Posted December 02, 2013

Heisman Watch Week 14: Muddled race leaves room for Northern Illinois’ Jordan Lynch

Heisman, Heisman Trophy, Heisman Watch, Jameis Winston, Jordan Lynch
Jordan Lynch is the only Heisman candidate other than Jameis Winston without a clear bad game.

Jordan Lynch is the lone Heisman contender other than Winston to not have a bad game. (Charles Rex Arbogast/AP)

With one week left to play, Jameis Winston remains the favorite to win the Heisman Trophy.

After that? It’s anyone’s guess.

The list of candidates fighting to join the Florida State quarterback as Heisman finalists continues to shuffle with each passing week. Thanksgiving weekend was no different. Alabama’s AJ McCarron and Boston College’s Andre Williams were nipping at the heels of Winston last week after late slides by Texas A&M’s Johnny Manziel and Oregon’s Marcus Mariota. But McCarron and Williams suffered similar fates in the final week of the regular season, muddying the waters even further behind Winston.

But a mixed bag of Heisman contenders could work wonders for at least one prolific quarterback. Northern Illinois passer Jordan Lynch is the headliner of an unbeaten Huskies program ranked No. 14 in the BCS. That could be enough to push NIU into a BCS bowl as a non-AQ team for the second consecutive year.

Outside of Winston, most remaining Heisman candidates are plagued by at least one bad loss or one poor performance. Neither of those factors applies to Lynch. His biggest deterrent is his team’s weaker MAC schedule. But if voters aren’t sold on the Manziels and the McCarrons of college football, it’s possible a few votes might swing Lynch’s way and help the quarterback reach New York as a finalist. After all, two other players must fill the seats next to Winston at next weekend’s Heisman ceremony.

Heisman Watch Week 14

1. Jameis Winston
2. Jordan Lynch
3. Bryce Petty

Player of the Week

Jordan Lynch, Northern Illinois QB
Week 14 stats: 5-of-17 passing for 39 yards, one touchdown; 37 rushes for 321 yards, three touchdowns

Lynch put together a record-setting performance against Western Michigan last Wednesday night, and he didn’t even need his arm to do it. Lynch completed only five of his 17 pass attempts for a season-low 39 yards. But why pass the ball when your feet work just fine?

Lynch gashed the Broncos for a career-high 321 rushing yards on 27 carries (11.9 yards per attempt). His rushing total didn’t just mark a personal best for the redshirt senior; Lynch’s outburst broke his own single-game FBS record for rushing yards by a quarterback (316).

He is the only player to notch two 300-yard rushing games in the FBS this season and ranks third among all players in rushing yards (1,755) and rushing touchdowns (20).

Western Michigan coach P.J. Fleck saw enough of Lynch to know where the quarterback should stand in the Heisman race. “Jordan Lynch is the best player in college football and that’s no disrespect to anyone else,” Fleck told reporters after the game.

Whether Lynch garners that respect on a national level remains to be seen. Lynch may face weaker opponents than many Heisman contenders, but he also boasts a relatively weaker supporting cast with the Huskies’ roster. It’s hard to ignore Lynch’s numbers, which are already comparable to Heisman winners. His rushing totals are better than that of Alabama’s Mark Ingram (1,658 yards, 17 touchdowns), the only running back to win the Heisman (2009) since 2000.

MANDEL: Who will Northern Illinois meet in its BCS bowl?; complete bowl projections

Stock rising

Bryce Petty
The current free-for-all among Heisman contenders could also play in Petty’s favor. Baylor’s quarterback suffered a tough loss to Oklahoma State two weeks ago, but his numbers in that loss (358 passing yards, two touchdowns) weren’t unimpressive. Petty accounted for another three touchdowns in Saturday’s tight win over TCU. His one-yard touchdown run with 3:27 left in the second quarter gave the Bears the lead for good against the Horned Frogs. Petty remains the nation’s second-most efficient passer and its leader in yards-per-attempt. If he lights up Texas this weekend, don’t sleep on his shot at New York.

Andre Williams' Heisman buzz ended quickly when he rushed for just 29 yards Saturday before getting injured.

Andre Williams’ Heisman buzz ended quickly when he gained just 29 yards Saturday. (Cal Sport Media via AP Images)

Stock falling

Andre Williams
Williams was the Heisman flavor of the month after he’d averaged nearly 300 rushing yards per game over his last three contests. But that hype was short-lived. Things looked promising for Williams early against Syracuse on Saturday when he scampered 26 yards for the game’s first touchdown, but he left with an injury after the first play of the third quarter. In all Williams finished with a measly 29 yards on nine carries. That’s a disappointing effort in the last game we’ll see of Williams before Heisman votes are due.

AJ McCarron
Alabama’s veteran quarterback capped his own Heisman moment early in the fourth quarter of Alabama’s loss to Auburn. Pinned on the Crimson Tide 1-yard line, McCarron hurled a 99-yard touchdown bomb to Amari Cooper that gave Alabama a 28-21 lead in the Iron Bowl. But the eventual loss sent the Tide tumbling from the top spot in the BCS. That ended Alabama’s shot at a third straight title and McCarron’s chances of claiming the Heisman despite throwing for 277 yards and three scores.

THAMEL: Auburn delivers indelible BCS moment in stunning Alabama

Heisman chatter

Tweets of the week
The Legend of Johnny Football has come to an end:

You can admit to loving Jordan Lynch. Really, you can:

That’ll happen with a wild Iron Bowl finish:

Video of the week
Jordan Lynch basically carries two defenders into the end zone at the end of this 37-yard run against Western Michigan:

MANDEL: USC makes questionable move tapping Washington’s Sarkisian

25 comments
TyNeal
TyNeal

as a michigan fan has anyone ever actually watched braxton miller play? why is he not in the talk easly the best player in the country


cowboyspencer
cowboyspencer

Jameis Winston is sitting at 4th in my Heisman rankings right now.  He has certainly had a good season, but the strength of schedule for FSU opponents isn't enough to put him into the top spot as the most outstanding player in college football.

As of today, Marcus Mariota is the Heisman leader.  While playing a much tougher schedule than Winston, he has compiled 370 more total yards, a rushing average 5.2 ypr higher than Winston, with half as many interceptions.  


A tie for second place between Manziel and Petty.  Both have more total touchdowns than Winston, more passing yards, more rushing yards, and both are playing tougher schedules (it's not Manziel's fault that TAMU has no functional defense this season).  

In fifth is AJ McCarron, with 1000 fewer total yards than Winston (and 12 fewer TDs).  Lynch is a distant sixth, as a result of an incredibly weak schedule in comparison to the other candidates. 


SOS rankings for these six candidates (hardest to easiest):  TAMU, Oregon, Alabama, Baylor, FSU, NIU. 

Quite frankly, Manziel's biggest competition is himself from a year ago.  Despite having two average games against LSU and Missouri, he still leads by over 200 total yards over the next closest candidate (Lynch) and has the most passing yards and highest pass completion percentage of any of these six candidates. 

JoePike
JoePike

Fsu has played 2nd tier teams all year. Niu would beat most acc teams. Besides when a rape kit matches your DNA the conversation should be over. He's not being accused of partying too much like manziel. It's rape. A little different and a new low if he wins the heisman.

pandah462
pandah462

I'm not a fan of McCarron, nor against the candidacy of Lynch.  But let me get this straight...

McCarron isn't in the conversation because they lost, thus taking them out of the #1 spot and a shot of the BCS title?  Is Bama's ranking all that kept him in the conversation in the first place?

On the other hand, Lynch's team has played second or third-tier opponents and also has zero chance of the BCS title.  He's still in the hunt on his merits alone, so his team's performance and placement in the national picture means nothing?

This seems like an odd comparison.  Seems like malarkey.

KeysSteven
KeysSteven

Surprisingly dismissive of McCarron's chances ("(Aub) loss...ended").  AJ leads the arguably best team in the nation and only strengthened his case with Iron Bowl play for holding Heisman in '13.  These voters may not be as uninspired as are AP robots (FSU #1) and looking for a stand-up guy this year.

Darrell1
Darrell1

I also have a problem with the Heisman going to a freshman QB who was never even challenged in a game this year. Did FSU even trail in a game? 

But OTH, there really is no great candidate. Too bad a defensive star didn't emerge. Would have been a good year for an out-of-the-box choice.

Hendo
Hendo

This award is for the best player in college football. He had a great year last year until he faced FSU and looked stupid. I have a feeling he will do the same against a good bowl game opponent this year.

Water-Faery
Water-Faery

Not a single mention of the rape accusation hanging over Winston?!  If he is arrested on rape charges the week after he is voted as Heisman winner, the award should just give up the ghost.

Ryan19
Ryan19

@KeysSteven McCarron is completely undeserving.  The top 10 QBs based on rating are Winston, Petty, Bridgewater, Mettenberger, Manziel, Mariota, Bortles, Boyd, McCarron, and Carr.  Out of these 10 guys AJ is not the best player.  In this group he ranks 10th in yards, 7th in completion %, 9th in yards per attempt, 7th in touchdowns, 9th in rating, and 4th in interceptions.  And that is just related to passing.  He brings absolutely nothing to the table as a rusher whereas some of those other guys do.  

This is not a lifetime achievement award.  It is for the top player this year and McCarron isn't even one of the best 10 players this year.  

JeffHagman
JeffHagman

@Darrell1 So a prerequisite for the Heisman is that you must face adversity on the field? Does "Most Outstanding Player" mean that you can't be outstanding unless you face challenges? Maybe Jameis never had to worry about challenges because he's...wait for it...OUTSTANDING.
 
It's Winston, and then everyone else.

JoePike
JoePike

The score was 17 to 10 in the 4th quarter and lynch hardly looked stupid playing with lesser athletes on his team.

Darrell1
Darrell1

@Hendo FSU was a terrible matchup for a team like Northern Illinois. Hard for a "small" school to compete against a team loaded with NFL-caliber talent. Hopefully they'll get a better bowl draw this year.

ZacEllis
ZacEllis moderator

@Water-Faery I offered my take on Winston's legal situation in last week's column.

cowboyspencer
cowboyspencer

@JeffHagman @Darrell1  

Winston's SOS ranking is 10th out of 13 candidates on my list.  He has fewer total touchdowns than Manziel, Mariota, and Petty (all of whom played tougher schedules).  He has fewer total yards than Manziel, Mariota, and Petty.  His completion percentage is lower than Manziel (and Manziel has 300 more passing yards and 550 more rushing yards).  His rushing average and rushing yards are fewer than Manziel, Marshall, Mariota, Petty, and Miller (all of whom played tougher schedules). 

He's had a good year.  He is not the most outstanding player in college football.  Right now, Mariota is. 

Darrell1
Darrell1

@JeffHagman @Darrell1 It's not a prerequisite, and all indications are Winston will win. But without him having to lead his team from behind one single time, do we really know what kind of QB he is in the clutch? And isn't that a requirement for an outstanding quarterback? We know he's a great physical talent, but there's a lot about his QB ability that we don't know. But there doesn't appear to be much of an alternative.

mdworak
mdworak

@JoePike I completely agree.  Look at all of the FSU opponents this year since the Orange Bowl and none of them were as close as NIU was in the fourth quarter.  And look at the National Championship game last year with ND against Alabama.  Alabama crushed ND but you don't hear people saying ND didn't deserve to be in that game.


Lots of teams lose and lose big in bowl games.  

BryanCustard
BryanCustard

@Darrell1 @Hendo so what teams in the BCS bowls from major conferences don't have teams loaded with NFL caliber talent? If NIU cant compete, just say it, but that is a completely invalid point. 

DMP
DMP

@mdworak @JoePike Notre Dame didn't deserve to be in that game.  The Stanford game should have gone another OT since they crossed the goal line.  So maybe that would have been a loss at home.

But yes, bowl games (NCG or not) are really just like the first game of the next season since the layoff (for the major ones) is too long.

Zach
Zach

 Darrel1, I agree with some of what you're saying, especially about uber-athletes on the lines dominating lesser competition. But FSU is 2-5 in BCS bowls, so I don't think their record there proves anything. Great coaching without elite recruits can yield good but limited teams, like Boise State or NIU or Michigan State. Elite recruiting without great coaching can yield talented but inconsistent teams, like FSU or Clemson or USC the last few years. Elite recruits developed by great coaches compete for championships.

Darrell1
Darrell1

@BryanCustard @Darrell1 @Hendo Why do college football fans insist upon ripping a school like NIU or Baylor if they lose a game, much less badly? College fans seem to hate underdogs, and are quick to seize upon losses as "proof" a team isn't any good. OTOH, Oklahoma can get absolutely trashed by Texas A&M and nobody says that's proof that OU can't play.

Anyway, I think there are teams in the BCS bowls that NIU can hang with, maybe even beat. But FSU and Alabama are not two of them. Those teams are too great a mismatch.


Darrell1
Darrell1

@BryanCustard @Darrell1 @Hendo I think they've proven they can play with Big Ten teams, and there are other BCS conference schools they could at least compete with. But teams like FSU and Alabama are a very tough matchup because of their WEALTH of talent. They have NFL-caliber players at virtually every position, and the talent gap is particularly acute on the lines.

As their records have proved recently, very few BCS schools can even compete with them.

This year, NIU would be in line to play the Big 12 winner. Oklahoma State might be a difficult test for them, but not as bad as FSU. They might stack up better against Texas or Baylor.