November 22, 2014

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Six in the running … and passing … for Heisman Trophy

Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston is expected to be the second straight freshman to win the Heisman Trophy. (AP Photo/Bob Leverone)

Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston is expected to be the second straight freshman to win the Heisman Trophy. (AP Photo/Bob Leverone)

NEW YORK — Jameis Winston will have plenty of company at the Heisman Trophy ceremony — though he’s not expected to have much competition.

The Florida State quarterback was among a record-tying six Heisman finalists revealed Monday, along with Northern Illinois’ Jordan Lynch, Texas A&M’s Johnny Manziel, Alabama’s AJ McCarron, Auburn’s Tre Mason and Boston College’s Andre Williams.

Six finalists invited to New York for the presentation are the most since 1994. The winner will be announced Saturday night.

Winston is the overwhelming favorite to win the award now that a sexual assault complaint against him in Tallahassee, Fla., has been closed without charges being filed.

He could also become the second freshman to win the award. Manziel was the first last year. Famous Jameis, like Johnny Football last season, is a redshirt freshman.

Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel

Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel

While Winston was a lock to be invited, the rest of the field was muddled. Some contenders had late stumbles (Manziel and Lynch), others (Mason and Williams) made late runs.

Manziel will try to join another exclusive Heisman club by becoming the second player to win the award twice. Ohio State’s Archie Griffin won the award in 1974 and ’75.

The Aggies’ quarterback is third in the nation in total offense with 368 yards per game.

Lynch led No. 24 Northern Illinois (12-1) to within a victory of a BCS bid and has set the major college record for yards rushing for a quarterback this season with 1,815. He also tweeted that he was a finalist about five minutes before the official announcement was made on ESPN by 1996 winner Danny Wuerffel.

“NYC here I come!! Thanks to the coaches teammates and media relation couldn’t of did it wt out them!” the record-setting senior posted.

Alabama quarterback AJ McCarron

Alabama quarterback AJ McCarron

Northern Illinois quarterback Jordan Lynch

Northern Illinois quarterback Jordan Lynch

McCarron completed 67 percent of his passes for 2,676 yards and 26 touchdowns for the fourth-ranked Crimson Tide (11-1).

“This will be my first trip to New York City, and I can’t put into words how much it means to me,” McCarron said in a statement released by the school. “I am truly privileged to have the opportunity to represent our team at the Heisman ceremony. None of this would be possible without my coaches and teammates.”

Mason helped No. 2 Auburn reach the BCS title game, running for 304 yards and four TDs in the SEC championship game. He is ninth in the country in rushing (124 yards per game).

“When I heard the news, I was in disbelief,” Mason said in a statement. “For me to be invited to the Heisman ceremony, I am honored and blessed. I couldn’t have done it without my teammates; this is an honor for all of them also.”

Williams is the nation’s leading rusher at 175 yards per game and the 16th player in FBS to run for 2,000 yards in a season.

Boston College’s Andre Williams

Boston College’s Andre Williams

Auburn running back Tre Mason

Auburn running back Tre Mason

Winston’s arrival as Florida State’s starting quarterback was being touted as a major event in the spring and he has surpassed the hype. The Alabama native is on pace to break the NCAA record for passer efficiency rating (190.1) and has already set records for yards passing (3,820) and TD passes (38) for a freshman.

Winston’s only issues have come off the field. About a month ago, a year-old sexual assault complaint against him made by a female Florida State student was given by police to the state attorney’s office for a full investigation.

A woman claimed Winston raped her. Winston’s lawyer said the sex was consensual. Winston continued to play, and play well, during the investigation. Last week, the state attorney announced there would be no charges filed in the case, and two days later Winston threw for three touchdown passes and ran for a score as No. 1 Florida State won the Atlantic Coast Conference championship game 45-7 against Duke and wrapped up a spot in the BCS title game.

In the latest straw poll released Monday by HeismanPundit.com, which has correctly predicted the last seven winners, Winston received seven of the 10 first-place votes and 26 points to easily outdistance Lynch (eight points and two first-place votes).