Will voters blindside Jameis Winston’s Heisman Trophy hopes?

(Game Day)

The Heisman Trophy and a BCS National Championship would answer Jameis Winston’s prayers.

Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston is the unquestioned front-runner to win the Heisman Trophy. With sexual battery allegations behind him, Winston’s final hurdle is the moral high road some football writers will take in the final voting process.

All Jameis Winston can do is sit and wait while facing an all out blitz from the media, college football fans and most importantly, the Heisman Trophy voting committee. There is no pocket protection or scrambling after the play breaks down. Winston is in the metaphorical grasp and is facing an oncoming gang tackle. Winston’s 4,038 yards from scrimmage and 42 touchdowns will go out the window with some voters undoubtedly referencing off the field drama before considering handing the ultra-talented redshirt freshman college football’s top individual prize.

Winston’s plays a position which requires a short memory, but rest assured some voters will resort to pachyderm-like recollection before endorsing Florida State’s outstanding quarterback. We’ve seen it happen with the Baseball Hall of Fame and it will effect this year’s Heisman Trophy.

Things took a wicked turn last Saturday after the Seminoles punched their ticket to the BCS National Championship Game with a 45-7 victory over Duke. Two days earlier, sexual battery charges against Winston were dropped from his encounter with an Florida State University student over a year ago. In a post game interview, ESPN’s Heather Cox asked Winston one question about the game followed by three consecutive inquiries regarding the allegations before Florida State school officials cut the interview short.

Cox’s later claimed she was only doing her job in her questioning of Winston.

The image of Winston walking away from Cox’s final question is what has been burned into everyone’s mind. A school official overhearing Cox ask Winston why he refused to speak during the investigation, tugged on Winston’s shirt and ended the interview before leading Winston away. He was not avoiding the question.

A ten month investigation wasn’t going to convict Jameis Winston. The court of public opinion is where Winston will catch hell. Ask LeGarrette Blount, Maurice Clarrett, Tyrann Mathieu Cam Newton or Terrelle Pryor.

Hanes underwear isn’t the only manufacturer of permanent tags.

Heisman Trophy or not, Jameis Winston is marked for the long haul while the Riley Coopers and Richie Incognitos of the world will be given a pass.

Texas A&M’s quarterback Johnnie Manziel is the next logical choice of voters if Winston doesn’t win the award. Manziel was cited by the NCAA for signing autographs for money in January. NCAA officials agreed with the school’s decision to suspend Manziel for the first half of their season opener against Rice. Many were calling for Manziel to be expelled like Ohio State’s Terrelle Pryor in 2011.

Then there is University of Alabama quarterback A.J. McCarron — winner of the Johnny Unitas and Maxwell Awards. McCarron doesn’t have the highlight reels of Manziel and Winston, but he is the only quarterback to win back-to-back National Titles in the BCS era. McCarron is 36-3 in his three seasons as a starter for the Crimson Tide. Once a long shot to win the Heisman, McCarron is now in the thick of the running. Given the off the field issues of Manziel and Winston, McCarron may be the sentimental pick of voters — who by their standards has steered clear of trouble while leading his team to two national championships.

Winston has led the Seminoles to an undefeated season and into the national championship game as a freshman — a claim neither Manziel or McCarron can make. Winston poise under pressure is reminiscent of Cam Newton, who played brilliantly while being investigated in a pay to play scandal during his Heisman and national championship run in 2011.

Only the moral agenda of voters stands between Jameis Winston and immortality.

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