The 2013 Brutally Honest Heisman Race
Georgia QB Aaron Murray
Georgia QB Aaron Murray
Posted Aug 22, 2013

And the winner of the 2013 Heisman will be ... ? It might be a big surprise.

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Brutally Honest Heisman Chase

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Brutally Honest Heisman Breakdowns
- 2012 | 2011 | 2009 | 2008 | 2007 

Take a look at your NFL fantasy football cheat sheets. Supposedly, the best fantasy players are the best skill players, and, supposedly, they were probably the best skill players in college football, meaning they should've been front and center in their Heisman chases each and every season, right? So among the top 20 quarterbacks and running backs on most boards, how many of them won the big prize?

There's Cam Newton, Robert Griffin III, Sam Bradford, and … Adrian Peterson? No. Anyone named Manning? No. Aaron Rodgers, Drew Brees, Matt Ryan, Andrew Luck, Arian Foster, Trent Richardson and on and on and on? Nope.

It's really, really, really hard to become a Heisman finalist, much less a winner.

How many of the 15 most efficient passers in college football last year were Heisman finalists? Zip, and it's not like these were lightweights, either. AJ McCarron, Aaron Murray, Tajh Boyd, Geno Smith, Marcus Mariota, Teddy Bridgewater and E.J. Manuel were among the nation's most effective quarterbacks who didn't get a bus ticket to New York.

Out of the 56 running backs to tear off 1,000 yards or more, how many were Heisman finalists? None, and Ka'Deem Carey flirted with 2,000 yards, Montee Ball ran the Badgers to a third straight Rose Bowl and Le'Veon Bell rumbled 382 times for close to 1,800 yards.

Again, it's really, really, really hard to even be a Heisman finalist.

To have a shot at getting the greatest individual award in all of sports, you have to 1) play on offense, 2) be a quarterback or running back, 3) put up extraordinary stats and/or be in the national title chase and 4) have a signature Heisman game or moment – RG3 vs. Oklahoma, Manziel vs. Alabama - that sticks in the minds of voters.

So forget about Western Kentucky running back Antonio Andrews, who'll once again flirt with the single-season all-purpose yard mark. Ignore Marshall receiver Tommy Shuler, who led the nation in catches per game. Don't get hyped up about Fresno State's Derek Carr or San Jose State's David Fales, who might be the two best quarterbacks in the country, but will have to be ridiculous to get Heisman attention. NIU's Jordan Lynch will have the stats, but good luck getting the deserved respect coming from the MAC.

The Heisman race is a harsh business, so with all of that in mind, welcome to the brutally honest look at the 2013 Heisman Trophy chase.

10. QB Taylor Martinez, Sr. Nebraska
Run through the criteria. He plays on offense, and he already has a nice résumé and a good name. He's a quarterback who moves and puts up stats like a running back, coming up with highlight-reel moments like his epic touchdown run in the disastrous Big Ten championship loss against Wisconsin, and, most importantly, he'll have the schedule. If the Huskers are merely competent, they'll blow past Wyoming, Southern Miss, South Dakota State, Illinois, at Purdue, at Minnesota, at Penn State and Iowa without breathing hard. If T-Magic has a huge day against UCLA on September 14th, that will set the tone for November showdowns against Northwestern, Michigan and Michigan State.

Why He Won't Win It: Le'Veon Bell was my breakthrough, watch-out-for-this-guy star last year in the No. 10 slot, and he didn't exactly bust the Heisman door down despite his fantastic season. If Martinez is anything less than outstanding stat-wise, and if the Huskers lose to UCLA or Michigan and don't end up playing for another Big Ten title, he's out.

9. QB Teddy Bridgewater, Jr. Louisville
The odds-on favorite to be the top quarterback taken in the 2014 NFL Draft – he's nuts if he doesn't come out early – he's coming off a fantastic season throwing for 3,718 yards with 27 touchdowns and a spread-out eight picks. Most importantly, he was one of the signature stars of the 2012-2013 bowl season with his 266-yard, two score day in the Sugar Bowl win over Florida. Everything is set up perfectly for a Heisman run with the talent, the experience, the team and the street cred after proving himself worthy against a top SEC team. The schedule is there for a huge season for the team and a bright spotlight for No. 5, but …

Why He Won't Win It: The schedule. Where's the signature moment going to come from? If he blows up Rutgers, will anyone do anything more than yawn? Will destroying Kentucky, Connecticut or Cincinnati make anyone care? He has to put up astronomical numbers to reasonably get into the discussion, Louisville has to rip through everything in its path and there can't be an obvious other option. Getting to New York is possible, but actually winning the honor will take some serious breaks.

8. QB Marcus Mariota, Soph. Oregon
The undeniable talent is there for a team that's going to be in the national title hunt all season long. After throwing 32 touchdown passes, showing off great speed on the way to 752 rushing yards and five scores, and proving to be the type of leader and playmaker good enough to take a great team to a whole other level, he could have the best all-around combination of factors – including the Colin Kaepernick-style part of the equation – to bring the Heisman to Eugene.

Why He Won't Win It: The stats might not be strong enough. Jeremiah Masoli, Dennis Dixon and Darron Thomas all did huge things as the Duck quarterback, and there might be a bit of a bias against Mariota because of the system. The Oregon offense makes the player as much as the player makes the offense, and splitting the spotlight with De'Anthony Thomas won't help.

7. QB Tajh Boyd, Sr. Clemson
We'll know right away if Boyd is a contender or a pretender – sorry about that – with the duel against Aaron Murray and Georgia on the opening Saturday. With his nearly flawless 346-yard, two touchdown, one rushing score performance in the thrilling bowl win over LSU to close out the 2012 season, the street cred is now there proving that yeah, he really and truly is a top-shelf, big game, superstar difference-maker of a playmaker and leader. With two straight seasons of over 3,800 passing yards and with 69 scoring passes, the passing stats are nice, and it'll be a huge help if he can run for ten scores again. However, it'll all come down to the showdown against the Dawgs to kick things off, the battle for ACC supremacy against Florida State in mid-October, and the regular season finale against South Carolina.

Why He Won't Win It: Clemson has to win at least two of the three showdowns against the Bulldogs, Seminoles and Gamecocks, and Boyd has to rock the house in each one. The Tigers are very, very good, but they'll probably lose two of the three. However, again, if he comes out strong, look out. If he has a bad Opening Night, then watch out for …

6. QB Aaron Murray, Sr. Georgia
Murray would probably be front and center on this list had he and Georgia been able to finish the job against Alabama in the SEC championship. The Dawgs would've blown away Notre Dame, and Murray would be the it guy this college football offseason. Instead, after choosing to come back for his final season, he's the leader of a loaded offense that's good enough to challenge for the national title, and he has the ability and the upside to put up massive yards after throwing for just under 3,900 last year with 36 touchdowns. If he has a great September and leads Georgia to a 4-0 start with wins over Clemson, South Carolina and LSU on the résumé, he'll be sitting in the front row on Heisman night.

Why He Won't Win It: Matt Barkley. Everyone likes Matt Barkley. He's a great guy, the consummate leader and the type of talent that coaches dream of having under center. He came back for his senior season to lead USC to the national title, and things didn't exactly work out as planned. Murray has the same type of skill and upside, but, like Barkley, his Heisman hopes will be tied into what the team does. If the Dawgs falter early or slip up against a Florida or a Missouri, forget about the award. Georgia needs to go 13-0 and/or be SEC champions and/or be off to the BCS championship for Murray to win.

5. QB AJ McCarron, Sr. Alabama
The defense is always the key to the Crimson Tide, the offensive line might have been the star last year, and Trent Richardson was the big man in 2011, but McCarron is starting to get respect as one of the key parts to the puzzle. Sure, he's surrounded by greatness, but without that last minute drive in Death Valley against LSU, there's no talk of a threepeat. If he wasn't the unflappable, mistake-free leader he has grown into, Alabama probably isn't the preseason No. 1 team. After throwing two interceptions in the 2011 opener against Kent State, McCarron has given the ball away just seven times since, with his only other two pick game coming in last year's loss to Texas A&M. He'll never have the raw stats, but if he puts the Tide in a position for a third straight crystal ball thingy and a fourth in five years, he'll receive plenty of votes.

Why He Won't Win It: Ken Dorsey. McCarron is a better player and pro prospect than Dorsey was, but he's still a bit of a driver who just so happens to have the keys to the sweet ride. The two big stats will be interceptions and wins. If he can be ultra-efficient and error-free in the big games against Texas A&M and LSU, and if he has the Tide back in the SEC championship, there's a chance he could be a finalist, but the overall wow factor won't be there and he won't be an exciting Heisman choice.

4. DE Jadeveon Clowney, Jr. South Carolina
The Heisman is overdue for another barrier to be broken. While Charles Woodson was a peerless defensive back, he won in 1997 because he also rocked as a kick returner and receiver. Tim Tebow busted through the sophomore ceiling in 2007, and Mr. Manziel got the trophy as a freshman last year. Now it's time for a pure defensive talent to win it – and without the cockamamie story to go along with the campaign. The biggest positive for Clowney is that his Gamecocks don't have to dominate for him to win. As long as he shows up big in the monster games, and as long as he's cemented as the unquestioned No. 1 pick in the 2014 NFL Draft, he'll get several votes on the Best College Football Player theory alone.

Why He Won't Win It: There might not have been a more dominant big game performance by a defensive player in the history of college football than what Nebraska defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh came up with in the 2009 Big 12 championship against Texas, but that still didn't get him all that close to the Heisman. Clowney won't hit the 20 sack level being thrown around – every team will use 17 blockers to make sure No. 7 doesn't produce. He's going to be a marked man.

3. QB Johnny Manziel, Soph. Texas A&M
Forget all the other garbage surrounding your reigning Heisman winner. If he does that again, how can he not be Johnny Repeat? If he rocks against Alabama and leads the way to an Aggie win, A&M will probably be No. 1 in the country and he'll have the Heisman for the taking with a relative cakewalk of a schedule up until the showdown at LSU on November 23rd. If he comes close to 3,700 passing yards and 1,400 rushing yards again, and A&M plays well enough to at least be really, really close in the big games, all the offseason stuff will make him even more of a folk hero.

Why He Won't Win It: Tick … tick … tick … the bomb seems like it's this close to going off. Even if there's nothing to the whole autograph controversy, Mr. Saban and his Crimson Tide might be just a wee bit fired up on September 14th. But even if everything is kosher with his off-the-field shenanigans, there's always going to be the lunkhead part of the Heisman voting equation that doesn't want to see a repeat winner. Some won't vote for Manziel simply because they don't want to.

2. QB Braxton Miller, Jr. Ohio State
On an MVP basis, a reasonable argument could be made that Miller deserved the 2012 Heisman. Did Texas A&M go unbeaten? Ohio State did, and without Miller there's absolutely no chance that would've happened. He might not have had the stats of a Johnny Manziel, and he didn't have that one signature performance like Mr. Football came up with against Alabama, but he's been an electrifying performer for the last two seasons, and now there's a buzz. He might not need the jaw-dropping stats if he can just get the Buckeyes past Wisconsin, Northwestern and Michigan on the way to the Big Ten championship. OSU is good, but with so many changes on defense, there should be several close battles and plenty of chances for Miller to come up with the kind of late drives that win Heismans.

Why He Won't Win It: If Ohio State doesn't go 13-0, or at least 12-1 with a Big Ten title, forget about it. He's not going to have the stats of other top dual-threat quarterbacks, so it'll all come down to the record and his performances against the Badgers and Wolverines. Did OSU go unbeaten last season? Yes. Did Miller have a huge season? Yes. Did he come within 27 miles of the Heisman? Nope.

1. The Field
Yeah, yeah, yeah, it's becoming the annual cop out, but it was also the dead-on right call last year. So your guy isn't on the list of top Heisman contenders? La-de-fricking-da. After Mark Ingram, Cam Newton, RGIII and Johnny Manziel, if you want to throw out a name for the Heisman chase, go for it.

Michigan quarterback Devin Gardner? Sure. Miami's Duke Johnson, Alabama's T.J. Yeldon or Oregon's De'Anthony Thomas? Why not? USC's Marqise Lee? If he can find a quarterback. Baylor's Lache Seastrunk? If he doesn't lose stats to a slew of other great Bear skill guys. Georgia's Todd Gurley, Arizona's Ka'Deem Carey or Florida State's Jameis Winston? The more the merrier. Trevor Knight or Nick Marshall? It's called Google.

So go ahead. Come up with any 15 college football players you'd like to put in the Heisman race, and the chances are strong that you've never heard of the guy who's going to be giving the speech at the Downtown Athletic Club.