Saturday night, and even as anyone with an Internet connection or television set already knows who it will be, one of six players will take home one of the most prestigious awards in all of sports, the Heisman Trophy.
More than likely, viewers won’t be tuning in to see who wins; rather, they’ll take a peek to see if Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston can make it a historic night vote-wise while also becoming the second straight redshirt freshman to claim college football’s highest honor.
Ahead of that ceremony, here’s a quick primer on tomorrow’s activities as well as a brief historical look at the iconic stiff-armed trophy.
WHAT: the 79th Annual Heisman Memorial Trophy
WHERE: New York City
WHEN: Sat., Dec. 14, at 8 pm ET on ESPN
WHO: In addition to Winston, the finalists are Northern Illinois quarterback Jordan Lynch, Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel, Auburn running back Tre Mason, Alabama quarterback AJ McCarron and Boston College running back Andre Williams.
Winston, in his first year as a starter at this level, has already set a slew of school and national freshman records in helping FSU to its first BCS title game since the 1999 season. Winston finished the regular season leading the nation in passing efficiency; second in passing touchdowns and yards per completion; and eighth in passing yards.
Manziel, of course, is the reigning Heisman Trophy winner, becoming the first redshirt freshman to capture the award last year. In attempting to become the second player to win back-to-back Heismans, Manziel has actually thrown for more yards (3,732-3,706), has more touchdown passes (33-26) and a higher completion percentage (69.1-68) than he did last season. Where Manziel has lagged is with his feet; after rushing for 1,410 yards and 21 touchdowns in 2012, the A&M quarterback totaled “just” 686 and eight in 2013.
In leading the nation in rushing with 2,102 yards, Williams has topped the 200-yard mark five times and the 300-yard mark once in putting up the ninth-best single-season rushing performance in FBS history. He’s also just the second BC Eagle to be named a finalist, joining 1984 winner Doug Flutie. While Lynch plays quarterback, he’s second to Williams in rushing yards with 1,881 and is tied for third in the nation with 22 rushing touchdowns. The NIU senior is just the third player ever from the MAC to be named a Heisman finalist, joining a pair of players from Marshall — wide receiver Randy Moss (1997) and Chad Pennington (1999).
Tied for third in the country in rushing touchdowns with Lynch is Mason, who, like his Tigers team, seemingly came out of nowhere toward the end of the season to put both himself and his program in the national spotlight. Mason’s 1,621 yards are sixth in the nation and played a significant role in putting the Tigers into the BCS title game against Winston’s Seminoles.
In McCarron’s three years as a starter, the Tide has gone 36-3 and won a pair of BCS championships. He’s eighth in the country in passing efficiency this season after finishing No. 1 in 2012, and has thrown just 15 interceptions — and 75 touchdowns — in 996 career attempts.
Finally, some historical tidbits on college football’s biggest award.
FIRST AWARDED: Dec. 9, 1935
FIRST WINNER: University of Chicago running back Jay Berwanger
2012 WINNER: Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel
TWO-TIME WINNER: Ohio State running back Archie Griffin (1974 & 1975)
TAINTED WINNER: USC running back Reggie Bush, who had his 2005 win vacated because of NCAA improprieties.
CLASS BREAKDOWN: 56 seniors, 17 juniors, three sophomores and one freshman. Just one senior (Ohio State quarterback Troy Smith, 2006) has won the award the past nine years.
POSITION BREAKDOWN: 38 running backs, 31 quarterbacks, three fullbacks and one cornerback; Yale’s Larry Kelley (1936) and Notre Dame’s Leon Hart (1949) are listed as ends on the official Heisman website. While running back is the position most often awarded, quarterbacks have won 11 of the last 12, the lone exception being Alabama’s Mark Ingram in 2009.
VOTER BREAKDOWN: The Heisman Memorial Trophy electorate is comprised of 928 sports journalists and every living former Heisman winner — 870 of the former, 58 of the latter. The United States is broken down into six sections (Far West, Mid-Atlantic, Midwest, Northeast, South and Southwest), with 145 media members from each section.