Andre Williams, Sean Davis

Where the Heisman race stands

21 Comments

What to make of this year’s Heisman race?

In my 10 seasons covering the trophy, I’ve never seen a race this unsettled this late in the process.

Every candidate has at least two major drawbacks that in any other year would probably be disqualifying. In the end, it may come down to which candidate ends up dominating his region while appearing on just enough ballots nationwide to eke out a win. I envision the results of this race looking a lot like that of 2001, when Eric Crouch won the Heisman with just one region and 770 points (the lowest winning total since Terry Baker won with 707 points in 1962) while five other candidates totaled over 200.

Let’s do a rundown of what we’re dealing with.

— The tentative front runner, Jameis Winston of Florida State, has a major legal issue hanging over him that could potentially derail his candidacy. That issue is unlikely to be resolved one way or the other before Thanksgiving, which means that the decision could come just as the Seminoles begin preparations for the ACC title game. If he is not charged, then I think it’s likely that enough Heisman voters will give him the benefit of the doubt to enable him to win the trophy. Even then, he’s going to have a hard time benefiting much from what he does on the field from here on out because FSU’s remaining schedule includes the worst Florida team since 1979 and Duke in the ACC title game — hardly the type of matchups that will compel voters to tune in. Of course, if he is charged with a felony, he will likely be dropped from the majority of ballots and voters will look elsewhere.

— AJ McCarron of Alabama seems to be the safest candidate. After all, he’s the quarterback for the No. 1 team and a well-known and proven commodity. But to win he’ll have to overcome his relatively lackluster production and the perception that he’s not really the engine that drives Alabama’s success. Big games in his remaining matchups against Auburn and in the SEC title game could help him change that perception just enough to tilt the race in his direction. I have a feeling that, while he’s likely to appear on a lot of ballots, he’ll need to finish strong in his home region (the South) to have a shot at winning. That means putting distance between himself and Winston and Manziel — a tall order indeed.

— The conventional wisdom is that Bryce Petty of Baylor is now out of the race as a result of his team’s crushing defeat at the hands of Oklahoma State. But Petty has two more games left to add to his still-impressive resume and his one loss may not be that fatal given that none of the other candidates have been able to pull away from the pack either. The narrative aiding Petty until tonight was that he was leading an unstoppable offense on a Cinderella charge to an undefeated season. That’s now gone and all he’s got left are his numbers and, potentially, the best season in school history. But that attribute doesn’t capture the imagination of voters around the country the way it might with, say, a more traditional power. The problem with Petty is that he never got a chance to break out of his status as a quality regional candidate — he lost that shot tonight. But in a really close race with a lot of candidates getting support, it’s possible that he wins his region and remains a viable contender so long as he finishes strong against TCU and Texas.

— Is Marcus Mariota out of the race after throwing his first two interceptions of the season in his team’s second loss, this one a 42-16 drubbing by Arizona? I believe so. But, again, with so many candidates having so many weaknesses and the race likely coming down to hard-core regionalism, it’s still possible that Mariota’s production and name recognition could attract enough voters out West to give him influence over the final outcome. With Oregon now out of the Pac-12 title game, I can’t see a path to victory, but I can see him getting to New York.

— Heismandment No. 9 looks to be safe for another year and I’d venture to guess that if Johnny Manziel can’t overturn it, who will? Johnny Football had perhaps his worst game in his team’s loss to LSU and won’t win that second Heisman, but if he rebounds with a great outing against Missouri, I think there’s enough sentiment in his favor out there to allow him to have a respectable showing in this race. People know how good he is, even if they don’t think he had the most outstanding season this time around. He might end up weakening Winston (assuming he’s not charged) and McCarron in the South region while also sapping Petty’s strength in the Southwest. I think he’s headed to New York and will likely finish third.

— All the chaos of the day opens up the door for perhaps the most unlikely Heisman candidate in recent memory. I’m talking running back Andre Williams of Boston College. I don’t think he was on anyone’s radar until this weekend and I think most voters still don’t know who he is. But I suspect that is about to change (BC will need to give him a boost). After all, he’s now eclipsed the 2,000-yard rushing mark with one game yet to play. With so many flawed candidates arrayed against him, I think voters might be more inclined to overlook his team’s 7-4 record — keep in mind Toby Gerhart of Stanford was on an 8-4 team in 2009 and he was the runner up in the vote by the closest margin in Heisman history. And it helps that his recent rushing explosion has spurred his team to a four-game win streak. There’s a possibility that Williams captures the vote in the Northeast and does well in the Mid-Atlantic as well. Again, in a close race spread out over several candidates, the winner might not need to capture more than one region. (Note: I think it’s interesting that the ACC could have two Heisman finalists this year after not having a single one since 2000)

— There are definite cases to be made for Jordan Lynch and Derek Carr, but I don’t expect them to be able to get enough national support to make it to New York. Ironically, Lynch and Carr did not benefit much from today’s meltdowns since the lack of a consensus Heisman front runner is more likely to depress their vote totals.  The presence of a clear cut winner usually makes it easier for a voter to take a flyer on a player like Lynch or Carr by putting them in the 2nd or 3rd spots on their ballot. But with so many options still remaining and voters still undecided on a leader, they are likely to be crowded out a bit by the remaining group of contenders. I expect Lynch to influence who wins the MidWest, while Carr will obviously be a factor in the West, but I can’t see either winning their region.

Yes, there are still games to play that will decide this thing. It seems that anything that can happen will happen, which is why we might end up with one of most suspense-filled races in Heisman history before all is said and done.

How would the race go if the vote was held right now? I think it would look something like this (don’t quote me…it’ll probably change next week):

1. Jameis Winston

2. AJ McCarron

3. Johnny Manziel

4. Bryce Petty

5. Andre Williams

6. Marcus Mariota

7. Jordan Lynch

8. Ka’Deem Carey

9. Derek Carr

10. Tajh Boyd

Stanford down two starting corners for Top 10 matchup vs. Washington

PASADENA, CA - JANUARY 01:  Quenton Meeks #24 of the Stanford Cardinal celebrates his 66 yard interception for a touchdown against the Iowa Hawkeyes in the first quarter of the 102nd Rose Bowl Game on January 1, 2016 at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, California.  (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
Getty Images
Leave a comment

As No. 10 Washington gets set to host No. 7 Stanford in one of Week 5’s biggest matchups, the latter’s secondary will be down a couple of men in going up against one of the top young quarterbacks in the Pac-12.

David Shaw confirmed Tuesday that both Quenton Meeks (pictured) and Alijah Holder will not play for the Cardinal against the Huskies.  The starting cornerbacks were injured in Stanford’s Week 4 win over UCLA.

That tandem is expected to be replaced in the starting lineup by Alameen Murphy and Terrence Alexander.  Those two will be making their first career starts.

UW’s Jake Browning‘s 14 touchdown passes are tied for second nationally and amongst Pac-12 quarterbacks as well.  The sophomore has just two interceptions in his 95 pass attempts.

In addition to Meeks and Holder, starting fullback Daniel Marx has been ruled out because of an injury suffered against the Bruins.

On top of that trio, the Cardinal had previously announced that wide receiver Francis Owusu has been ruled out of this Saturday’s game with a concussion.

Despite report to contrary, president David Boren says Oklahoma hasn’t made up mind on Big 12 expansion

NORMAN, OK - NOVEMBER 10: President of the University of Oklahoma David Boren and Head Coach Bob Stoops of the Oklahoma Sooners talk before the game against the Baylor Bears November 10, 2012 at Gaylord Family-Oklahoma Memorial Stadium in Norman, Oklahoma. Oklahoma defeated Baylor 42-34. (Photo by Brett Deering/Getty Images)
Getty Images
Leave a comment

It wouldn’t be the Big 12 without a little drama, now would it?

Tuesday, Pete Thamel of SI.com reported it’s believed that Oklahoma president David Boren, long thought to be a major proponent of expanding the Big 12 beyond 10 teams, “has reversed course on his view of expansion.” This report comes nearly two weeks after T. Boone Pickens‘ BFF infamously — and very surprisingly — tapped the expansion brakes.

“I wouldn’t take expansion as a given,” Boren said Sept. 14. “I wouldn’t take it as a sure thing.”

According to Thamel’s report, it appears that BYU, long a favorite of Boren, and the uproar over its honor code has caused Boren, and thus the university, to shift gears when it comes to expansion. Additionally, OU’s regents are reportedly not in favor of expansion and are pressuring Boren “to convey that message.”

That shift, at least what he’s putting out there for public consumption, is news to Boren.

“I do not know where the speculation came from,” Boren said in a statement to ESPN.com, “but Oklahoma has not yet taken a position on expansion.”

It was thought that expansion could be decided at a meeting of chancellors and presidents in Irving, Tex., in the middle of next month, although that could be pushed to the end of the year, if not the beginning of 2017. A total of 11 schools made the cut as “finalists” should the Big 12 expand, with those nearly dozen schools presenting their cases over the past couple of weeks.

Of the 11, seven come from the AAC — Cincinnati, Houston, SMU, Tulane, UCF, UConn, USF — two from the Mountain West — Air Force, Colorado State — and one from Conference USA — Rice. The lone remaining school, BYU, is a football independent.

Domestic abuse, child endangerment charges dropped against LSU’s Davon Godchaux

BATON ROUGE, LA - NOVEMBER 08: T.J. Yeldon #4 of the Alabama Crimson Tide is tackled by Davon Godchaux #57 of the LSU Tigers  during a game at Tiger Stadium on November 8, 2014 in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.  (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)
Getty Images
Leave a comment

An off-field incident involving one playing member of the LSU football program has taken a positive turn for the Tiger.

The East Baton Rouge District Attorney’s office confirmed Tuesday evening that no formal charges will be filed against Davon Godchaux. The starting defensive end was arrested over the weekend on charges of false imprisonment and domestic abuse/child endangerment in connection to a domestic situation.

Godchaux (pictured, No. 57) had been accused of getting into an altercation with his girlfriend and preventing her from leaving their apartment with their 10-month old child.

“The primary basis for this change of booking (dropped charges) was the inconsistent statements of (the woman) and of Mr. Godchaux and the physical evidence,” DA Hillar Moore III said. “And not her request to dismiss these charges.”

The girlfriend reportedly had a swollen lip and red marks around her neck while Godchaux had cuts on his gums. The woman was charged with domestic abuse/child endangerment as well; that charge is still pending a formal charging decision, Moore stated.

Godchaux was indefinitely suspended by interim head coach Ed Orgeron following the arrest, and remains that way as of Wednesday morning, a school official said.

The junior has started 26 games during his time with the Tigers, including all four in 2016. His 20 tackles are currently fifth on the team, while his two tackles for loss are fifth as well.

FSU says ‘Pigg’ Harrison suspended; report says WR has left program

TALLAHASSEE, FL - APRIL 11:  Ja'Vonn Harrison #13 of the Garnett team catches a pass in front of Marquez White #27 of the Gold team during Florida State's Garnet and Gold spring game at Doak Campbell Stadium on April 11, 2015 in Tallahassee, Florida.  (Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images)
Getty Images
2 Comments

There appears to be some confusion regarding the status of Ja’Vonn “Pigg” Harrison, but one thing is seemingly certain — the wide receiver won’t see the field for the Seminoles for the foreseeable future, if ever again.

Following practice Tuesday, FSU head coach Jimbo Fisher announced that Harrison has been suspended from his football team. The only reason given was an unspecified violation of team rules.

“As of right now, he’s suspended,” the head coach said in quotes distributed by the team. “We’ll see what happens. Team violation.”

However, TomahawkNation.com is reporting that third-year junior has left the team completely and intends to transfer.

A four-star member of FSU 2014 recruiting class, Harrison was rated as the No. 30 player at any position in the state of Florida and the 197 player overall on 247Sports.com‘s composite board. The Lakeland native, however, never quite lived up to that recruiting pedigree.

Including this season, Harrison has played in 20 games in his career, starting one of those contest (2016 vs. Ole Miss). He caught eight passes for 139 yards and a touchdown. Six of those receptions, 129 of the yards and the lone touchdown came in 2015. This season, he had one catch for nine yards.