Barring a late surge toward one of the remaining candidates, I foresee this Heisman race ended up with the most evenly distributed results in recent memory.
By that I mean that we could very well see a relatively small gap between the point total of the winner and the point total of, say, the sixth or seventh-place finisher.
The most recent example of this was in 2001, when Eric Crouch won the Heisman with 770 points, just 503 points ahead of sixth-place Antwaan Randle El of Indiana. In 1962, Oregon State’s Terry Baker won the award with 707 points, just 453 points ahead of seventh-place George Saimes of Michigan State.
To provide a bit of perspective on this, here is the point gap between 1st and 6th for the other races since Crouch’s win:
2012 — 1,968
2011 — 1,534
2010 — 2,179
2009 — 1,081
2008 — 1,661
2007 — 1,807
2006 — 2,338
2005 — 2,512
2004 — 1,138
2003 — 1,545
2002 — 1,176
When Crouch won in 2001, he did so while capturing just one of the six Heisman-voting regions, the Southwest (since Nebraska was in the Big 12 then). Miami’s Ken Dorsey won the North East, Florida’s Rex Grossman won the Mid-Atlantic and the South, Oregon’s Joey Harrington won the Far West and Randle El won the Midwest.
Crouch ended up nipping Grossman by 62 points due to his taking second in the Northeast, MidWest and Far West and third in the Mid-Atlantic and South. Grossman’s fourth-place finish in the SouthWest and West accounted for the small difference between the two.
In 2013, we could see a similar distribution throughout the regions, which is why I think we might see a similarly small gap between the eventual winner and the players further down in the results column.
Here are the regions and the candidates that hold the most natural advantages in them, whether due to their schools existing in that region, their conference playing games in that region, or having hailed from that region.
Far West – Marcus Mariota, Derek Carr, Ka’Deem Carey
Southwest – Bryce Petty, Johnny Manziel
South – Jameis Winston, AJ McCarron, Manziel
Mid-Atlantic – Winston, Andre Williams
Mid-West – Jordan Lynch, Braxton Miller
Northeast – Williams, Winston
It’s ironic that the ACC, which hasn’t had a Heisman finalist since 2000, might suddenly be in the driver’s seat in determining this year’s winner. The fact that the conference snakes from Massachusetts in the Northeast through Pennsylvania, Virginia and the Carolinas in the Mid-Atlantic and then into Florida in the South should give Winston and Williams a distinct advantage in a close race. Heisman voters in these regions have either seen these guys up close, or have covered them when their teams have come to play.
Even if he does win the South, however, Winston’s point total there is not likely to be great due to the presence of McCarron and Manziel (Winston could also conceivably finish third there). If Williams wins the Northeast, it probably won’t be by a great margin since Winston is likely to do well there, too. The Mid-Atlantic could be a true dogfight between the two ACC stars. Of course, all these assumptions must be taken with a grain of salt since the potential strength of Winston and Williams remains tempered by the investigatory cloud hanging over the former and the lack of name recognition by the latter.
In the end, I suspect that the MidWest — and to a lesser extent the Far West — is going to be the kingmaker in this race. The eventual winner may not capture those regions, but he’ll probably have to finish a strong second or third in them in order to eke out a win.