About Heismanpundit

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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Heisman Weekend Preview


AJ McCarron is excited about this weekend’s games. Are you?

The race has narrowed down to just a few challengers. Here’s what to look for from them this weekend:

North Carolina at Florida State, 3:30 p.m. ET

The Wolfpack have been giving FSU trouble of late, winning two of the past three, including a 17-16 upset last season. Could this be the game where Jameis Winston finally hits the freshman wall?  Or will he keep it churning at his usual stellar rate? Winston has the time slot mostly to himself and I’m sure some people will tune in just to see how he does. I’ll be one of them.

Tennessee at Alabama, 3:30 p.m. ET

If AJ McCarron is going to make a late run at the Heisman, it has to begin with this game. The Vols are no longer a pushover and will play the Tide hard, so McCarron has to be on top of things. With Winston playing in the same time slot, he may not get much attention for this one.

Baylor at Kansas, 7 p.m. ET

This should be another blowout for the Bears against a hapless opponent. The only question will be how long Bryce Petty gets to play against the Jayhawks, but he should have another 300-yard passing day by the end of the third quarter.

UCLA at Oregon, 7 p.m ET

This is the Heisman game of the day. While Brett Hundley’s hopes for the trophy have gone kaput, he can still ruin things for Marcus Mariota. If the Ducks quarterback has another big game and his team rolls, look for him to strengthen his lead in the Heisman race over Winston. If he struggles, however, Winston might overtake him.

Stanford at Oregon State, 10:30 p.m. ET

How good is Sean Mannion? We are about to find out as he faces his toughest challenge yet by going up against the Stanford defense. If Mannion’s numbers are as good against the Cardinal as they have been against everyone else and he leads the Beavers to the upset, then his status in the race will go from long shot to serious contender.

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Week 9 picks

Time to reveal my plays of the week. These are the 10 games I would bet on if I were a degenerate gambler. For those who don’t know already, the first team listed is my pick, unless it’s an over/under selection. Odds provided by DocSports. If I were you, I’d bet on these games. You can thank me (or hate me) later. I went 7-4 last week (I accidentally picked 11 games) and I’m hitting 59% on the season (47-34), so heed my advice!

Note: Because I accidentally picked 11 games last week, I’m picking 9 this week.

Auburn -24 vs. Florida Atlantic

The Tigers keep the offense rolling as Nick Marshall has another big day.

Auburn 56, FAU 21

Tennessee +28 at Alabama

This should be an easy game for Bama, but the Vols play hard and should keep this loss fairly respectable.

Alabama 31, Tennessee 10

Texas +2 at TCU

The Longhorns win their fourth in a row as their ground game pounds the Horned Frogs.

Texas 31, TCU 21

Stanford -4 at Oregon State

Sean Mannion comes down to earth a bit and the Cardinal suffocate the Beavers in Corvallis.

Stanford 29, Oregon State 17

Louisiana-Monroe -12 vs. Georgia State

The Panthers remain winless as Brayle Brown has his first stellar game for the Warhawks.

ULM 35, Georgia State 18

Baylor -35.5 at Kansas

If any team stops Baylor this year, it’s not going to be Kansas. I think we’ll see another 60+ point effort.

Baylor 66, Kansas 21

Hawaii +3 vs. Colorado State

After just falling short last week, the Warriors get their first win of the season against the Rams.

Hawaii 34, Colorado State 27

Iowa -4 vs. Northwestern

The Wildcats are reeling and might be without Kain Colter again. Hawkeyes get the win after playing Buckeyes tough last week.

Iowa 24, Northwestern 17

NC State +32 at Florida State

The Wolfpack always seem to play the Seminoles tough and have won two of the last three meetings. FSU will get the win, but won’t cover.

Florida State 41, NC State 14

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The role of conference realignment in Heisman voting

Last year, Heisman Pundit wrote about how conference realignment gave West Virginia’s Geno Smith a unique advantage in the Heisman race.

While Smith failed to finish in the top 10 of Heisman voting due in large part to a poor showing in a week 8 matchup against fellow Heisman hopeful Colin Klein and Kansas State, one player did end up as the beneficiary of conference realignment in last year’s Heisman voting: Johnny Manziel of Texas A&M.

Heisman balloting is divided into 6 geographic regions: Far West, Mid Atlantic, Mid West, North East, South and Southwest. When the BCS was introduced in 1998, the 6 BCS automatic-qualifying conferences were each mostly contained within a single region: the Pac-10 (now Pac-12) was in the Far West, the ACC mostly was in the Mid Atlantic, the Big 10 was mostly in the Mid West, the SEC was mostly in the South and the Big 12 was mostly in the Southwest. The Big East was more spread out across the east coast.


As discussed before, voters have a tendency to vote for players from their region. Looking at voting from 1998 through 2012, with the exception of the North East region, which has had only two finalists in that span, every region on average gives the highest vote totals to players from within that region.

Screen Shot 2013-10-25 at 10.29.57 AM

Examining a conference breakdown of regional votes over the same period, we see a similar pattern of conference preference by region.

Screen Shot 2013-10-25 at 10.28.09 AM

Conference realignment has adjusted the relationship between region and conference. More schools are playing in conferences that are concentrated in regions different from where the school is located.  So, in addition to writers and reporters in their school’s region, players now receive more media exposure in their conference’s region.



Texas A&M’s move to the SEC put it in the unique position of being located in Texas, the major media outlet center of the Southwest region, while playing in the SEC, concentrated in the South region.

The Aggies’ conference schedule set up some high profile games played in the South region, namely a marquee match-up with Alabama in Tuscaloosa, which earned Manziel major support in the South region, and nationwide. With no offensive Heisman candidates from the South region and no other candidates from schools in Texas, Manziel was the clear standout candidate in two regions. Manziel went on to receive the highest vote total in every balloting region except the Mid West, where Manti Te’o of Notre Dame (located in the Mid West region) received the highest total. With all of these schools changing conferences, which ones are in the best position to benefit?

Missouri and Texas A&M moving to the SEC, West Virginia moving to the Big 12 and Colorado moving to the Pac-12 provide the most exposure for these schools in a new region. With the structure of the ACC and American Athletic Conference, moves to these conferences does less to help players’ exposure within a region outside of their own. Of course, regardless of realignment, players have to perform well enough to garner Heisman consideration.

Let’s see if anyone steps up to take advantage of the changing landscape.

* * *

The author of this post, Daniel Heard, is a PhD candidate in Statistical Science at Duke University. He has dedicated a significant portion of his research to examining trends in Heisman Trophy voting and developing a model to forecast the voting each year.

You can contact Daniel at danielpheard@gmail.com.

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Who can still make a run at it? Howzabout Nick Marshall of Auburn?

I get asked all the time “HP, lately guys have been winning the Heisman who were completely off the radar when the season started. Is there anyone out there who no one is talking about who can still make a late run at it?”

Honestly, there’s no one out there off the radar who I think can pull it off.



This guy:


Okay, I know it seems like a stretch, but the point of the question is to come up with someone who is a true long shot.

Auburn quarterback Nick Marshall fits that bill. Here’s what would have to happen:

As it currently stands, Marshall has 1,138 passing yards, with 6 touchdown passes and 4 interceptions. He also has 388 rushing yards and 4 touchdowns. Fairly pedestrian numbers through six games, right?

But keep in mind that Marshall is coming off perhaps his best game yet, an upset of top 10 Texas A&M in College Station. Against the Aggies, Marshall threw for 236 yards and two touchdowns and ran for 100 more yards and two scores.

The JC transfer has shown steady progress in Gus Malzahn’s scheme and now has to be considered a legitimate weapon for the resurgent Tigers.

But let’s assume that Marshall continues to improve and that he ends up averaging 275 passing yards, 110 rushing yards and five combined touchdowns per game the rest of the way. That would leave him with 2,788 passing yards, 1,048 rushing yards and 40 total touchdowns by the time the Heisman vote is due.

Those are pretty good numbers. They would even be considered Heisman worthy.

But that’s just the stats end of it.

His numbers would stand out even more if Auburn won the rest of its games. That would mean beating Georgia in game 11 and then a gargantuan victory over No. 1 Alabama in game 12 with everyone and his mother watching. That would set up a berth in the SEC championship where Auburn could possibly punch its ticket to the BCS title game.

The combination of his impressive late-season stats and the unlikely national title run would catapult him into Heisman contention. And, who knows? Maybe Marcus Mariota and Jameis Winston slip up and leave voters no choice but to reward the junior from Pineview, Ga.

Yes, it’s a long, long, long shot. But it’s the only out-of-the-box scenario I can think of that has a hint of plausibility. Besides, I’ve learned never to underestimate Malzahn’s ability to mold a quarterback.

Still, it’s far, far more likely that we’ll see one of the five players on the current HP Heisman Watch win the trophy. If this fantasy scenario comes about, however, be sure to remember where you read it first!

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The round up

Here’s the latest from the Heisman world …

The State newspaper in Columbia, SC, does a Heisman poll and its latest has Marcus Mariota in the lead.

A true freshman has to do his part to help protect Mariota during his Heisman run.

USA Today’s Heisman poll also gives Mariota the early lead.

Paul Myerberg of USA Today gives his top 10.

Mariota also leads the Scripps Howard Poll.

ESPN’s Heisman predictor, which I’ve never known to be accurate, has Winston in the lead.

Johnny Manziel is now in comeback mode in the Heisman race.

1986 Heisman winner Vinny Testaverde will be honored by Miami on Saturday.

We already knew this, but Robert Griffin III says the current Baylor offense is better than it was the year he won, the Heisman.

Paul Finebaum still likes Manziel for the Heisman.

Troy Smith had a solid first start in the CFL.

This Baton Rouge sportswriter has Mariota atop his Heisman list.

The rise of Sean Mannion is told here.

My NBC colleague Kevin McGuire says we should get to know Mannion, too.

Tajh Boyd is facing criticism now.

The Ft. Worth Star Telegram talks Heisman.

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Mariota, Winston and this year’s Super Quarterback


I wrote last December about the emergence of what I call the Super Quarterback and how that archetype has come to dominate the Heisman race of late.

The salient point was this:

The five Heisman-winning quarterbacks since 2007 have averaged 4,676 yards of total offense and 51 touchdowns (including their bowl games). Each won the Heisman despite having to overcome historic obstacles in their way — like being underclassmen or playing for non-traditional powers — and each had profound impacts on their school’s success before going on to become first-round picks in the NFL draft (with the possible exception of Johnny Manziel, who is still in school as of this writing).

Of course, this year’s Heisman race has continued in that vein. Let’s look at some of the main contenders:

Heisman front runner Marcus Mariota is currently on pace to have 5,082 yards of total offense and 56 touchdowns running and passing, which would arguably be among the great seasons in college football history.

Jameis Winston is on pace for 4,718 yards of offense and 54 touchdowns running and passing. This would be on par — and in some ways superior — to what Manziel did last season.

Bryce Petty is on course for 4,498 total yards and 43 total touchdowns, but would do so while playing in one fewer games than both Mariota and Winston (because the Big 12 does not have a conference title game).

Sean Mannion is on pace for 5,551 yards and 54 touchdowns (all of it in the passing game), which would be among the great passing seasons of all time and easily the best ever in a non-Air-Raid offense.

And Manziel himself is on pace for another 5,148 yards and 45 touchdowns.

The one player still hanging on in the race who hearkens back to the bygone era of more conventional Heisman stats is AJ McCarron, who is on pace for 3,178 yards and 28 scores.

The Super Quarterback-types I’ve mentioned never would have never been serious candidates 20 years ago, either because their programs weren’t taken seriously or because they would’ve foundered in different offensive schemes or because their class statuses would’ve worked against them.

But all that has changed. More than likely, the Heisman will go to Mariota, Winston, Petty or Mannion, continuing the recent trend of the Super Quarterback.

As the numbers get better and better each season, it makes us wonder where we will be five years from now. Will we see the first 3,000-yard passer/2,000-yard rusher? How about someone who puts up 6,000 yards of offense and 60 touchdowns?

The mind reels.

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Mariota holds off Winston in latest HeismanPundit Straw Poll


Florida State freshman quarterback Jameis Winston took advantage of his huge showing against Clemson this past weekend to surge into second place in the latest HeismanPundit Heisman Straw Poll released on Tuesday (Oct. 22).

Winston’s 444 yards and three touchdowns against the then-No. 3 Tigers in Death Valley helped garner him 20 points and four first-place votes in the weekly survey of Heisman voters from around the country.

Despite his uptick in support, Winston remained behind Marcus Mariota of Oregon, who tallied 22 points and five first place votes. It’s the second-straight week that the Ducks sophomore has led the poll.

Defending Heisman winner Johnny Manziel dropped to third place with nine points and one first-place vote after Texas A&M’s loss to Auburn.

Now in its eighth season, the HeismanPundit.com Heisman Straw Poll is the college football world’s most trusted gauge of Heisman voter sentiment. It has been the most accurate Heisman poll in the country during the past seven seasons, with the final 2012 poll correctly picking the top five finishers and the final 2011 poll picking the top seven. This year’s poll is made up of 10 anonymous Heisman voters from across the country. Each week during the season they will pick three players. Tabulations for the preseason poll are tabulated like a real Heisman ballot, with three points awarded for a first-place vote, two points for a second-place vote and one point for a third-place vote.

Each week’s poll is released on Tuesdays throughout the season at HeismanPundit.com.

The HeismanPundit.com Heisman Straw Poll, 10/22/2013

Total Points (with first place votes in parentheses)

1. Marcus Mariota, QB, Oregon — 22 (5)

2. Jameis Winston, QB, Florida State — 20 (4)

3. Johnny Manziel, QB, Texas A&M — 9 (1)

4. Bryce Petty, QB, Baylor — 4

5. Jordan Lynch, QB, Northern Illinois — 3

6. Sean Mannion, QB, Oregon State — 2

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