Winston will win the Heisman, but by how much?

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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.

Pitt landing another ex-USC QB as a transfer

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Max Browne made the move from USC to Pitt work.  Ricky Town could be hoping for some of the same transferring magic.

Town’s private quarterback coach confirmed to 247Sports.com that Town has committed to continuing his FBS playing career at Pitt.  The move to the Panthers comes after Town took a visit to the football program this past weekend.

“This is the perfect system for him,” Town’s tutor, Donovan Dooley, told the recruiting website. “I think the pro-style system is good for him.”

Originally a USC signee, Town announced in mid-August of 2015 that he would be transferring from the Trojans. Less than a week later, after considering Florida as well, Town landed at Arkansas.  In December of 2016, Town transferred from the Razorbacks as well.

Town spent the 2017 season at a California junior college, which would allow him to play immediately for a Panthers program that has already lost two quarterbacks to transfer in the last week.  The California native has two years of eligibility remaining.

Town was a four-star member of the Trojans’ 2015 recruiting class, rated as the No. 6 pro-style quarterback in the country; the No. 15 player at any position in the state of California; and the No. 79 player overall on 247Sports.com‘s composite board.  In January of 2014, Town pulled his verbal commitment from Alabama and gave it to USC.

Texas LB Malik Jefferson’s status for bowl game still up in the air

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As Texas prepares to play in the Texas Bowl against former Big 12 foe Missouri, it remains unknown whether or not linebacker Malik Jefferson will play.

Jefferson was reportedly diagnosed with a case of turf toe recently and is said to be considered day-to-day. Nick Moyle of the San Antonio Express-News reported the medical update via Twitter, and he also notes Jefferson still has not made a definitive decision on whether to leave for the NFL or not.

Jefferson would be considered a solid draft pick option at linebacker in the event he decides to leave Texas a year early to pursue a chance to play in the NFL. How this injury might impact that decision is nothing but speculation. However, players deciding to take to the NFL Draft the following spring have increasingly made the trendy decision to forgo their senior season and skip the bowl game when injuries play a factor. If Jefferson is to go to the NFL, it would not be a stunner to see him decide to skip out on the bowl game as well.

Jefferson is Texas’ leader in tackles this season with 110, including 79 solo tackles.

Lane Kiffin’s biggest recruit to FAU may be Snoop Dogg

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There is no denying the allegiance Snoop Dogg has for his beloved USC Trojans, but Lane Kiffin has managed to find some room in Snoop’s rooting interests to bring him aboard the Lane Train. With Kiffin preparing FAU for their upcoming bowl game in the Boa Raton Bowl this week, Kiffin managed to bring Snoop Dogg and Luther Campbell out to a practice.

Campbell, of course, is a Miami fan, but FAU has become a bit of a popular secondary team with Kiffin to lead the charge. Getting Uncle Luke to suit up in FAU gear and pose for a picture with Snoop Dogg deserves an automatic retweet of Kiffin’s account on Twitter.

Kiffin coached FAU to the Conference USA championship in his first season as the head coach of the Owls. With a good blend of JUCO transfers and new offensive mindset, FAU soared under Kiffin as he rebuilt his coaching pedigree. Kiffin remains one of the names to watch in the coaching carousel, although this year’s cycle may have gone through the motions without Kiffin getting a chance somewhere else. But if Kiffin is successful in Year 2, the Lane Train may be leaving the Boca Raton station for another destination soon enough.

Middle Tennessee holds on to win the bizarre (and turnover-filled) Camellia Bowl over Arkansas State

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Middle Tennessee State entered the Camellia Bowl 121st in the country in turnover margin and had lost the battle in nine of their 12 games this season. Arkansas State was only a little bit better in the same category, ranking 81st in turnover margin in 2017. Predictably those kinds of statistics came into play on Saturday night in the Camellia Bowl as the two sides played a bit of hot potato — six giveaways — before MTSU hung on for a 35-30 win to cap off the first day of bowl season in college football.

Blue Raiders quarterback Brent Stockstill had a game that could have been a nightmare for a veteran quarterback but ended up being alright thanks to his defense continually picking him on a night where chunk plays were hard to come by. The signal-caller threw the first of his three interceptions on the night on the first drive of the game but bounced back over the final three quarters, throwing for 232 yards and a pair of touchdown passes. That kind of performance, which included several big throws in the second half, helped secure the first bowl victory of his career and give him the rare distinction of being able to win a postseason game with his father Rick as head coach.

It wasn’t all about the Stockstill combo for MTSU however as their run game produced a pair of touchdowns behind tailbacks Terelle West and Tavares Thomas, and the team’s defense had one of their best outings of the season to limit the Sun Belt’s highest scoring offense to well below all their season averages. Linebacker Darius Harris led the way when his unit was on the field, flying from sideline-to-sideline and racking up 12 tackles, a sack, a forced fumble and a two pass break ups. His running mate at linebacker, D.J. Sanders, was equally productive with seven tackles and a 54 yard fumble return for a touchdown just before halftime.

The Red Wolves did what they could to threaten to make things interesting down the stretch but never could get over the hill. The team ran a fake punt to open fourth quarter, resulting in a 21 yard strike from the punter to gunner Chris Murray along the sidelines and appeared to seize momentum after a subsequent  touchdown to Warren Wand. However the defense failed to get a stop and then Sun Belt Offensive Player of the Year Justice Hansen (337 yards, 3TD, 1 INT) threw a fourth down pass out of the end zone to all but seal a rather lackluster loss for a team that had won six of the last eight coming into the bowl.

Arkansas State also came up a bit short in the record books on the defensive side of the ball as well. In addition to allowing 35 points to MTSU, conference player of the year Ja’Von Rolland-Jones failed to record a sack and thus couldn’t break the NCAA career record (held by former Arizona State and current Baltimore Ravens star Terrell Suggs) of 44 career sacks after entering the game just shy of the mark with 43.5. While the pass rusher did manage to sack Stockstill in the game, the play was negated by a penalty to keep him from taking over on the all-time list.

The victory pushed Middle Tennessee over the .500 mark for the fifth time in six seasons and likely meant a little bit more to the program given how many key injuries the team suffered over the course of 2017 before capturing their first bowl win in eight years. Arkansas State did their best to prevent that from happening as they dropped to 7-5 on the season after a rather bizarre Camellia Bowl that had a little bit of everything.