Winston’s odd remaining schedule

I don’t think I can recall a Heisman Trophy front runner who faces a closing schedule that is less compelling than the one Jameis Winston now faces.

The Seminoles will play Idaho on Saturday, then a 5-6 Florida team and then, most likely, Duke.

And I am beginning to wonder if it will have some effect on his Heisman hopes. To wit, will voters bother to tune in to watch him in these final weeks?

With FSU’s win over Miami earlier this month (and before that Clemson) still relatively fresh in the minds of voters, Winston’s candidacy hasn’t really been affected much by scheduling issues up to this point. But there remains a chance that he has peaked too soon and that the more intriguing matchups featuring the other candidates could, in these closing weeks, whittle away at the case he has built for himself.

Past winners have tended to play in high-profile games toward the end of the season that have enabled them to put a final stamp on their Heisman resumes. Since 80 to 90 percent of Heisman voters wait until the last week to fill out their ballots, they can be heavily influenced by what takes place in the traditional matchups and conference title games that happen at the end of the year. Sometimes, what they see merely confirms what they’ve been thinking the whole time. Other times, it brings new information that enables them to make up their mind.

Therefore, unless enough voters have already made up their minds about Winston for him to win, we probably won’t see much movement his way in the final weeks. Those who are undecided or persuadable one way or another will probably not tune in to see FSU take on Duke since the Pac-12 and Big Ten title games are also scheduled for that time slot while Baylor is scheduled to take on Texas in what could be a de facto Big 12 title game. If anything, we may see some movement away from him, unless the other candidates fail to provide compelling cases on their own. So the question is: Has he built up enough of a lead in the minds of voters for his remaining schedule to keep him afloat?

To illustrate what Winston might be up against, here are the final three games of the most recent Heisman winners:

Johnny Manziel — Alabama, Sam Houston State, Missouri

Robert Griffin III — Oklahoma, Texas Tech, Texas

Cameron Newton — Georgia, Alabama, South Carolina

Mark Ingram — Chattanooga, Auburn, Florida

Sam Bradford — Texas Tech, Oklahoma State, Missouri

Tim Tebow — South Carolina, Florida Atlantic, Florida State

Troy Smith — Illinois, Northwestern, Michigan

Reggie Bush — California, Fresno State, UCLA

Matt Leinart — Arizona, Notre Dame, UCLA

Jason White — Baylor, Texas Tech, Kansas State

Carson Palmer — Arizona State, UCLA, Notre Dame

Eric Crouch — Kansas, Kansas State, Colorado

I could keep going further back, but I don’t think I’ll find a trio of games that holds less intrigue than what’s in store for FSU and Winston. It could be that it won’t matter, that Winston has already shown enough to voters and that he is, essentially, the Heisman Trophy winner in waiting.

But the contrast between his schedule and those of his competitors is enough to compel me to hold off on making such a pronouncement for now.

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Chris Huston, A.K.A. ‘The Heisman Pundit‘, is a Heisman voter and the creator and publisher of Heismanpundit.com, a site dedicated to analysis of the Heisman Trophy and college football. Dubbed “the foremost authority on the Heisman” by Sports Illustrated, HP is regularly quoted or cited during football season in newspapers across the country. He is also a regular contributor on sports talk radio and television.

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5 Responses to Winston’s odd remaining schedule

  1. just the facts, ma'am. November 19, 2013 at 4:29 pm #

    After 10 games, Johnny Manziel is averaging 3.9 TD’s per game … 5 TD’s in his last four.

    Take away these TD’s and Texas A&M has only one SEC victory … versus Vanderbilt.

    And other than the Vanderbilt blowout, the average point difference for all A&M’s games versus SEC opponents is a very slim 7 points.

    Compare that to the average PF vs. PA spreads at FSU (46.1), Baylor (43.8), and Oregon (32.7) … and it becomes evident which QB’s contribution is the most critical to his team’s success.

    • Marshall November 19, 2013 at 7:09 pm #

      Agree. Manziel is the only Heisman candidate that is responsible every week for his teams success. No one else comes close. Could replace any other candidate with their back-up and still win.

      • bebebm November 20, 2013 at 11:02 am #

        You need to take another look at AJ McCarron. Not only THIS year, but for every year he’s played QB for Alabama, they would have lost EVERY game if he had not been playijng. Who can forget his memorable performance against LSU? And this is just one example of how he has been the backbone of Bama’s team’s performance. Besides, you’re also forgetting the blemishes on both Winston and Manziel’s personal lives, which is SUPPOSED to be considered. NUMBERS don’t mean everything!

      • Chris November 20, 2013 at 2:26 pm #

        You guys are right! Winston plays in a weaker conference and he probably isn’t even necessary for his team to win. I find it appalling that Bryce Petty and Mariota are in the running, when their schools were pushing for Lache Seastrunk and Deanthony Thomas. These are some tremendous running backs who are being left off of this ballot, because voters know they won’t win against Manziel…not because they are undeserving.

  2. Tai November 20, 2013 at 2:09 pm #

    Interesting point, but I think that the Florida game will get a lot of attention. Florida may have a losing record, but people will watch because it will be viewed as FSU’s “best chance to lose a game”. Plus, if Winston plays well I think it will rightly earn acclaim, as Florida’s defense is actually very good (possible a top-ten unit nationally). The Gators problem is an offense that might struggle in the Sun Belt*, not their excellent defense.

    *Seriously, FEI rates their offense #97 in the country, and Opponent-Adjusted Yards Per Play rates it #98, but the Florida defense is 11th and 6th in those same two measures.