Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston, left, and Auburn running back Tre Mason are among six finalists for the Heisman Trophy award, which will be announced Saturday evening. (Reuters)
There will be five outstanding college football players who will join Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston on Saturday at the Best Buy Theater in New York to wait for the name to be called as the 2013 Heisman Trophy winner.
Some have better statistics than Winston. Three of them play for teams that won 11 or more games and four will be playing New Year’s Day bowl games.
All of them have more college experience.
But none has the combination of numbers, team success and charisma that Winston does, and it’s the reason almost all Heisman watches and Heisman forecasters have the FSU freshman running away with the balloting to become the third Seminoles quarterback in 20 years to win the award as college football’s best player.
The Heisman Trophy Trust invited the finalists on Monday, about an hour after the voting deadline: Winston, 2012 Heisman winner and Texas A&M sophomore quarterback Johnny Manziel, Alabama senior quarterback AJ McCarron, Auburn junior running back Tre Mason, Boston College senior running back Andre Williams and Northern Illinois senior quarterback Jordan Lynch.
It’s the most finalists invited to the Heisman ceremony since 1994 when Rashaan Salaam of Colorado won.
The ceremony will be aired at 8 p.m. Saturday by ESPN.
In a survey conducted by USA Today, Winston was projected to be the runaway winner, with McCarron a distant second. Another by the web site Heismanpundit.com, had Winston the easy winner over Lynch.
When Winston has been asked about his Heisman prospects, he has made it clear it will be an individual achievement that has his team’s fingerprints all over it and that the award would take a back seat to the Seminoles’ goal of trying to win a third national championship.
“Our team is trying to make history … we’re not trying to look at individual stats and things like that,” he said after throwing for 327 yards and three touchdowns against Duke. “We’re trying to do something so much bigger.”
Mason and Winston will square off in the BCS National Championship Game on Jan. 7 in Pasadena, Calif.
A victory by Winston would mark consecutive Heismans for redshirt freshmen, following Manziel’s win. No freshman won the award prior to 2012.
While leading the top-ranked Seminoles to a 13-0 record, Winston completed 237 of 349 passes for 3,820 yards with 38 touchdowns and 10 interceptions. The passing yardage and passing touchdown totals are freshman records. He also rushed 77 times for 193 yards and four scores.
The biggest obstacle to Winston’s Heisman candidacy was off-field uncertainty, but last week a Florida prosecutor announced that the quarterback would not be charged with sexual assault despite accusations made against him by a Florida State student last December.
Manziel threw for 3,732 yards on 270-for-391 passing, tossing 33 touchdown passes and 13 interceptions. Aside from the interception total, his passing stats were an improvement on 2012, but his rushing stats declined sharply. He ran for 686 yards and eight touchdowns on 133 carries this year after producing 1,410 rushing yards and 21 touchdowns on 201 carries last season.
Lynch’s candidacy was built largely on his legs rather than his arm. He ran 274 times for 1,881 yards — a record for a quarterback — and scored 22 times on the ground. Lynch completed 233 of 369 passes for 2,676 yards with 23 touchdowns and seven interceptions.
McCarron went 207-for-306 for 2,676 yards, 26 touchdowns and five interceptions.
Mason gained 1,621 yards on 283 carries, including a 304-yard, 46-carry game Saturday in the SEC championship game against Missouri. He scored four of his 22 rushing touchdowns against Mizzou.
Williams ran 329 times for 2,102 yards and 17 touchdowns.