It’s been a wild season in the Southeastern Conference, that we know.
And by most accounts, we can also project a landslide Heisman victory Saturday night for Florida State’s Jameis Winston when the winner’s announced in New York.
Winston’s win will come easy — much like the rest of the season has been on the field for the redshirt freshman — but his final game against SEC champ Auburn, likely not.
For argument’s sake, let’s breakdown the case for each SEC finalist starting with Winston’s stiffest competitor, the league’s leading rusher and touchdown producer:
Tre Mason, RB, Auburn: We’re often caught up in Heisman ‘moments’ and Mason’s the only one of these three with a spotlight performance. His 304-yard beast of an effort in the conference championship game against Mizzou was public battery and took him from Heisman fringe to the forefront across the nation. The SEC’s Offensive Player of the Year managed to rush for at least 100 yards in eight games, five of those coming against ranked teams. The likely runner-up, Mason will have a chance to get the last laugh in Pasadena when his Tigers take on the Seminoles in the BCS National Championship Game.
Johnny Manziel, QB, Texas A&M: Last year’s Heisman winner floundered over his final two starts and injured or not, that’s not going to sit well with voters. Manziel’s not been himself in consecutive road games against stiff defenses with just two total touchdowns and multiple turnovers. Down the stretch, it appeared it was Manziel’s Heisman to lose with strong outings against LSU and Missouri, but the Aggies couldn’t get it done and their quarterback’s sporadic play was one of the reasons. Texas A&M finished 0-4 this season against ranked teams, another statistic not in Johnny Football’s favor.
Related: SEC’s Heisman race down to three
A.J. McCarron, QB, Alabama: No disrespect to McCarron, not that he cares, but Alabama’s senior quarterback simply doesn’t have the necessary numbers to win college football’s highest honor. But he also didn’t have the numbers to win the Maxwell Award either. The two-time national champion is responsible for 2,697 total yards of offense and 26 touchdowns. Fellow finalist Jordan Lynch has similar stats through air and another 1,881 yards and 22 scores on the ground. By comparison in his own conference, South Carolina quarterback Connor Shaw — who wasn’t even listed as an honorable mention All-SEC selection — has just 51 fewer total yards than McCarron and the same number of touchdowns. McCarron and Boston College’s Andre Williams will likely finish 5th and 6th when voting results are revealed.
The SEC’s three Ms have put together impressive seasons, but none likely cohesive enough through their entirety to unseat Winston who has been the front-runner since November. Mason was a late-bloomer and stayed in the race thanks to a pair of miraculous finishes on the Plains. Winston’s marquee outing at Clemson on Oct. 19 tossed his name in the winner’s circle amongst late-falters Bryce Petty and Marcus Mariota and he’s been there, while avoiding a treacherous upset, ever since.
It may not be a record-setter for the largest margin of victory in Heisman history thanks to Mason’s recent splash, but Winston should match Manziel’s rookie year heroics and become the second freshman to ever capture the prestigious bronze statue this weekend. Manziel drew 474 first-place votes last season and I expect Winston to top that total.
Regardless of Saturday’s Heisman reveal, Mason and the Tigers will strive for the SEC’s eighth consecutive national title in the final year of the BCS on Jan. 6.
Famous Jameis hopes to derail that opportunity.
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