How is the Heisman Trophy won? With incremental dominance from a front-runner or with flashy play that enthrones a front-runner or with zealous hoarding of statistics all year. The 2013 Heisman Trophy race was set to be the first sort of race, but became the second, to the dismay of a few candidates who might have thought it was going to be the third.
Here's how Jameis Winston reached the verge of winning this award, week by week — and how his competition couldn't stop falling away.
Unbelievable as this might seem now, Braxton Miller and Jadeveon Clowney were the preseason favorites for the 2013 Heisman Trophy. These were Bovada's odds (all odds in this article were provided by Bovada) for the 11 Heisman candidates considered better than a 20-1 shot to hoist the trophy on August 27:
|Braxton Miller||QB||Ohio State||9-2|
|Jadeveon Clowney||DE||South Carolina||13-2|
|Johnny Manziel||QB||Texas A&M||12-1|
It's crazy now to think that Clowney was considered so legitimate a Heisman candidate that he was second in the odds, but this is crazier: Winston was a 33-1 shot, so a $50 ticket on him is netting the smart bettor $1,600. That covers most of the airfare, accommodations, and ticket costs for the 2014 BCS National Championship Game for the Florida State fan smart enough to book it.
Manziel's odds fell to 7-1, too, as his half-game suspension for maybe signing a bunch of autographs for money was announced on August 28. He was never the preseason favorite after that saga, but he rebounded after falling off a bit; there wasn't value at 12-1 for long.
Other odds of note: Stephen Morris joined Winston and Nebraska's Ameer Abdullah at 33-1, but Abdullah's teammate, Taylor Martinez, was ahead of all three at 25-1, where he was joined by Marqise Lee and Devin Gardner. Jordan Lynch was a 40-1 shot, ahead of a 50-1 line that now seems high for both UCLA's Brett Hundley and Arizona's Ka'Deem Carey and very low for Florida's Jeff Driskel and Maryland's Stefon Diggs, who each suffered season-ending injuries before Halloween.
The longest odds for a listed player? 100-1 for Oklahoma's Blake Bell.
Teddy Bridgewater is ridiculous on the only Sunday of the year, completing 23 of 28 passes for 355 yards and five touchdowns, and that's good enough to make him the front-runner entering the next week. But Winston is even better on Monday night, going 25 for 27 for 356 yards and four touchdowns in an unforgettable debut.
Clowney is unimpressive and memorably winded in South Carolina's season opener. Braxton Miller has a perfunctory day against Buffalo. AJ McCarron struggles against Virginia Tech. Tajh Boyd moves up after leading Clemson to a win over Georgia, effectively eliminating Aaron Murray, while Marcus Mariota has the first of a few games with more than 300 yards of total offense and three touchdowns.
Bridgewater is the favorite on September 3, with 5-1 odds, and Miller (13-2) and Manziel (15-2 after a good-not-great second half against Rice) followed him. Winston's odds rocket to 10-1, but Boyd (8-1) and Mariota (8-1) are ahead of him, and Duke Johnson (who nearly topped 200 yards in Miami's opener and looked very explosive) joins him at 10-1.
Bridgewater has another excellent week, throwing for 397 yards and four touchdowns, and improves his odds to 4-1. Mariota uses a big week of his own to join Manziel at 13-2, and Winston, despite a bye, moves to 7-1. Murray recovers a bit, getting to 16-1 with a win over South Carolina, but that win kills Clowney, who falls to 20-1. On the flip side, Devin Gardner, architect of Michigan's dramatic win over Notre Dame, soars to 14-1 despite throwing one of the more unforgivable picks of all time in the game.
Andy Lyons, Getty
Week 3 brings Manziel's unfathomable day against Alabama, in which he accounts for 562 yards of total offense and four touchdowns, runs curlicues in the backfield against the Alabama pass rush, and generally looks like a better version of the player he was in 2012. But it does not make Manziel the Heisman front-runner, mostly because of the loss, and because Mariota's numbers in a win over Tennessee (456 passing yards, four TDs; 27 rushing yards, one TD) are almost as good.
Mariota moves to 9-2, just ahead of Manziel, whose odds improve despite a loss, at 5-1. Bridgewater backs up to 13-2 after a ho-hum day against Kentucky. McCarron, with the aid of a win over Manziel's Texas A&M team, moves to a tie with Bridgewater. And all the movement up front actually makes Winston's odds longer. He moves back up to 9-1, despite Florida State crushing Nevada in a game no one saw.
Miller misses Ohio State's win over Cal, and Kenny Guiton stars in his absence, helping ease Ohio State's starter back to 12-1. It could've been worse: Gardner's chances of winning the Heisman are destroyed in short order by Michigan's close call against Akron, inflating his odds to 33-1.
Stasis, more or less: Mariota's off, but his odds improve to 3-1, while Bridgewater throws four touchdowns and moves up to 11-2. Manziel, McCarron, Winston, and Boyd (who had made it to 10-1 after Week 3) all fall back incrementally, with Winston edging back to 10-1 despite the best play of his season to date — one that no one sees except in highlights, thanks to a pay-per-view broadcast.
Brett Hundley creeps onto the fringe at 16-1, while Bryce Petty pops onto it at 25-1.
Steve Dykes, Getty
Here is how much of a runaway this race looked like for Mariota at one point: In a downpour, he completes just 11 of 25 passes for 115 yards and a touchdown and runs for just 33 yards and another score, but his odds improved to 8-5 thanks to Bridgewater being off and Manziel scuffling ("just" 320 yards of total offense) with lowly Arkansas.
Winston, meanwhile, makes the play of the week, his Hail Mary touchdown pass against Boston College. And yet he actually falls back to 12-1, likely because of the alleged vulnerability Florida State shows in winning by just two touchdowns (after building a 48-27 lead in the fourth quarter).
After that Boston College game, you could get the same Heisman odds for Winston and Aaron Murray.
Mariota's so entrenched as the front-runner by this point that a seven-touchdown day against Colorado with 355 passing yards does nothing to his odds. Manziel edges forward from 15-2 to 6-1 over a bye, while Boyd dumps 455 yards and five touchdowns on Syracuse, joining the 2012 winner at 6-1.
And Bridgewater, so good early on, keeps slipping, despite putting up 348 yards and two touchdowns on winless Temple. Being out of sight made him out of mind, and very, very vulnerable. Winston had the opposite problem, making another highlight happen and moving up to 9-1 after helping FSU dust Maryland.
Michael Chang, Getty
Winston makes the biggest move of the week. He does it without even playing, going from 9-1 and the middle of a chasing pack to 11-2 and firmly in a top three that is led by Mariota (who is superb in a showy win over Washington) at 7-5 and includes Manziel at 5-1.
Bridgewater's odds get worse, moving to 10-1. Boyd slips to 7-1 and behind Winston after Clemson struggles with the same Boston College team that played FSU close, needing 14 points in the fourth quarter for a 24-14 win. McCarron, operating with the efficiency and noise level of a nuclear submarine, falls back to 14-1, where he is joined by Hundley, fresh off a 410-yard, three-touchdown day in a beatdown of Cal.
Murray goes from 12-1 to off the board after Georgia takes its second loss to Missouri, and Todd Gurley (previously 50-1) joins him. De'Anthony Thomas falls off the board due to injury, while Kevin Hogan's fall comes thanks to Stanford's perplexing loss to Utah. Miller, physically hurt and damaged by Ohio State's spate of unimpressiveness, falls off the board after a Buckeyes bye.
Here is when things start swinging toward Winston. Mariota's still the favorite and has a typically gaudy day against Washington State (394 yards passing and rushing, three touchdowns) that moves him to 10-11, better than scratch. But Winston is excellent in FSU's whipping of Clemson, so much so that he's nipping on Mariota's heels at 11-10 despite the Oregon QB's great odds.
Winston has UCF and Auburn — specifically, the UCF and Auburn offenses — to thank. Bridgewater is great in Louisville's loss to the Knights, but it's still a loss, and his odds go from 10-1 to off the board, a stunning turn of events. And Manziel is better than great (502 yards passing and rushing, five touchdowns) against Auburn, but the Aggies can't stop the Tigers at all, and lose a 45-41 thriller. His odds move to 12-1, but it's clear that his battle is very much uphill, and A&M is all but out of contention in the SEC West already.
Boyd, who had shorter odds than Bridgewater entering Week 8, falls off the board, too — a casualty of Clemson's obliteration, no doubt. And Hundley gets shut down by Stanford, and falls off.
Four candidates falling down in the same week Winston had his biggest win? That's some good luck.
Winston would need some more good luck to dispose of Mariota, but, by this point, he's made himself essentially a co-favorite, so.
Mariota leads Oregon to a 42-14 win over UCLA, but his odds actually get longer, going from 10-11 to 1-1. Winston helps FSU cream N.C. State, and stays at 11-10, and he's the only guy in striking range of Mariota. Manziel moves back to 9-1 after another stat-stuffing outing (305 passing yards and four TDs against Vanderbilt), McCarron sits at 12-1, and Petty lurks at 20-1, but it's clear that this is a duel, not a shootout.
Winston catches a break that ultimately doesn't matter here. Mariota is off while Winston misfires a bit against Miami, throwing two interceptions before recovering for a 325-yard night that leads the 'Noles to a 41-14 win. A bigger discrepancy between the two players' performances might have helped Mariota build a bigger lead; as is, he moves down to 2-3, his lowest odds yet, while Winston backpedals to 6-5.
Manziel's Aggies stomp UTEP. Manziel still falls to 14-1. He's out of it, barring a loss by either Mariota or Winston, and so is the rest of the field. Even McCarron, who has Alabama and Great Winner Leader advantages, is looking like a long shot at 16-1.
Kelly L. Cox, Getty
Then Mariota loses.
He's not awful, per se, in Oregon's 26-20 loss to Stanford, but anyone who saw the game before seeing the final score remembers how much of Mariota's numbers (250 yards, two touchdowns through the air) came in a late and doomed rally, and that he fumbled three times, losing one. And the loss itself is bad enough, with Winston baying at the door.
Another excellent game from Winston in a 59-3 rout of Florida State seals him as the new front-runner, and his odds get close to insane, falling to 1-5. Mariota falls off the board. Manziel is once again in the race, moving down to 4-1. McCarron plays well against LSU and moves to 7-1, and Mariota's exit and Baylor's rout of Oklahoma conspire to make Bryce Petty a 20-1 longshot.
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At this point, the race is rather devoid of intrigue at the top, at least in terms of football. Winston is going to win if Florida State wins out, clearly — and Florida State is going to win out, given that a potential ACC Championship Game with Virginia Tech looks like the only tough game left — except that his name is now in close proximity to the words "alleged rape."
So things start getting unpredictable. He moves backward to 4-11. Manziel, on a bye again, moves to 5-2 from 4-1, and Petty's puncher's chance gets better, as he throws five touchdowns in a rout of Texas Tech and moves to 10-1. McCarron's lurking at 13-2, too, and his hype machine is about to whir into action.
Winston helps Florida State beat Idaho 80-14. That's 80, with an 80. His odds still somehow get worse, going back to 1-2, despite Manziel (now 20-1) and A&M getting wiped out at LSU, and Petty and Baylor falling to Oklahoma State. A bunch of players who won't win the Heisman— Andre Williams, Derek Carr, Miller, Jordan Lynch — rejoin the board at longish odds, probably to protect bookmakers in the event of a charge coming against Winston.
But McCarron becomes the stalking horse at 2-1, and there are so many dumb columns to be written about how McCarron is just the guy the Heisman needs, and Alabama plays Auburn the next weekend, and maybe, just maybe...
McCarron plays well against Auburn, but Chris Davis Jr. shocks the world, and McCarron's odds fall to 15-1. Lynch benefits most from McCarron's loss, moving to 5-1 from 28-1. Winston's odds get a lot better, going from 1-2 to 1-10 (as of December 2) after a win over Florida and what looks to be an investigation dragging toward a decision to not charge him.
The unkillable Miller, who has survived injury and Ohio State's struggles with being anything more than a really good Big Ten team in an awful year for the conference, is now third at 12-1. That will totally work out for him.
Bob Donnan, USA Today
With the investigation into Winston officially resulting in a decision not to charge on December 4, Winston enters the ACC Championship Game as the largely unfettered front-runner. He throws for 330 yards and three touchdowns in a demolition of Duke. He secures his victory with that performance. No one has topped his 3,820 yards and 38 passing touchdowns for a team that looks like an overwhelming national title favorite, and his odds are microscopic, down as low as 1-100.
Tre Mason storms into the third paragraph of the post-ceremony write-ups at the SEC Championship Game, pounding Missouri for 304 yards and four touchdowns on the ground, and awing even the gold standard for Auburn running backs: Bo Jackson called Mason "a bad, bad man," and he was right. It takes one to come from off the board to Heisman finalist in one week.
And Bridgewater puts on a show (255 yards and three TDs through the air) against Cincinnati, but it isn't good enough to get him a finalist's spot, even with every other contender in action faltering. Braxton Miller leads Ohio State back from a 17-0 hole, but can't navigate the Buckeyes back from a smaller one late. Jordan Lynch is bottled up by Bowling Green in a blowout MAC Championship Game loss. Derek Carr, fringe candidate at best, follows two jaw-dropping lines with only ("only") 404 yards and three touchdowns in a game no one watches.
By this point, everyone but Winston was playing for second place. Mason, by putting on his most spectacular performance of the season when all the world was watching, may well have made the best final impression of any candidate, and stolen second late as a result. But Winston has the Heisman on lock.
The Heisman finalists: Lynch, Manziel, Mason, McCarron, Williams, Winston.
Heisman odds rankings, from week to week (only players ranked better than 20/1):
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