Every year, the nation’s best college football player is chosen by 870 football writers and 55 former winners to be awarded the coveted Heisman Trophy. The Heisman is intended to recognize outstanding play, integrity and leadership on and off the field. But even though the Heisman is at the peak of its influence and audience size, in recent years the award has been criticized by claims that it overlooks bad behavior and is biased towards east coast and southern players that receive the most TV coverage. The top five Heisman Trophy candidates are invited to New York City in mid December for the trophy ceremony. Unfortunately, this sports writer is not granted voting privileges, but that is not going to stop me from presenting my top 5 Heisman Front Runners. Let’s start with Dak Prescott: at the quarterback position, the junior has lead Mississippi State to 7-0 and a number one ranking on the Associated Press Top 25. The QB has a balanced style of play and is equally comfortable throwing a touchdown as he is running for one. Prescott utilized his duel threat style to lead the MSU Bulldogs over Kentucky on Saturday, as he ran for two touchdowns and passed for one. If Prescott can continue his high level of play and keep Mississippi State undefeated, he is lock for Heisman.
No Heisman contender list would be complete without Oregon Quarterback Marcus Mariota. Coming off a high scoring victory over Cal, Marriota has the Ducks flying high and has thrown for 26 touchdowns with only one interception. But before Marriota can hoist the Heisman Trophy, he must first take on Stanford this Saturday. Stanford is looking to stretch their winning streak over the Ducks to three years, but, already having lost 3 games, the Cardinal may lack confidence. If Mariota can lead Oregon over Stanford and again the following week versus Utah, it would be difficult not to give him the award and his team a birth into the college football playoff. Yet, Stanford’s stout defense may not be Mariota’s biggest obstacle. Considering that only two of the last ten Heisman Trophy winners have played in the Pacific Time Zone makes it clear that East Coast bias is alive and strong.
The reigning Heisman winner, Jameis Winston, is back in the conversation as Florida State continues to stretch their undefeated streak. The Seminoles have not lost a game with Winston at Quarterback and are the nation’s reining BSC National Champions. Yet, even though Winston’s play is extraordinary, his off-the-field problems sometimes speak more loudly. Winston’s reputation is continually shadowed by 2013 sexual assault charges that were eventually dropped by Florida courts. These acquisitions were resolved before last year’s voting, and the trouble was not enough to stop Winston from winning the Trophy. The distractions continued this year as Winston’s University barred him from an early game this season for yelling profanities in a Florida State student union. If the words of Bo Jackson, a former Heisman Trophy winner, current voter and multi sport legend can be used as a measuring stick, the opinion on Winston is starting to turn negative. “Winston needs to make some changes in his life. Because it’s affecting him now, and it’s definitely going to affect him down the road.” Judging from Bo Jackson’s statement earlier this month on “The Jim Rome Show,” it seems that Winston’s off-the-field actions will affect this year’s voting. The Heisman Trophy does account for “integrity” when determining its recipients, and this may be the only requirement Winston does not meet.
Amari Cooper, Alabama’s Junior wide out, might be the only wide receiver on this list, but that doesn’t stop him from being a playmaker for the Crimson tide. On Saturday versus Tennessee, Cooper had nine receptions for 224 yards. Highlighted by an 80 run from a catch at the line of scrimmage. With Cooper’s breaking 1000 receiving yards on the season Saturday, it is the second time he has reached the millennial mark in his career. If Alabama is going to make it into the College Football Playoff, expect Amari Cooper to carry the team and the football to success.
University of Nebraska’s running back, Ameer Abdullah, is giving Corn Husker nation something to cheer about, leading Nebraska over Rutgers Saturday with 225 yards on 19 carries for three rushing TDs and a school record of 341 all-purpose yards. But one doesn’t have to look into the record books to learn Abdullah is a legitimate Heisman candidate. Abdullah is a nightmare that doesn’t go away for the opposing team, as he is lethal running the football on kick returns, receiving paces and breaking out of the back field. Undoubtedly, Abdullah is looking forward to Nebraska’s match up against Big 12 conference rival University of Wisconsin, as he will have to take on Heisman rival Melvin Gordon. Wisconsin’s star running back has rushed for 16 touchdowns and caught eight more, showing versatility similar to Abdullah. Whoever can come out of the matchup with the win will launch himself forward in the Heisman race and could potentially win the Big 10; that is, of course, dependent on the success of conference juggernauts Ohio State and Michigan State.
Most teams have four or five games remaining on their schedule, which is more than enough for a Heisman hopeful to completely squander their chances or for a no name to steal the show. Every game provides playmakers the opportunity to punch their ticket to New York. In a just a few minutes during a game, a player can put himself on the map with 7 touchdowns, just as Texas Christians University’s QB Trevone Boykin did Saturday. Or, in just the same way, a poorly timed fumble or interception can take a “Heisman lock” out of the conversation. This is the nature of the Heisman race and of college football and is exactly what makes it exciting.