Heisman Forecast: If Winston doesn’t win trophy, who will?

One of the oddest Heisman Trophy races in recent memory is moving toward

only one possible conclusion — though it’s doing so with

caution.

In any other circumstances, Jameis Winston

would win in a landslide. But the allegations surrounding the Florida

State quarterback create the only seed of doubt in these proceedings —

and that’s as much a testament to how good Winston has been and the

worthiness of the other contenders.

Contender after

contender have stumbled by their play or blows to their narrative,

leaving few realistic options to truly challenge Winston’s

lead.

Still, the mere threat of everything

surrounding Winston leads to the chance that this could be the closest

race since Mark Ingram beat Toby Gerhart by 28 points in 2009. It may

also give us as many as six finalists — which are decided by the most

natural break in the voting figures — something that hasn’t happened

since 1994.

It’s a potentially muddled vote that

forces us to wonder: What if? What if, by either charges levied against

him or the threat of them, pollsters don’t side with Winston? Who else

could win?

Herewith, a look at the players outside of

Winston who have the best chance to hoist the trophy on Dec. 14 in

Times Square, why they could win and why the couldn’t (listed in order

of probability). But before we begin, here is how the voting would

likely go if the season were to end

today.

1. Jameis Winston, QB Florida State,

RS Fr.
2. Jordan Lynch, QB Northern Illinois, RS

Sr.
3. AJ McCarron, QB Alabama, RS

Sr.

As always, these insights aren’t a look

into my official ballot, but how based on long-held unwritten rules and

voting trends, things should shake out.

THE

OTHERS

· AJ McCarron, QB Alabama, RS

Sr.

The entire push behind

McCarron was his being the embodiment of the Crimson Tide’s run toward

another perfect season and a third consecutive

championship.

That’s all but out the window after a

loss to Auburn that kept Alabama out of the SEC title game, but McCarron

remains a factor because he does still embody something voters can get

behind — especially those looking to get around the Winston

mess.

McCarron remains the safe pick. His numbers,

2,676 yards passing and 26 TDs, are nowhere near the averages that we’ve

expected out of QBs in this era (4,500 total yards and 48 TDs), but if

character comes into the equation, McCarron will be lauded as the winner

the Heisman needs.

Furthering his cause, the loss to

Auburn wasn’t on him. McCarron threw for 277 yards and three TDs,

including a 99-yarder that in that instance looked like his Heisman

moment.

That defeat was the last impression McCarron

left voters with and if Winston isn’t hurt by the ongoing investigation,

McCarron would likely finish third, with Lynch second. Alabama is in

the same voting region (South) as Florida State, making it difficult for

McCarron to carry those votes. But if there is an anti-Winston

sentiment, especially in his own backyard, McCarron would seem to be the

most logical choice.

It ultimately could see him

challenge for the award ahead of a player who is battling perceptions in

· Jordan Lynch,

QB Northern Illinois RS

Sr.

Lynch could make for an

interesting argument, not only by putting the Huskies in a second

straight BCS game, but he stands just 245 rushing yards from becoming

the first player in history with 2,000 on the ground and through the

air. That should get him a seat in New York — the MAC’s first since

Chad Pennington in 1999 — and he has an opportunity to make a statement

in the conference’s title game against Bowling Green on Friday

night.

That last chance to impress voters is

something that no leading candidate outside of Winston can

boast.

But what’s playing against Lynch is whom he

plays for.

No player from a non-BCS conference school

has won since Ty Detmer in 1990. San Diego State’s Marshall Faulk has

the only top-two finish in the 23 years post-Detmer and while Hawaii’s

Colt Brennan was third in 2007, he received just five percent of the

first-place votes that year.

As surprising as

Manziel’s win was last season in ending the stigma surrounding

first-year players, a player from outside the sport’s power structure

winning would be even more stunning.

· Braxton Miller, QB Ohio State,

Jr.

Can voters get around the

missed games if Miller gets the Buckeyes into the BCS title

game?

The preseason favorite fell out of the picture

after he missed two entire games and played in just one series in

another and as we’ve discussed before, no player in the modern era has

ever won after missing more than one game and that last happened in 1993

with Charlie Ward.

“I know he missed some games.

Seems like six years ago that he hurt his knee,” coach Urban Meyer said.

“But I think he’s Heisman worthy.”

He has been

impressive since returning to the lineup with 2,360 yards of offense and

27 total TDs, including at least 133 yards passing and 153 rushing in

his last three games. A similar performance against No. 10 Michigan

State — which boasts the nation’s top-ranked defense — in the Big Ten

title game could further his case.

Even if he can’t

get enough support to win, Miller’s candidacy gaining traction again

could have a major impact on this race. Both he and Lynch are in the

Midwest Region and they could finish 1-2, which would subsequently take

away votes from Winston, McCarron, etc.

· Andre Williams, RB Boston College,

Sr.

With 2,100-plus rushing

yards, history, in one form, is on Williams’

side.

He’s ninth on the single-season list (2,102)

with a bowl game to play, but he’s sixth among BCS-conference players,

and four of those ahead of him — Barry Sanders (2,628), Marcus Allen

(2,342), Mike Rozier (2,148) and Ricky Williams (2,124) — all won

Heismans in those seasons. If he hits his average of 175.2 yards per in

the Eagles’ bowl game, Williams could wind up fourth

all-time.

But history is also playing against

Williams in other ways.

That 2,000-yard mark isn’t

what it once was, with the last four players to reach the milestone

missing the ceremony. The closest anyone has come since Ricky Williams’

victory in 1998 was Larry Johnson, who was

third.

Then there are Boston College’s five losses,

which would be the most of any winner since 1956, when Paul Hornung won

despite Notre Dame’s 2-8 record. You have to go back to 1969 in

Oklahoma’s Steve Owens, whose team had a 6-4 mark, to find the last

recipient who had less wins than Boston College’s

seven.

At the very least, Williams should to very

well in the North East region, where he could finish behind Winston, who

those voters get to see in ACC play.

· Ka’Deem Carey, RB Arizona,

Jr.

Second in the nation to

Williams in yards per game (156.0) and fifth in rushing yards (1,716)

despite sitting out the first game of the season, Carey has run for at

least 100 yards in an FBS-best 15 consecutive

games.

While Washington’s Bishop Sankey leads the

Pac-12 with 1,775 yards, it was Carey who was the conference’s Offensive

Player of the Year. With Oregon’s Marcus Mariota stumbling, he has

emerged as the West’s best chance

Had he not been

suspended against Northern Illinois we may be talking about two

2,000-yard rushers. But he’s 386 yards behind Williams and has just

seven less carries than Williams does.

That’s the rub

against him (along with, like Williams, Carey plays for a team with

five losses). While Carey could finish in the top two or three out West,

expecting more may be too much.