Jameis Winston

Winston will win the Heisman, but by how much?


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.

Bud Foster says he is too invested in Virginia Tech to leave Hokies

Bud Foster

For years there was a thought that Virginia Tech defensive coordinator Bud Foster would one day be the successor to longtime head coach Frank Beamer. With Beamer announcing his decision to retire at the end of the season, there was never any word about Foster being handed the keys to the program. Instead, Virginia Tech has found a coach with an offensive identity in the hiring of Justin Fuente from Memphis. Given the way coaching changes can tend to go, nobody would have blamed Foster for being a tad miffed at not getting the job in Blacksburg, but he will remain the defensive coordinator of the Hokies as a key member of Fuente’s new staff. He says he has put in too much work to leave now.

“I’m rooted in here. We put a lot of blood, sweat and tears in this place,” Foster said Monday. “It wasn’t hard. I wouldn’t have stayed here for as long as I’ve had if I didn’t feel like we had the opportunity to win at the highest level. I feel that more than ever right now.”

Fuente being able to keep Foster on the staff is a huge advantage. Foster not only ensures Fuente will have a dependable coach managing the defense, which should remain one of the top defensive units in the ACC as long as he stays put. Keeping Foster on the staff also allows for some tremendous stability during the transition, which can always be key when a coach with no previous ties to the university takes over a program. Foster can help Fuente get acclimated to his new surroundings and also keep valuable recruiting ties alive and well during the change.

Foster acknowledged he would love to one day be a head coach, and that dream will continue, but for now he is more interested in contributing at Virginia Tech.

“I always wanted to be a head coach. This would be a dream job. I’m happy with where I am. I’ll never be bitter. I won’t cry myself to sleep wishing “what-ifs” and they type of thing. My goal is to be the best football coach I can possibly be. I want to help this program be the best football program it can possibly be.”

Maryland wasting no time getting in touch with Mark Richt

Mark Richt

On Monday morning Georgia head coach Mark Richt said he was absolutely going to continue coaching even though his days at Georgia are coming to an end. If that is the case, Maryland would like to make that a reality for Richt.

According to a report from Inside MD Sports, Maryland has made first contact with Richt and a meeting could come as soon as tomorrow. Maryland is looking to fill a head coaching vacancy after firing Randy Edsall during the season. Richt will not be the only potential candidate to interview for the Maryland job. The Washington Post reported Monday interim head coach Mike Locksley was also given a chance to interview for the job on a permanent basis. That interview was reportedly set to happen Monday.

It would make sense for Maryland to make a call to Richt. With Under Armour CEO Kevin Plank looking to help build the Maryland program, there are sufficient funds to make a splashy hire for the program, which is showing signs of a well-structured future with plans to improve the football program. The Maryland job has some good potential in the long-term and competes in the same division as some tough opponents. That would include at least two coaches Richt is very familiar with; Ohio State’s Urban Meyer and Penn State’s James Franklin. Richt faced Meyer when the Buckeyes head coach was at Florida, and Franklin of course coached at Vanderbilt. All three were in the same SEC East Division down south. Could they be reunited in the Big Ten East in 2016?

Whatever the case may be, if Maryland can land Richt as its next head coach, it would be a tremendous hire for the Terrapins. Heck, he already has the attire for it.

Unlike Missouri, 5-7 Nebraska will jump at opportunity to go bowling

Cethan Carter

Nebraska will be first in line to accept a bowl invitation when it arrives in the mail, despite going 5-7 this season. The Huskers, who are first in line among 5-7 candidates based on APR scores, will reportedly accept a bowl invitation to fill the first vacancy left to fill once all bowl-eligible teams are slotted into the postseason mix.

Missouri released a statement earlier today saying it will not accept a bowl invitation following a 5-7 season. The Tigers would have been the second team among 5-7 teams to receive a bowl invitation based on APR scores. According to a report by Brett McMurphy of ESPN.com, Kansas State would be next in line, followed by Minnesota, San Jose State, Illinois and Rice.

Missouri and Nebraska would appear to have different agendas of course. Nebraska is coming off the first season under new head coach Mike Riley, while Missouri is in the midst of a full coaching search. The decision not to go to a bowl game allows Missouri’s coaching staff in place under the now retired Gary Pinkel to pursue new opportunities without having bowl preparations get in the way.

Maryland sack master Yannick Ngakoue entering NFL Draft

Yannick Ngakoue, Christian Hackenberg
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Maryland will have a new head coach in 2016. Whoever that head coach ends up being will have to find a way to replace one of Maryland’s best players. Defensive lineman Yannick Ngakoue says he will skip his final year of eligibility with the Terrapins and declare for the 2016 NFL Draft.

Ngakoue was the second in the Big Ten with 13.0 sacks this season, trailing only Penn State defensive lineman Carl Nassib. Ngakoue’s sack total is a Maryland school record and was one of the few reasons for optimism for Maryland’s dreadful football season, which ended with just three wins.