Jimbo Fisher, Jameis Winston

Unsettled Heisman race still up in the air with one week to go


This year’s Heisman race has been atypical, to say the least.

Usually at this time of the season, the identity of the winner is pretty clear. But this year’s race has been so unsettled, it’s hard to say with any certainty what’s going to happen.

Let’s recap how we got here.

The season started out with Braxton Miller of Ohio State as the front runner. He got hurt and missed three games. That elevated Marcus Mariota of Oregon to the front runner spot. He looked strong for a while, but his production tapered off a bit, along with his team, in early November (possibly due to injury). As a result, Florida State freshman Jameis Winston became the leader, but now he’s involved in a rape investigation and it’s possible that felony charges are pending as the Heisman voting deadline of Dec. 9 approaches.

The field of candidates below these three has ebbed and flowed. Teddy Bridgewater of Louisville ceased to be a serious candidate when his team lost to UCF in October. Tajh Boyd of Clemson lost his shot when his team was shellacked by Winston’s Florida State squad. Aaron Murray of Georgia fell of when injuries sapped his team’s strength. Bryce Petty of Baylor looked to have a chance but his candidacy was wounded (though perhaps not mortally) when Oklahoma State routed the Bears a couple weekends ago. The slow and steady runner in the race, AJ McCarron of Alabama, lost his prime attribute — his role as the quarterback for a team going for an unprecedented third-straight national title — when Auburn beat the Tide on Saturday. Boston College’s Andre Williams lost his chance to put an exclamation point on his superb season when he was injured against Syracuse, limiting his output against the Orange to just 29 yards. Derek Carr of Fresno State’s fabulous season was marred by his team’s late loss to San Jose State. Jordan Lynch of Northern Illinois continued his remarkable run, but has failed to catch fire at the national level. And, yes, Johnny Manziel was the latest victim of Heismandment No. 9, long may it live.

The major issue hanging over the race is the investigation of Winston. Since he is unlikely to be charged before the Heisman ballots are due, voters are going to have to think long and hard about whether or not to give him the benefit of the doubt. One of the ironies of this race is that the more unsettled it becomes, the more it likely benefits Winston. After all, spurning the FSU freshman is easier to do if there is a consensus alternative to choose from. For about 30 minutes on Saturday, it looked like McCarron might emerge as that guy — and he still might — but Bama’s loss clouds that possibility. So who is that consensus alternative now?

Complicating this analysis a bit is the fact that a few games still yet to be played can sway the race one way or the other. Lynch has a chance to become college football’s first 2,000 passer/2,000 rusher if he has a huge rushing performance in the MAC title game. If he does that, he might give voters wavering over Winston a viable alternative, which may result in denying Winston the trophy (that it would then go to Lynch seems to be a long shot, but stranger things have happened).

Winston himself plays Duke in the ACC title game, affording him another chance to pad his already-considerable production. Baylor takes on Texas, which means Petty has one more shot to impress voters. And Miller will be featured in the Big Ten title game against Michigan State. While Miller won’t win the Heisman, he (and Lynch and Petty) could determine its outcome by sucking away votes that might otherwise go to other contenders.

How the regions shake out will determine the winner. We have a good idea who might win the Northeast, Mid-Atlantic, South and Southwest, but who will win the Far West and MidWest?

The results of this year’s voting could look very much like it did in 2001 (Eric Crouch) and 1962 (Terry Baker). In those years, the victor won by small margins with a point total in the realm of 700 points or so. As many as five contenders below them gained significant enough support to either win a region or depress the winner’s support in a region or two. In Crouch’s case, he won the Heisman despite winning just one region while the runner up, Rex Grossman, won two. We could also see a situation like 1994, when the Heisman Trust decided to invite six finalists to the awards ceremony as a result of significant strength by numerous candidates down the list. Whatever the case, I suspect at least five finalists are in the cards for this year’s ceremony.

There are several outstanding candidates to choose from in this race. As usual, the player who enough voters deem had the most outstanding season will win the trophy. Figuring out who that player will be requires an understanding of what voters look for when making their choice. However, as a Heisman voter myself, I am truly conflicted in this matter. I really have no idea what my final ballot will look like.

Anecdotal evidence suggests I am not alone in this outlook and that’s why this year’s ceremony could be the most suspenseful and dramatic of all time.

Report: Penn State’s Sandusky settlement sum reaches $93 million

Jerry Sandusky

The cost of the fallout from the Jerry Sandusky scandal continues to take a toll on Penn State University. According to a recent report from the Associated Press, the total payout total Penn State has paid to victims of the former defensive coordinator have reached nearly $93 million.

The AP report says recent financial statements from the university show an additional $33.2 million in payments related to claims connected to Sandusky’s crimes. There may be more claims to sort through as well, which means the sum of the payouts could continue to rise. Penn State previously agreed to pay 26 people connected to the Sandusky scandal a total of $56.7 million. To date, 32 claims have been paid off by the university.

Penn State agreed to pay off a $60 million fine issued by the NCAA, with the money going toward addressing child sexual abuse in the state of Pennsylvania. even after the NCAA lifted all terms of the sanctions levied against the university and football program in September 2014, Penn State remained committed to paying the entire fine as a part of a settlement with the NCAA. The NCAA lost a fight to distribute the fine money nationally, so the money will be used in-state.

Sandusky is appealing his court decision finding him guilty of 45 counts of sexual abuse to children, netting him a sentence between 30 and 60 years (effectively a life sentence for the 71-year old convicted felon).

Miami suspends wide receiver shortly before kicking off vs. Pitt

Tyre Brady, Maurice Canady
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Former Big East foes square off in ACC play today when Miami visits Pittsburgh for a noon kickoff. The Hurricanes, however, will be without one offensive player. Sophomore wide receiver Tyre Brady has been suspended by the team for a violation of team rules. The nature of the violation, as is usually the case, has not been clarified beyond that vague description.

Brady is eighth on Miami’s roster with 112 receiving yards and a touchdown. Brady was listed second on the two-deep depth chart for Miami behind starter Herb Waters, Miami’s second-leading receiver with 585 yards and a touchdown.

USF keeps pressure on Temple as UCF joins infamous club

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UCF became the 17th team in college football history to go a full season without celebrating one victory. That adds up to a lot of free bar for patrons at one local establishment this season. UCF’s 0-12 disaster of a season was dealt a final blow by rival South Florida, who tuned up the Knights by a score of 44-3 Thursday night in Orlando. While UCF joined a list no school ever wants to be a part of, USF made sure the pressure will be on Temple to get by Connecticut Saturday afternoon. A loss by Tempel against the Huskies, who just toppled Houston last week, and it will be the Bulls who play for the American Athletic Conference championship next week at either Navy or Houston. The winner of the Navy-Houston game Friday will host the conference championship game.

USF ends its regular season having won four straight games, the last three coming in blowout fashion. After losing at Navy 29-17, USF rallied with a 22-17 victory at East Carolina and followed that up with a decisive 44-23 victory against Temple, a 65-27 thrashing of Cincinnati and last night’s 44-3 demolishing of UCF. Bulls quarterback Quinton Flowers pass for three touchdowns and rushed for two more. USF outgained UCF 455-203 and the defense forced two turnovers in the win. Because USF defeated Temple, the Bulls own a head-to-head tiebreaker that comes into play in the AAC East if Temple loses one more game for an identical conference record. A Temple win against UConn clinches the division for the Owls, who would also play on the road against either Navy or Houston.

UCF is the first winless team in the FBS since Miami Ohio and Georgia State in 2013. It is also the second time since 2000 UCF has gone through a full season without a win. The Knights also had losses pile up against them in 2004, when the Knights were part fo the MAC. UCF’s season saw head coach George O’Leary step down earlier in the season, so the program is now turning a page to find a new head coach. There is still some potential to build something at UCF. After all, this program was in and won the Fiesta Bowl just two seasons ago against Big 12 champion Baylor. The job should be an attractive one for a number of candidates as well.

Trick play by Texas Tech cemented Texas’ bowl-less season

Jakeem Grant

For just the second time since 1998, the Texas Longhorns will not be going to a bowl game this season. A home loss to Texas Tech sealed a winless season for the Longhorns, leaving them at the mercy of a waiting list to get in if they happen to pull a stunner against Baylor in the season finale to go 5-7 and hope there are bowl vacancies to be filled. In other words, don’t count on it. The fate of the Longhorns this season may have been expected for weeks or months, but the final nail in the coffin may be have delivered by a Texas Tech trick play that saw Jakeem Grant  sneak down the left sideline and dodge a couple of defenders on his way to a 40-yard touchdown, which would prove to be the game-winning score.

Up 41-38, Texas Tech forced a Texas turnover on downs at the 40-yard line of the Longhorns with 2:51 to play. Despite Texas having a couple of timeouts to spare, Texas Tech appeared  to line up in a victory formation. Perhaps inspired by the fumblerooski, Kliff Kingsbury had his offense set in a formation that would make it difficult to tell which player had the football until it was too late. Quarterback Patrick Mahomes dropped back deep and appeared to fake a hand-off on his way. Meanwhile, Grant was running with the ball to the left side of the field and found daylight. In the blink of an eye, Texas Tech expanded its lead to 48-38.

Texas still found a way to make Texas Tech sweat it out though. Daje Johnson returned the ensuing kickoff 42-yards and received an extra 15-yards due to a facemask penalty to the Red Raiders special teams unit. Two plays later, Chris Warren III ran eight yards for a touchdown. On Texas Tech’s final possession of the game, there would be no tricks. After Texas was forced to burn each of its two remaining timeouts, Texas Tech set up in a true victory formation for the final two plays of the game as the clock expired and Texas saw its postseason eligibility expire in sync.

This will mark the second straight losing season in Austin for the Longhorns after Texas lost a bowl game last season to end the season at 6-7. The last time Texas had back-to-back losing seasons was in the old Southwest Conference with David McWilliams as the head coach. Texas had consecutive losing and bowl-less seasons in 1988 and 1989. But at least Texas made an appearance in the AP Top 25 in those disappointing seasons. The Longhorns have now gone two straight seasons without appearing in the top 25 for the first time since 1986 and 1987.