Winston hangs on to lead in latest HP Straw Poll; Petty surges

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Reports of an investigation into allegations surrounding Jameis Winston have done little to dampen the enthusiasm of voters for his Heisman candidacy, as the Florida State freshman quarterback once again led the HeismanPundit Heisman Straw Poll released on Tuesday (Nov. 19).

Winston captured six out of 10 first-place votes from the weekly panel of Heisman voters, and totaled 20 points, down slightly from his 22-point total last week, but still ahead of second-place Johnny Manziel of Texas A&M, who also dropped a couple points (2 first-place votes, 18 points).

The biggest gainer since the last poll was Baylor quarterback Bryce Petty, who seemingly culled support from both Winston and Manziel to move into third with 11 points and a first-place vote.

Oregon’s Marcus Mariota, who led the poll as recently as a couple weeks ago, dropped into fourth place with six points and one first-place vote.

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, 11/19/2013

Total Points (with first place votes in parentheses)

1. Jameis Winston, QB, Florida State — 20 (6)

2. Johnny Manziel, QB, Texas A&M — 18 (2)

3. Bryce Petty, QB, Baylor — 11 (1)

4. Marcus Mariota, QB, Oregon  – 6 (1)

5. (tie) AJ McCarron, QB, Alabama — 2

Jordan Lynch, QB, Northern Illinois — 2

7. Andre Williams, RB, Boston College — 1

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Does Johnny Manziel have an interception problem?

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There’s no doubt that Johnny Manziel is in the process of following up his extraordinary freshman season with a very successful sophomore year.

In some areas, he’s clearly ahead of where he was in 2012. For instance, he has improved his passing efficiency, his completion percentage, his passing yards per game and his number of touchdown passes. However, he is not gaining nearly as many rushing yards or scoring nearly as many rushing touchdowns as he did last season when he led the SEC in those categories.

Some contend that the decline in his ground game production is due to his development as a passer and that’s a valid argument to make.

But there’s one area where he has clearly taken a step backward.

Interceptions.

At the time of his Heisman triumph last season, Manziel had eight interceptions in 400 attempts. He’s got 11 in 315 attempts so far this season. That’s a significant increase

Now, I’ve always been of the belief that there will never be another two-time Heisman winner and that the factors that sink attempted repeaters tend to be more ephemeral than concrete. So perhaps Manziel’s interception total is neither here nor there in the grand scheme of things, but I do believe it’s a factor that is weighing him down.

To better illustrate why that may be the case, let’s look at the interception totals of the past 12 Heisman quarterbacks at the time of the Heisman vote:

2012 — Manziel — 8

2011 — Robert Griffin III — 6

2010 — Cameron Newton — 6

2008 — Sam Bradford — 6

2007 — Tim Tebow — 6

2006 — Troy Smith — 5

2004 — Matt Leinart — 6

2003 — Jason White — 8

2002 — Carson Palmer — 10

2001 — Eric Crouch — 10

2000 — Chris Weinke — 11

1996 — Danny Wuerffel — 12

So you have to go back all the way to 1996 to find a Heisman-winning quarterback who has thrown more interceptions than Manziel has so far this season in 10 games. Manziel’s pick total looks even worse when considered in the context of current quarterback-friendly systems that have conditioned voters to expect relatively low numbers in this category (note that the higher totals come further back, before the advent of the spread).

Combine Manziel’s historically-high interception total with the abnormally low totals by his current Heisman rivals Marcus Mariota (0) and Bryce Petty (1), plus the conventionally-low number by front runner Jameis Winston (7) and there’s a stark contrast to be made in this area.

I don’t think Manziel’s 11 interceptions are, by themselves, the reason voters will downgrade his candidacy. But I do think they make his otherwise daunting task of winning a second Heisman much more difficult.

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Touchdown efficiency

There’s a been a lot of talk lately about which Heisman candidate has the best stats, but most of the arguments are skewed by the disparity the candidates have in games played and total plays run.

If you look how many plays it takes for each candidate to produce a touchdown (either running or passing), however, here’s how they rank:

1. Bryce Petty – 1 out of 8.41

2. Jameis Winston — 1 out of 10.29

3. Marcus Mariota — 1 out of 10.32

4. Johnny Manziel — 1 out of 10.89

5. AJ McCarron — 1 out of 13.33

6. Tajh Boyd — 1 out of 13.53

7. Jordan Lynch — 1 out of 13.80

8. Teddy Bridgewater — 1 out of 14.58

9. Derek Carr — 1 out of 14.59

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Week 13 Heisman Watch

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Here is the week 13 edition of the 2013 Heismanpundit Heisman Watch. After taking into account the games played so far, these are the players who have the best chance of actually winning the Heisman. I’m certain at this point that the Heisman winner will come from this group. This is not a prediction of the final order of the race, nor is it an endorsement of who would or should win if the vote were held today. It’s a long view of the race that takes into account schedule and statistical trends.

1. Jameis Winston, Fr., QB, Florida State

Winston appeared completely unphased by the off-the-field issues that emerged this past week and was as sharp as ever against Syracuse, completing 19 of 21 passes for 277 yards and two touchdowns in just one half of play. As a result, he remains the Heisman front runner. However, the longer the investigation lingers, the greater the possibility there will be that some voters may open themselves up to considering alternative candidates. As it is, he’s on pace to hit the magic 40 total touchdown mark, which has been the minimum criteria in the past few seasons to compete for the Heisman. Playing for a traditional Heisman power like FSU that just so happens to be competing for a national title makes his candidacy even more formidable. However, with games against Idaho, Florida and (most likely) Duke coming up, I wonder if he’s going to be able to maintain the momentum needed to blunt any late charges by other contenders who might be playing more appealing opponents. There’s no doubt he’ll continue to put up efficient numbers, but how long will he play against Idaho and will voters remember that when they are taking into account his overall stats resume? While he is the player most likely to win the Heisman at this point, the combination of his incredibly light schedule and nagging off-the-field issues makes his candidacy a bit more vulnerable than most front runners this late in a season.

Last Game: 19/21, 277 yards, 2 TDs, 0 Ints, in a 59-3 win over Syracuse

Season Stats: 185/261, 2,938 yards, 70.9%, 28 TDs, 7 Ints, 195.48 rating, 58 carries, 189 yards, 3 TDs

Next Game: Idaho

Projected stats by time of Heisman vote: 3,822 passing yards, 36 TDs, 9 Ints, 221 rush yards, 4 TDs

2. Bryce Petty, Jr., QB, Baylor

For the second-straight week, Petty produced five touchdowns running and passing, this time against Texas Tech in a 63-34 drubbing in Arlington. He is increasing his production at just the right time — with the competition stiffening and the national profile of his team increasing. He’s now on pace to have over 4,000 yards of offense and 45 total touchdowns, which would be right in the wheelhouse of recent Heisman winners. What’s more, his overall stat line remains gaudy, with his efficiency rating of 206.23 on pace to break the all-time NCAA mark set by Russell Wilson a couple years ago and his touchdown-to-interception ratio projected to be in the 32-to-1 range. Baylor now takes on another top 10 foe, this time Oklahoma State. This should be the marquee game of the weekend, with ABC carrying it in prime time on the East Coast. Meanwhile, FSU plays Idaho, Alabama plays Chattanooga and Oregon plays Arizona, which means he will have the spotlight all to himself (although another intriguing matchup that could impact the Heisman race will take place earlier in the day between LSU and Texas A&M). If Petty has another outstanding day against Oklahoma State and the Bears move to 10-0, look for him to start making real inroads with Heisman voters. If Petty’s numbers continue to surge and Baylor is undefeated heading into its final game against Texas, some people might see the Heisman as a fitting consolation prize for a team that looks like it might get shut out of a chance at the national title.

Last Game: 17/31, 335 yards, 3 TDs, 0 Ints, 9 rush yards, 2 rushing TDs in a 63-34 win over Texas Tech

Season Stats: 152/233, 2,992 yards, 65.2%, 24 TDs, 1 Ints, 206.23 rating, 53 carries, 127 yards, 10 TDs

Next Game: No. 10 Oklahoma State

Projected stats by time of Heisman vote: 3,989 passing yards, 32 TDs, 1 INTs, 169 rush yards, 13 TDs

3. Marcus Mariota, So., QB, Oregon

It takes a bit of luck to win a Heisman and Mariota received some this past weekend when USC defeated Stanford. This put Oregon back into the driver’s seat for the Pac-12 North title, which means the Ducks are likely to play in the Pac-12 title game. So Mariota will have an extra game to not only pad his production, but he’ll also have a marquee matchup against a quality team to draw attention to his candidacy just as voters are filling out their ballots. Mariota and Oregon bounced back against Utah as he threw for 288 yards and three touchdowns in a 44-21 win. It looks like Mariota’s knee problems are preventing him from producing the rushing totals we’ve become accustomed to, but he’s still on pace for 4,300 yards and 45 total touchdowns, which is completely in line with what recent Heisman winners have produced. One hook that should start to emerge in his favor is his remarkable interception stat. Can he finish a full season without a pick? No quarterback has ever gone without an interception while attempting more than 350 passes in a season (Mariota is on pace to attempt 372) and his current streak of 353 attempts without a pick is 91 short of the all-time NCAA mark set by Colby Cameron of Louisiana Tech in 2011-12. If Mariota stays on his current pace and winds up with 33 passing touchdowns and no interceptions for a 12-1 team while breaking a few records along the way, he might remain a very attractive candidate to a lot of voters who at one time had him atop their ballots.

Last Game: 19/27, 288 yards, 3 TDs, 0 Ints, 4 carries, -18 yards in a 44-21 win over Utah

Season Stats: 183/285, 2,819 yards, 64.2%, 25 TDs, 0 Ints, 176.24 rating, 66 carries, 477 yards, 9 TDs

Next Opponent: at Arizona

Projected stats by time of Heisman vote: 3,666 passing yards, 33 TDs, 0 Ints., 624 rushing yards, 12 TDs

4. AJ McCarron, Sr., QB, Alabama

McCarron is barely hanging on in this race and only the possibility that he might produce a dramatic outcome in the upcoming showdown with Auburn in a couple weeks keeps him relevant. He still has a lot of ground to make up, but the Auburn and SEC title games definitely afford him that opportunity. However, he’ll need both Winston and Petty to suffer severe dropoffs (or losses) and he’ll need to finish the season on a tear to have a chance to actually win. As it stands, he may not make it to New York, but with the uncertainty in the air about Winston, it’s hard to take him off this list just yet.

Last Game: 18/32, 187 yards, 2 TDs, 2 Ints in a 20-7 win over Mississippi State

Season Stats: 177/261, 2,228 yards, 67.8%, 21 TDs, 5 Ints, 162.24 rating

Next Game: Chattanooga

Projected stats by time of Heisman vote: 2,899 passing yards, 27 TDs, 7 Ints

If the vote was held today:

1. Winston

2. Manziel

3. Mariota

4. Petty

5. McCarron

6. Jordan Lynch

7. Teddy Bridgewater

8. Tajh Boyd

9. Andre Williams

10. Braxton Miller

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Heisman Weekend Preview

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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.

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The case for Ka’Deem Carey

In keeping with our promise to feature any and all Heisman campaigns on HP, here’s an update from Arizona on behalf of running back Ka’Deem Carey, who is currently second nationally in rushing. He’ll be in action against Washington State this weekend, so be sure to give him a look.

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Week 12 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 had a great week last week, going 7-3, and I’m hitting 58.3% on the season (63-45-2), so heed my advice!

UCLA -3 vs. Washington

I see this game as being a bit of a shootout, with Hundley and Crew coming out on top with a great second half.

UCLA 41, Washington 31

Ohio State -33.5 at Illinois

The Buckeye offense will continue to be in juggernaut mode, with Braxton Miller playing like the Heisman candidate he could’ve been.

Ohio State 56, Illinois 17

Stanford -4 at USC

The Cardinal front seven will be too much for the USC offensive line and Cody Kessler will struggle, resulting in another smothering win for Stanford.

Stanford 23, USC 9

Kansas State -11 vs. TCU

Kansas State has things figured out and is playing as well as anyone in the Big 12 right now. This should be another fine game for Sams and Waters and the Wildcats roll.

Kansas State 38, TCU 21

Miami -3.5 at Duke

The Hurricanes won’t have Duke against Duke, but they will have Stephen Morris, who should have a huge game and get Miami back on the winning track.

Miami 34, Duke 23

Vanderbilt -13 vs. Kentucky

Another scrappy win for the Commodores thanks to a big game from the defense and steady running from Jerron Seymour.

Vandy 31, Kentucky 14

North Carolina +1 at Pittsburgh

Marquise Williams continues to play well and leads the Tar Heels to their fourth-straight win.

North Carolina 27, Pitt 23

Central Florida -17 at Temple

Too much Blake Bortles for the Owls as the Knights roll.

Central Florida 45, Temple 21

South Carolina -12.5 vs. Florida

This one could get ugly as the Gators will start freshman Skyler Mornhinweg at quarterback on the road. Mike Davis plows his way to 100-plus yards and the Gamecocks cruise.

South Carolina 42, Florida 10

West Virginia -7 at Kansas

The Mountaineers crawl closer to bowl eligibility by beating the Jayhawks on the road. Should be a productive day for Paul Millard.

West Virginia 48, Kansas 28

Baylor -27.5 vs. Texas Tech

Texas Tech’s collapse continues as Bryce Petty throws for 300 plus yards and accounts for at least four TDs as Baylor moves to 9-0.

Baylor 66, Texas Tech 31

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