Heisman ballots will go out next week, which means that the remaining games on the schedule are huge. I don’t think we’ll see any major changes in the race after this weekend, but we could see a couple candidates do quite a bit to strengthen their resumes in preparation for the final push toward the trophy at season’s end.
Here are the four games this weekend that you need to watch:
Syracuse at Florida State, 3:30 p.m. ET
Jameis Winston (who also plays baseball) has been thrown quite a curve ball with the allegations of sexual battery that have just come out. Can he overcome the pressure and, once again, knock it out of the park, so to speak? This game provides him an opportunity to showcase his ability before a swath of Northeast voters. One thing working in Winston’s favor is that the ACC is spread across three Heisman voting regions: The South, Mid-Atlantic and Northeast. If Winston once again puts on a show, I think he maintains his position as the tentative Heisman front runner, though I think a few voters will continue to be nagged by these allegations and remain open to other options if they are not addressed or resolved before the vote is due. The worst thing for him would be to have a lackluster game on par with what he did last week against Wake Forest. Some might interpret such a performance as evidence that he was wilting a bit under pressure and, since FSU goes off the grid next week when it plays Idaho, the buzz over his on-the-field performance would die down a bit…and at just the wrong time. But he can avoid all that by just playing at his normal remarkable level against the Orange.
Utah at Oregon, 4 p.m .ET
As disastrous as Oregon’s loss was to Stanford, it wasn’t a complete meltdown for Marcus Mariota’s Heisman hopes. He still maintains a very nice stat sheet and if he can bounce back with a huge game against the Utes — while keeping that interception-free streak alive — he will continue to be a viable alternative for those who are reluctant to vote for either Winston or Johnny Manziel, for whatever that reason may be. A lackluster game against Utah will make it much harder for Mariota to mount a real comeback. He needs to be lights out the rest of the way.
Texas Tech vs. Baylor, 7 p.m. ET
Bryce Petty passed his first test last week, accounting for five touchdowns against Oklahoma. Winston’s off-the-field issues, plus the lackluster opponent FSU faces, gives Petty a bit of an opening to gain some ground in the race by putting on a dazzling display against the recently-ranked Red Raiders. Another strong game from the junior quarterback would set up a marquee matchup next week against Oklahoma State and provide a national platform for him to make his case.
Alabama at Mississippi State, 7:45 ET
This month is set up for AJ McCarron to make a run at the Heisman. He played well last week against LSU and now faces a much easier test against the Bulldogs, who have struggled with pass defense. It’s vital that McCarron has a big game here, as the Tide will be off the radar next week when they play Chattanooga. He’ll need a bit of momentum heading into the huge showdown against a potentially one-loss Auburn team. Mustering up a three or four touchdown day against MSU would be just what the doctor ordered.