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Winston will win the Heisman, but by how much?

Jameis Winston Getty Images

By now, the cat’s pretty much out of the bag: Jameis Winston is going to win the Heisman Trophy this coming Saturday.

For those who like to follow the ins and outs of the Heisman, though, the question now is: What will the margin look like?  Will the Florida State freshman take home the trophy in a landslide of epic proportions or will the race be a little closer, reflecting the fact that there are six finalists in New York for the ceremony?

Let’s first throw out the idea that this race is going to be close. It won’t. The six finalists merely reflect the lack of a consensus challenger to Winston. The way the Heisman Trust decides who is named a finalist is based on the distribution of the vote totals. They always start with a minimum of three finalists. If there is not a significant drop off from the point total of the third-place finisher to that of the fourth-place finisher, then a fourth finalist is added. The same rule is applied to the gap between fourth and fifth. If they are in the same ballpark, then a fifth finalist is named. This year, there was not much of a gap between the fifth and sixth-place finishers, so we have six.

But to figure out the extent of Winston’s winning margin, one first needs to have an idea of what some past Heisman votes looked like. Here are the biggest landslides in Heisman history:

Player Year Margin
OJ Simpson 1968 1,750 points
Troy Smith 2006 1,662 points
Charlie Ward 1993 1,622 points
Desmond Howard 1991 1,574 points
Ricky Williams 1998 1,563 points
Vinny Testaverde 1986 1,541 points
Howard Cassady 1955 1,477 points
Roger Staubach 1963 1,356 points
Dick Kazmaier 1951 1,353 points
Billy Cannon 1959 1,316 points
Cam Newton 2010 1,184 points

Smith’s total might be the most relevant in this discussion since the number of voters in 2006 (924) is about the same as it is now (928), whereas in Simpson’s day there were 1,200. Smith also holds the record for highest percentage of first-place votes claimed as his 801 first-place votes were 86 percent of the total first-place votes received. Simpson’s 855 first-place votes remains the overall record, but it was from a larger pool of voters.

So can Winston approach Smith’s level of support? Or will his result look more like Cam Newton’s, whose 729 first-place votes in 2010 is fourth all-time in Heisman history ? Voters that year either voted Newton first, or left him off the ballot altogether — he was missing from 119 ballots — which is why his margin of victory is only 11th-best in Heisman history. Or perhaps Winston’s coming landslide will be impressive, but not among the top 10.

A peek at the Heisman regions might provide a clue.

There are six Heisman voting regions: The Far West, the Mid-West, the Southwest, the South, the Mid-Atlantic and the Northeast. There are 145 media members in each region (with 57 former Heisman winners scattered nationally). It’s a safe assumption that Winston will win every one of these regions. But what kind of support will the other finalists get?

It makes sense that Andre Williams will finish second in the Northeast. Johnny Manziel will do well in the Southwest and South. Much of AJ McCarron’s support will come in the South, as will Tre Mason’s. Jordan Lynch should fare well in the Mid-West.

It stands to reason that the fewest first-place votes for Winston will come in the South, since there are three other candidates vying for votes who either come from or play in that region. If McCarron, Manziel and Mason combine to take away just 40 of the 145 votes in that region — a seemingly valid proposition — that automatically reduces Winston’s potential first place vote total to 887.

For Winston’s first-place vote total to drop to Newtonian range, then, he would have to lose a combined 150 or so first-place votes in the remaining five regions. Can the other five finalists average 30 first-place votes per region in the those regions, comprising 725 ballots? That’s merely an average of six first-place votes per region for each player.

I think they  will do so, especially when you consider that there remains a handful of voters who will leave Winston off their ballots due to the accusations that were made against him. When you also keep in mind that — based on recent history — around 900 ballots out of the 928 will be returned, it makes Winston’s chances of scoring an epic landslide less likely.

Will the vote be a runaway for Winston? Yes. But based on these deductions, it’s probably not going to be among the top 10 landslides in Heisman history.

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17 Responses to “Winston will win the Heisman, but by how much?”
  1. tigers182 says: Dec 10, 2013 9:37 PM

    Why not just let the voting take place and report on it? Why need round-the-clock coverage of who’s voting for who and by how much? Evidence of too much media and too little to report.

  2. thefiesty1 says: Dec 10, 2013 9:44 PM

    Another red shirt freshman shouldn’t get the Heisman. See what it did for Johnny Pigskin.

  3. blacknole08 says: Dec 10, 2013 9:48 PM

    I predict he will win by 2000 points. It’s been his for awhile now.

  4. halbert53 says: Dec 11, 2013 12:44 AM

    All late season, people have been looking for a viable alternative to Winston because of the bad example JM set as freshman Heisman and the rape allegation. All season, Auburn was under the radar. The auburn win over Bama and the SEC championship game has created a huge groundswell for Tre Mason. It came too late in the season, but Mason will get a substantial number of votes . Winston will win by comfortable margin but it won’t be a huge runaway.

  5. 1historian says: Dec 11, 2013 7:59 AM

    Let’s not forget that the award is named after the coach who coached Georgia Tech to the worst defeat in college football history – 1915 John Heisman coached Georgia Tech to a 222-0 victory over Cumberland College.

    1st quarter – 63-0
    2nd quarter – 126-0
    3rd quarter – 180-0
    final score – 222-0

    look it up

  6. 8to80texansblog says: Dec 11, 2013 10:53 AM

    First of all, who cares how many points he wins by?? I don’t think anyone would ever say that Winston has had the greatest season in CFB history or anywhere close for that matter.

    What winning by a large margin tells me is there is really no other viable competitors.

  7. zjmbo says: Dec 11, 2013 12:31 PM

    What a Circus!!! The Heisman committee needs to be replaced. Its no wonder that so many Heisman winners flop in the NFL, as the committee doesn’t know talent when they see it. The two BEST players in the country aren’t even on the list of invites. Their stats clearly show that these two players out perform all that were invited. Both Arizona RB Ka’Deem Carey and Oregon QB Marcus Mariota are the two best players at their position in the country. The fact that they are left out, disgraces the integrity of the Heisman itself. A slightly better than average QB, that is possibly a rapist as the Heisman …. WOW!! What is wrong with you people?

  8. tictoccpthook says: Dec 11, 2013 12:55 PM

    The ‘Heisman’ will now be associated with unsavory character!. Why not give more than one trophy, that way Gonzalez can have one in jail, and Incognito can have one while sitting on the couch. Together they scream Florida character issue.

  9. ob1canobie says: Dec 11, 2013 1:20 PM

    A rapist winning the Heisman… great. Anyone who has looked at the story should be casting a vote for anyone BUT this guy. Sickens me if he wins and stains the trophy.

  10. 8to80texansblog says: Dec 11, 2013 2:20 PM


    The Heisman is not given to the best pro prospect or even really the best player. Otherwise the #1 overall pick and the Heisman trophy winner would almost always be the same guy….

    It is given to the best player on a BCS team with less than 3 losses, with overwhelming bias towards a QB of an undefeated team…..

  11. 2late2matter says: Dec 11, 2013 3:25 PM

    The Heisman attracts controversy in its candidates, but the hard core statistics still show it is Johnny Manziel’s trophy – unless another less-savory college player is voted the winner.

    My bet is a second-year’s win for Manziel.

  12. bobsnygiants says: Dec 11, 2013 3:26 PM

    should’nt win……

  13. zjmbo says: Dec 11, 2013 3:31 PM

    Clearly you missed the point and you don’t understand the process either …. in the Heisman Trust Mission Statement, they state: The Heisman Trophy annually recognizes the outstanding College football player whose performance best exhibits the pursuit of excellence with integrity. This statement in itself, disqualifies Winston …… regardless, both Carey and Mariota exhibit these qualities as much and more than the chosen candidates. Its a flawed system with a clear bias against west coast conferences.

  14. threebbuilders says: Dec 11, 2013 3:47 PM

    If alleged murderers (O.J.) can win, why not alleged rapists?

  15. fsu01 says: Dec 11, 2013 4:49 PM

    Glad so many of you still believe in the presumption of innocence. Secondly, the only thing we know for sure about Jameis Winston is that he had sex outside of marriage, and if as so many of you say that does not meet the standard of the award and will tarnish it, we have to assume that all other candidates are virgins. If that becomes the new standard then I guess it is no longer a national award rather it will be the BYU’s mvp trophy.

  16. 8to80texansblog says: Dec 11, 2013 5:15 PM

    threebbuilders says: Dec 11, 2013 3:47 PM

    If alleged murderers (O.J.) can win, why not alleged rapists?

    That’s just dumb….

  17. tictoccpthook says: Dec 12, 2013 4:29 PM

    Let’s say that screwing around all you want is no problem. O.K., that = to zero on the character scale (unless you want to give points for conquests). Now, what does this guy have to offer as far as ‘integrity’ points? Touchdowns?

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