Heis­man race headed to the wire

The Washington Times Daily - - Sports - BY RALPH D. RUSSO

Heis­man Tro­phy vot­ers were emailed a bal­lot on Mon­day. It’s not due back for two weeks.

Good thing, be­cause it’s go­ing to take some time to sort this out. A Heis­man race that not long ago seemed well-de­fined has been mud­dled in so many ways. Not the least of which is a sex­ual as­sault in­ves­ti­ga­tion in­volv­ing Jameis Win­ston, the Florida State star who would oth­er­wise be the clear front-run­ner af­ter the Heis­man stock of sev­eral con­tenders crashed last weekend.

“Last week was a seis­mic one, and shook up the land­scape,” Charles Davis of Fox Sports said.

Even with po­ten­tial crim­i­nal charges hang­ing over Win­ston, online sports book Bo­vada has him as the fa­vorite to win the award at 1-2 odds, mean­ing if you bet $200 on him to win the Heis­man you’d win only $100. Though the odds that he wins it are not as good as they were last week.

Many Heis­man vot­ers say they are tak­ing a wait-and-see ap­proach on Win­ston’s le­gal is­sues. The state at­tor­ney in Tal­la­has­see, Fla., has said a de­ci­sion on whether to charge Win­ston with any­thing is un­likely to be reached this week, but maybe next.

“It can’t be for­got­ten that Win­ston’s con­sti­tu­tional rights su­per­sede what­ever priv­i­leges af­forded him as an ex­cep­tional col­lege foot­ball quar­ter­back,” said Drew Sharp of the Detroit Free Press. “Heis­man vot­ers must let the in­ves­ti­ga­tion play it­self out for as long as pos­si­ble be­fore ren­der­ing judg­ment.”

No. 2 Florida State plays Florida on Satur­day, and then the At­lantic Coast Con­fer­ence cham­pi­onship game on Dec. 7. He leads the na­tion in ef­fi­ciency rat­ing (194.5) and has thrown for 3,163 yards and 32 touch­downs.

“Ob­vi­ously, strictly as a player, he’s a lead­ing con­tender,” said Bill Rabi­nowitz of the Colum­bus (Ohio) Dis­patch. “But I don’t want to pre­judge his le­gal sit­u­a­tion one way or the other. The pre­sump­tion of in­no­cence that he has legally ought to ap­ply in terms of his Heis­man chances. I just hope there’s a res­o­lu­tion be­fore I have to vote.”

Votes from the 928-mem­ber Heis­man elec­torate are due by Dec. 9 at 5 p.m. EST. The win­ner is an­nounced Dec. 14.

Mean­while, the stage is set for AJ McCar­ron to make a late push. The Alabama quar­ter­back could have two more chances his tal­ents on dis­play, start­ing Satur­day at Auburn. Win that and it’s on to the South­east­ern Con­fer­ence ti­tle game for the Crim­son Tide.

Brax­ton Miller, No. 3 Ohio State’s dualthreat quar­ter­back, is in a sim­i­lar sit­u­a­tion. He gets Michi­gan on Satur­day, and then No. 11 Michi­gan State the week af­ter for the Big Ten ti­tle.

While vot­ers have cooled on Texas A&M’s Johnny Manziel, Oregon’s Mar­cus Mar­i­ota and Bay­lor’s Bryce Petty — all of whom had be­low-av­er­age per­for­mances in los­ing ef­forts last Satur­day — they’re warm­ing up to North­ern Illi­nois quar­ter­back Jor­dan Lynch, Fresno State quar­ter­back Derek Carr and Bos­ton Col­lege run­ning back An­dre Wil­liams.

“I was prob­a­bly lean­ing to­ward Johnny Manziel un­til this past weekend,” said Hugh Kel­len­berger of The Clar­ion-Ledger of Jack­son, Miss. “Ear­lier in the year I thought it was Mar­cus Mar­i­ota’s to lose. So right now I’m cer­tainly look­ing for other can­di­dates, and a guy like Alabama’s AJ McCar­ron prob­a­bly has a bet­ter can­di­dacy now than he did just a cou­ple weeks ago.”

McCar­ron is the sec­ond choice on Bo­vada’s board at 2-1, mak­ing a huge move af­ter be­ing 13-2 last week. There doesn’t seem to be a mas­sive groundswell of sup­port for the se­nior with two na­tional cham­pi­onship rings. It’s been more of a steadily grow­ing ap­pre­ci­a­tion for his con­sis­tent pro­duc­tion. A cover story in Sports Il­lus­trated can help. And, of course, he’s now fac­ing more push­back from skep­tics.

“I get it that Bay­lor, A&M and Oregon lost and many have moved up AJ McCar­ron, but it’s not a life­time achieve­ment award,” said Robert Cessna of the Bryan-Col­lege Sta­tion (Texas) Ea­gle. “I don’t know if he’s even the best player on the team.”

Af­ter McCar­ron on Bo­vada’s board comes Wil­liams, the first ma­jor col­lege player to rush for 2,000 since 2008, and Miller at 15-1.

Carr and Manziel are 20-1. Lynch comes in at 28-1. Petty and Mar­i­ota are off the board, which doesn’t nec­es­sar­ily mean they can’t get back on it. Wil­liams, Miller, Carr and Lynch were off the board last week.

Maybe Clem­son quar­ter­back Tajh Boyd or Louisville’s Teddy Bridge­wa­ter can re-emerge, or Ari­zona run­ning back Ka’Deem Carey and the Wild­cats can fol­low their up­set of No. 12 Oregon with another against No. 13 Ari­zona State.

“Satur­day was a bal­lot-buster for me, no ques­tion,” said Joshua Ken­dall of The State in Columbia, S.C. “I’m back to square one un­less there is some­thing be­fore square one, in which case I am there.”

AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Florida State quar­ter­back Jameis Win­ston had been the clear fron­trun­ner to win the Heis­man Tro­phy, but his le­gal limbo on a rape al­le­ga­tion has clouded the pic­ture.

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