Jameis Winston tops final HeismanPundit Straw Poll

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For the second year in a row, a redshirt freshman has topped the college football season’s final HeismanPundit.com Heisman Straw Poll.

Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston collected seven out of 10 possible first-place votes and totaled a season-best 26 points from the weekly survey of Heisman voters, putting him on the verge of becoming a landslide winner of the most prestigious trophy in sports.

The result comes just five days after Florida state authorities decided against charging Winston for felony sexual assault and two days after the freshman led the Seminoles to a 45-7 victory over Duke in the ACC title game to complete an undefeated regular season.

To get to this point, Winston set NCAA freshman records this season for passing yards (3,820) and passing touchdowns (38) and produced a passer rating of 190.06, just below the all-time efficiency mark of 191.78 held by Russell Wilson of Wisconsin. If, as the poll predicts, Winston goes on to win the Heisman, he’ll do so with the highest passer rating in the trophy’s history.

He will be the third Florida State player to win the Heisman and first since Chris Weinke did so in 2000, which was also the last time the Seminoles made it to the BCS national title game. He’s also set to be the youngest player to win the trophy, beating out Alabama’s Mark Ingram by 14 days.

“He’s been spectacular all season,” said one voter. “Florida State has been a juggernaut on offense and he’s the main reason for it. No other candidate has been as consistent as he has been.”

The lack of consistency by other candidates in the race is reflected in the poll’s results, which includes a HeismanPundit Straw Poll-record 12 players in the final balloting, topping the 11 selected in 2009′s final poll (when Mark Ingram defeated Toby Gerhart by the closest vote in Heisman history).

If this year’s poll is correct, Northern Illinois quarterback Jordan Lynch will take second in the race and claim the highest Heisman finish by a non-BCS-conference player in the BCS era. Lynch grabbed two first-place votes to finish with eight points, well behind Winston’s total.

Defending winner Johnny Manziel of Texas A&M was third with seven points, while running back Tre Mason of Auburn picked up the last first-place vote to finish fourth with five points.

Alabama’s AJ McCarron was fifth with four points.

Now in its eighth season, the HeismanPundit.com Heisman Straw Poll is the college football world’s most trusted gauge of Heisman voter sentiment. It has been the most accurate Heisman poll in the country during the past seven seasons, with the final 2012 poll correctly picking the top five finishers and the final 2011 poll picking the top seven. This year’s poll is made up of 10 anonymous Heisman voters from across the country. Each week during the season they picked three players. Tabulations for the preseason poll are tabulated like a real Heisman ballot, with three points awarded for a first-place vote, two points for a second-place vote and one point for a third-place vote.

Each week’s poll was released on Tuesdays throughout the season at HeismanPundit.com. Heisman votes are due on Monday, Dec. 9 at 5 p.m ET. The finalists for the 2013 Heisman Trophy ceremony will be announced at 6 p.m. on Dec. 9 and the trophy will be awarded on Saturday, Dec. 14.

The HeismanPundit.com Heisman Straw Poll, 12/9/2013

Total Points (with first place votes in parentheses)

1. Jameis Winston, QB, Florida State — 26 (7)

2. Jordan Lynch, QB, Northern Illinois — 8 (2)

3. Johnny Manziel, QB, Texas A&M — 7

4. Tre Mason, RB, Auburn — 5 (1)

5. AJ McCarron, QB, Alabama — 4

6. (tie) Marcus Mariota, QB, Oregon — 2

Derek Carr, QB, Fresno State — 2

8. (tie) Andre Williams, RB, Boston College — 1

Bryce Petty, QB, Baylor — 1

Teddy Bridgewater, QB, Louisville — 1

Shayne Skov, LB, Stanford — 1

Aaron Donald, DT, Pittsburgh — 1

Number of ballots
Winston — 8
Lynch — 4
McCarron — 4
Manziel — 4
Mason — 3

Everyone else — 1

Pitt FB/TD machine George Aston set to return vs. Georgia Tech

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One of the most efficient touchdown producers in college football in 2016 that you were probably completely unaware of appears ready to make his 2017 debut.

A vague lower-extremity injury knocked George Aston out of most of not only summer camp but also Pittsburgh’s first three regular-season games as well. With Georgia Tech on the horizon in Week 4, the fullback is listed as probable on the team’s official injury report released Thursday.

For a team that has scored just four offensive touchdowns in two games against FBS competition, Aston’s potential return could serve as somewhat of a boon for that side of the ball.

Last season, Aston totaled 75 yards on 22 carries as well as 169 yards on 22 receptions. In those 44 touches, Aston totaled 10 touchdowns — five on the ground, five through the air.

Saturday’s game will serve as the ACC opener for both Pitt and Tech.

NCAA approves waiver to allow UCF to schedule Austin Peay as hurricane replacement game

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Hurricane Irma forced a lot of shuffling and cancellations on the college football schedule but perhaps no team was more uniquely affected than Central Florida.

The Knights had two home games cancelled as a result of the storm, last weekend against Georgia Tech and a contest against Maine that was bought out as a way for the team to play their full AAC conference slate. Dropping the games left UCF with only 10 games for the 2017 season and a not ideal five home games as a result.

That has been cleared up somewhat however, as the school announced on Thursday that the NCAA has approved a waiver and that Austin Peay is now scheduled to go to Orlando for a Oct. 28th contest.

“I can’t thank Oliver Luck and the staff at the NCAA enough for their help and understanding of our situation,” UCF athletic director Danny White said in a statement. “We greatly appreciate Austin Peay being willing to visit Spectrum Stadium. We’re thrilled for our student-athletes, who deserve every opportunity they can get to go out and compete. I know our fans will be excited about the opportunity to have another Saturday at Spectrum Stadium.”

The Knights are currently 1-0 heading into their trip to play Maryland on Saturday. With the addition of an 11th game to their 2017 slate, UCF needs to go at least 6-5 in order to become bowl eligible as a result.

Clemson kicker Greg Huegel injured during practice, out for the season after ACL tear

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If Clemson is to defend their national title this season, they will do so without the services of their reliable kicker.

The school confirmed various reports on Thursday evening that redshirt junior Greg Huegel was injured during the Tigers’ practice on Wednesday night — on the final kick, no less — and tore his ACL. He will have surgery and will not play again in 2017.

While he didn’t get the press of Deshuan Watson or others, Huegel was a key part of the Clemson run the past few seasons after taking over as the starter in 2015. The former walk-on was a Lou Groza Award semifinalist last year and had hit two of his four field goals to start off this season, one of which was a career-long 49 yard kick just last week.

Backup kicker Alex Spence is likely to take over for the Tigers in Huegel’s absence. The redshirt junior has never attempted a field goal in a game but has kicked off and made an extra point for Clemson this season.

Reserve tight end Cole Renfrow, the younger brother of title game star Hunter Renfrow, also tore his ACL in practice and is out the rest of the season as well.

Given the thin margins that College Football Playoff teams have nowadays, the loss of Huegel figures to be a big one for Dabo Swinney and company going forward. Clemson hosts Boston College this week but will face a stiff test on the road at Virginia Tech in an ACC title game rematch to end the month.

Notre Dame, Western Michigan agree to 2020 game in South Bend

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More #MACtion is heading to South Bend.

Western Michigan and Notre Dame announced on Thursday that the two schools have agreed to a single game series that will take place on Saturday, Sept. 19, 2020. It will mark the fourth time the two teams have met in their long histories, but a decade since they last faced off in a 44-20 Irish win back in 2010.

The Broncos will receive a $1.175 million payout from Notre Dame for the game according to a release.

While playing a MAC team is a bit of a regular occurrence for Notre Dame now, their meeting with WMU back in 2010 was actually the first time they ever played a team from the conference. The Irish play at least one opponent from the MAC from now until at least 2021 with Western Michigan added to their slate of future games.

The Irish have been busy filling out the 2020 schedule and have just one opening remaining with this contract being signed. The Broncos join home games against Arkansas and Stanford, a trip to Charlotte to play Wake Forest, Wisconsin at Lambeau Field, the annual USC game in Los Angeles and the opener at MetLife Stadium outside New York City against Navy. Additional games against Clemson, Duke, Louisville (at home) and a road trip to Pittsburgh are also on tap as part of the ACC scheduling agreement.