The Heisman race will be wide open to start the 2013 college football season with several legitimate contenders vying for the chance to make it to New York. Johnny Manziel was initially listed as the favorite at 5/1 odds but the recent allegations against him have everyone wondering whether he will be available to start the season. Braxton Miller has since been listed as the new favorite at 5/1 while Manziel’s chances have slipped down to 15/1 according to Las Vegas oddsmakers. If Cam Newton’s attorneys come through for Johnny Manziel, and he is able to avoid suspension, he will enter the 2013 season as the front-runner to win this year’s Heisman Trophy.
Additional players with a phenomenal chance to take home the Heisman Trophy are Teddy Bridgewater, Aaron Murray, Tajh Boyd, Marcus Mariota, TJ Yeldon, DeAnthony Thomas, AJ McCarron, and Jadeveon Clowney. I could make an argument for each of these ten players as to why they will win the Heisman Trophy.
Everyone has an opinion as to who should win the award but I did not let the media influence my top five. This is not a projection of who I think will end up in New York but my opinion of who the most deserving players will be. In part one, I have listed my top five who are coincidentally all quarterbacks. I will explain my reasoning for each and will post the additional five players later this week.
Braxton Miller – Of all the players mentioned above, Braxton Miller has the most pressure heading into the 2013 football season. As the quarterback of the Ohio State Buckeyes, Miller will be a target for critics everywhere. He is expected to lead the Buckeyes to an undefeated season and anything less will be considered a major disappointment. If Miller fails to get Ohio State into the National Championship Game he probably will not win the award.
He will win the Heisman if… Miller will win the Heisman Trophy if he is able to improve on his 2,039 passing yards from last season AND if he is able to lead the Buckeyes to another undefeated season. Most importantly, Miller will have to stay healthy. I know this generally goes without saying but he took some huge hits last season and was nearly lost for the year on a few separate occasions throughout his two seasons with the Buckeyes. He always comes up limping after a big hit and will have to play smarter by sliding and running out of bounds this upcoming season. Braxton’s 1,271 rushing yards in 2012 were good enough to lead the team in rushing and those numbers will certainly be good enough to get him to New York if he can do it again. He has spent much of the off-season working on his passing game. He has an extremely strong arm but he sometimes lacks accuracy. Last season Miller looked to run before looking to pass.
If he is able to tighten up his accuracy and continue to develop as a true quarterback, his second season under Tom Herman and Urban Meyer will be scary. There are too many great players this season for Miller to have a sloppy performance, lose the game, and still win the Heisman. Unfortunately, perception is everything in college football, and right now, the Big Ten is perceived as a very weak conference. Most analysts are lucky if they watch three total games on any given Saturday but their opinions are generally enough to sway the viewers and in turn, the voters. It is an absolute must that Ohio State finishes the 2013 season with an unblemished record unless Miller is able to put up numbers similar to Manziel’s from a year ago. Miller probably will not win the Heisman if his playmakers are able to perform at the level that they are capable of. Ohio State is stacked at the running back position and should be one of the best rushing teams in the nation. There will be a lot of option plays and quick passes which will lighten the load for Miller. Ohio State’s success could easily cost Miller the Heisman as Tom Herman will be looking to spread the wealth among seven or eight guys in his offense but I’m sure Miller and the coaching staff would be perfectly fine with that result. All things considered, I think Braxton Miller will be your 2013 Heisman Trophy winner.
Johnny Manziel – The potential for Manziel to match Archie Griffin’s two Heisman trophies is in the hands of the NCAA. Last week I projected Manziel to be pushing 1,000 total yards of offense entering his week three showdown against Alabama. If he is suspended the first two weeks of the season it is highly unlikely that he will be able to match his stats from 2012, and if he misses the Alabama game, it will be impossible for him to win the award.
He will win the Heisman if… Manziel will win the Heisman if he is not only able to avoid suspension but if he can match his stats from a season ago and make a BCS game. Last season no one expected Texas A&M to be as good as they were so Manziel was given all the credit for leading them to an 11-2 record, and rightfully so. This year the Aggies will be a top five team entering the season and will be favored in nearly every game. If Manziel is able to exceed expectations he will become only the 2nd two-time Heisman Trophy winner of all time. Matching his stats from last year will be an unbelievably difficult task but the Aggies have a favorable schedule. Again, the media talks so much about the difficulty of the SEC that most people don’t even bother to do the research on their own. Outside of Alabama and LSU, the Aggies toughest game will be versus Auburn, at home. If Manziel is able to accumulate over 5,000 yards of total offense again in 2013 and make a BCS game he probably deserves to win the Heisman regardless of his schedule. Jake Matthews will have to step up at left tackle and provide the same level of protection that #2 overall draft pick Luke Joeckel did last season.
Aaron Murray – Aaron Murray is the best pocket passer in the nation, hands down. He has three years of experience under his belt and has thrown for over 3,000 yards in each of his last three seasons. Murray is the leader of what figures to be one of the best offenses in all of college football. Mark Richt has no problem letting Murray air the ball out and with debatably the best running back tandem in the country, opposing defenses will have no choice but to respect the run.
He will win the Heisman if… Aaron Murray will win the Heisman if Georgia can start the season 4-0. The Bulldogs play Clemson, South Carolina, and LSU within the first four weeks of the season! Starting 4-0 is certainly manageable as they have South Carolina and LSU at home. Murray will post strong enough numbers to win the Heisman with a tremendous season but his numbers probably won’t be great enough to win it with another two or three loss record. Pass protection should not be an issue for Murray as Georgia returns all five starters along the offensive line. The Bulldogs will only lose one starting wide receiver and will return both starting running backs. Murray should have no problem improving on his 3,893 passing yards from last season and if Georgia’s young defense can get acclimated quickly, Aaron Murray will at least be making a trip to New York City.
Teddy Bridgewater – Teddy Bridgewater solidified himself as one of the nation’s best quarterbacks with his stellar performance on the big stage, against the Florida Gators in last year’s Sugar Bowl. His 27:8 touchdown to interception ratio in 2012 is difficult to judge because of the poor level of play in the Big East (now American Athletic Conference). His 3,718 passing yards last season are impressive regardless of the level of competition that he was going up against. Bridgewater has certainly done enough to impress the NFL draft experts as he is projected as a consensus top three pick. He has a great chance to win the Heisman Trophy this season if things go as planned.
He will win the Heisman if… Teddy Bridgewater will win the Heisman if he is able to lead his team to a National Championship berth. It couldn’t be any more cut and dry. Louisville’s schedule is laughable with their toughest game being against the Cincinnati Bearcats. Bridgewater must exceed expectations in every game this season since his level of competition is so low. There is no reason Bridgewater shouldn’t throw for over 4,000 yards and lead his team to a perfect 12-0 regular season record. The addition of Michael Dyer at running back will certainly help Bridgewater’s Heisman hopes as opposing defenses will now be forced to respect the run. Bridgewater will get a lot of publicity through the national media especially if he is projected to go #1 in the 2014 NFL Draft. Louisville generally under-achieves and always manages to lose to an inferior opponent. I suspect the same will happen this season and it will ultimately cost Bridgewater the Heisman.
Tajh Boyd – Tajh Boyd has two years of experience running the Clemson offense and has accumulated nearly 9,000 total yards of offense. He has progressively gotten better and 2013 should be no different. Boyd has been fortunate enough to have phenomenal wide receivers which has certainly helped him progress. He passed up the opportunity to leave after his junior season so he had one more chance to play for a national title. The ACC is extremely weak this year but Clemson will also have to get past two strong SEC opponents if they plan on heading to Pasadena.
He will win the Heisman if… Boyd will win the Heisman if he is able to improve his numbers from the past two seasons AND if Sammy Watkins performs at the level that he is capable of. Tajh Boyd has been unable to crack the 4,000 yard passing mark and his passing numbers haven’t improved much over the past two years. He became more of a threat running the ball in 2012 as he finished the season with over 500 yards rushing. Boyd is losing his favorite target from a season ago in wide receiver, DeAndre Hopkins. Sammy Watkins is the most athletic player on the team but he under-performed last season due in large part to his off the field issues. Obviously Clemson will have to have a strong season as a whole but I don’t think one or two losses will completely prevent Boyd from winning the Heisman. If Watkins steps up and Boyd is able to throw for over 4,000 yards he will put himself in a great position to win the most coveted award in college football.