By Kevin McGuire
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Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston will be shuttled around New York City this week in the days leading up to the awarding of this season’s Heisman Trophy. He will not be alone on what is generally expected to be a one-man show as the Heisman Trust has extended invitations to five other players to New York. Winston is the slam-dunk choice this season, but invites to five other players shows there is a great amount of debate over the order of players that will follow the expected Heisman Trophy winner. What else should we have expected from what has been a wide-open race for much of the season?
There is little doubt about how this year’s Heisman Trophy presentation will end, but the honor of being invited to New York is not without recognition as well. The five who will join Winston in New York – Alabama quarterback AJ McCarron, Auburn running back Tre Mason, Boston College running back Andre Williams, Northern Illinois quarterback Jordan Lynch and 2012 Heisman Trophy winning quarterback from Texas A&M Johnny Manziel – have certainly been in the Heisman conversation throughout the season.
McCarron makes the trip to New York as the seasoned quarterback, with a pair of BCS championship rings to dazzle and a most impressive record as a starting quarterback. His numbers leave something to be desired though, and his invite to New York just feels more like an appreciation for his collegiate career. Williams rushed for 2,000 yards, which makes it nearly impossible for the Heisman Trust to miss having him in New York. Manziel’s 2013 season took a step back in many senses to his 2012 campaign, but if he is there, the media will dangle on every movement. Lynch may have come up short this season of sending Northern Illinois back to the BCS, but his MVP-caliber performance is certainly not overlooked.
The one player nobody seemed to have on the radar until just within the last few weeks was Auburn running back Tre Mason. After smashing the SEC Championship Game rushing record to power Auburn to a conference championship, and a spot in the BCS championship, few players had as strong a case for consideration as Mason in a season that saw Heisman hopeful after Heisman hopeful seem to stumble at the worst possible time. Mason’s late run may not be enough to overcome the momentum established by other candidates, but his inclusion in the finalist group shows there is some level of support comparable to that of McCarron, Lynch, Williams and Manziel behind Winston.
So how will this year’s Heisman vote pan out? Traditionally, the regional voting shows some level of bias and preference, and in most years having three candidates from the Southeast may cause a split among voters. Winston, McCarron and Mason should appear on a number of ballots in the Southeast, and Williams should fare well out of the Northeast. Lynch should do well in the Midwest as well. The West Coast voting should be interesting to see with no players from the Pac 12 making the cross-country trip. Had Oregon’s Marcus Mariota been named among the finalists – a case for Mariota over Manziel is certainly fair – perhaps that would be slanted in one more direction.
The Heisman Trophy will be presented Saturday evening in New York City. Winston’s name should be at the top of the list as college football’s most impressive player from the start of the season through the championship games. Everything else after that is purely a guess.
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1. Jameis Winston
2. Jordan Lynch
3. AJ McCarron
4. Johnny Manziel
5. Tre Mason
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Kevin McGuire is a Philadelphia area sports writer covering the Philadelphia Eagles and college football. McGuire is a member of the FWAA and National Football Foundation. Follow McGuire on Twitter @KevinOnCFB. His work can be found on Examiner.com.