshmen in a row to hoist the Heisman Trophy.