Jameis Winston could become the ACC's first Heisman winner since Chris Weinke. (Don Juan Moore/Getty Images)
For all of its struggles as a BCS conference, the ACC has a knack for luring top-tier college football talent. In April, the league saw 31 of its players selected in the 2013 NFL Draft, trailing only the SEC and Big Ten, which each had 42 players selected. In '06, the ACC set records for the most first-round selections (12) and the most picks (51) in a single draft.
It’s clear that by the standard of the NFL draft that the ACC is one of the most productive conferences in college football, but its production hasn’t translated to Heisman Trophy success. Since 1990, only three players from current ACC teams have won the Heisman, all quarterbacks: Miami’s Gino Toretta ('92), and Florida State’s Charlie Ward ('93) and Chris Weinke (2000). Meanwhile, the Big Ten, the Big 12, the Pac-12 and the SEC have each produced at least one Heisman winner in the 12 seasons since Weinke’s victory.
But the ACC's run of futility might finally be nearing an end. Though Clemson quarterback Tajh Boyd likely remains the current Heisman favorite, another Seminoles quarterback is suddenly making a strong case for himself.
Heisman Watch -- Week 6
1. Tajh Boyd, QB Clemson
2. Marcus Mariota, QB Oregon
3. Aaron Murray, QB Georgia
4. Jameis Winston, QB Florida State
5. Johnny Manziel, QB Texas A&M
6. AJ McCarron, QB Alabama
7. Braxton Miller, QB Ohio State
8. Teddy Bridgewater, QB Louisville
9. Bryce Petty, QB Baylor
10. Zach Mettenberger, QB LSU
Player of the Week
Jameis Winston, QB Florida State
Week 6 stats: 23-of-32 passing for 393 yards and five touchdowns
Wasn’t last Saturday supposed to be the first true challenge for Famous Jameis? Winston made unbeaten Maryland look silly in the Seminoles 63-0 rout, the most lopsided defeat of a top-25 team in Florida State history. Winston completed 72 percent of his passes against a Terrapins defense that came in allowing only 165.3 yards through the air and leading the country with 17 sacks. His passing yards and touchdown throws were both career highs, and he became the first Florida State quarterback to throw five scoring passes in a game since Christian Ponder in 2009.
Seminoles fans likely thought Winston’s day was over after he narrowly avoided a sack and threw his fourth touchdown strike with 2:30 left in the third quarter. But after a Maryland fumble on the ensuing possession, Winston hit Kelvin Benjamin for a 21-yard touchdown pass on Florida State's very next play, a perfect ending to the youngster’s stellar day.
Winston has now thrown 17 touchdown passes, with just two interceptions, and he’s the ACC’s leader in five passing categories, including completion percentage (73.2). One year ago, the redshirt freshman's Heisman shot would have seemed a longshot. But after Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel won the trophy as a redshirt freshman last fall, Winston shouldn’t face the same barriers. But first, he needs to have a monster day against Boyd and Clemson on Oct. 19.
JOHNSON: Winston looks Heisman-worthy in domination of Maryland
Boyd eclipsed his own record for passing yards in a game with 455 in a 49-14 road win over Syracuse last Saturday; his five touchdown completions in the game also tied a school record. By halftime, he’d connected on 15-of-17 passes for 317 yards. Boyd did throw his first two picks of the season, but his completion percentage has improved in each of his five games in 2013. The Tigers game with Florida State in two weeks looms large for Boyd’s Heisman candidacy -- as it does for Winston.
MANDEL: Clemson-Florida State could shape BCS title race; more College Football Overtime
Week in and week out, Mariota manages to reel off impressive numbers despite limited action on the field. He played only two and a half quarters in No. 2 Oregon’s 57-16 win over Colorado this weekend, but he still had a hand in seven total touchdowns and threw for 355 yards. Mariota has 21 total touchdowns this year (14 passing, seven rushing) and has yet to throw an interception. This Saturday’s meeting with No. 16 Washington will be the first true test of his offensive prowess this season.
It took some extra football for Georgia to escape with an overtime victory over Tennessee, but Murray was a big reason why the Bulldogs survived the road scare. After the Volunteers scored a go-ahead touchdown with 1:54 remaining in regulation, Murray engineered a 10-play, 75-yard drive and found Rantavious Wooten in the end zone to tie things up with five seconds to play. Statistically, it was the least productive outing of the season for Murray (196 passing yards, 54.3 completion percentage), but he did become the SEC’s all-time leading passer in the victory.
ELLIS: More injuries couldn't deny Georgia victory
It’s almost unfair what Petty and the Baylor offense are doing to other teams. Against West Virginia, which had just upset 11th-ranked Oklahoma State the week before, the Bears rolled up a Big 12-record 864 total yards in a 73-42 rout. Petty is the quiet engine behind the Baylor attack, leading the country with 14.7 yards per attempt and throwing for 1,348 yards and 10 touchdowns, with only one pick. Those numbers aren’t likely to drop off anytime soon; the Bears won’t face a legitimate defensive test until they play Oklahoma on Nov. 7.
The way Baylor has been putting up points, how couldn't Bryce Petty be in the Heisman race? (Rod Aydelotte/AP)
ELLIS: Baylor's offensive prowess even surprises the Bears
Ohio State’s quarterback would probably like to have his performance back. Miller threw for 203 yards and ran for 68 more in the Buckeyes' 40-30 win over Northwestern, but he also tossed an interception and fumbled twice to help the Wildcats keep this Big Ten slugfest close. Luckily for Miller -- who didn't run or throw for a touchdown in the game -- running back Carlos Hyde picked up the slack with 168 rushing yards and three touchdowns to keep Ohio State unbeaten.
RICKMAN: Ohio State tops Northwestern as Wildcats come up just short on big stage
Tweets of the week
Seems like a legitimate debate:
Imagine what Mariota could do with an entire game:
Perhaps Miller’s troubles against Northwestern were mental:
Video of the week
Jameis Winston slips out of a near-certain sack and evades Maryland defenders to find Nick O’Leary with a wild 12-yard touchdown pass.
RICKMAN: Between the Hashes: The best of Week 6 in social media