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Heisman Watch Week 14: Muddled race leaves room for Northern Illinois' Jordan Lynch

Jordan Lynch is the only Heisman candidate other than Jameis Winston without a clear bad game.Jordan Lynch is the lone Heisman contender other than Winston to not have a bad game. (Charles Rex Arbogast/AP)

With one week left to play, Jameis Winston remains the favorite to win the Heisman Trophy.

After that? It’s anyone’s guess.

The list of candidates fighting to join the Florida State quarterback as Heisman finalists continues to shuffle with each passing week. Thanksgiving weekend was no different. Alabama’s AJ McCarron and Boston College’s Andre Williams were nipping at the heels of Winston last week after late slides by Texas A&M’s Johnny Manziel and Oregon’s Marcus Mariota. But McCarron and Williams suffered similar fates in the final week of the regular season, muddying the waters even further behind Winston.

But a mixed bag of Heisman contenders could work wonders for at least one prolific quarterback. Northern Illinois passer Jordan Lynch is the headliner of an unbeaten Huskies program ranked No. 14 in the BCS. That could be enough to push NIU into a BCS bowl as a non-AQ team for the second consecutive year.

Outside of Winston, most remaining Heisman candidates are plagued by at least one bad loss or one poor performance. Neither of those factors applies to Lynch. His biggest deterrent is his team’s weaker MAC schedule. But if voters aren’t sold on the Manziels and the McCarrons of college football, it’s possible a few votes might swing Lynch’s way and help the quarterback reach New York as a finalist. After all, two other players must fill the seats next to Winston at next weekend’s Heisman ceremony.

Heisman Watch Week 14

1. Jameis Winston

2. Jordan Lynch

3. Bryce Petty

[si_video id="video_09FC9BE9-6EA4-D3FB-2562-B3EF4B66A34E"]

Player of the Week

Jordan Lynch, Northern Illinois QB

Week 14 stats: 5-of-17 passing for 39 yards, one touchdown; 37 rushes for 321 yards, three touchdowns

Lynch put together a record-setting performance against Western Michigan last Wednesday night, and he didn’t even need his arm to do it. Lynch completed only five of his 17 pass attempts for a season-low 39 yards. But why pass the ball when your feet work just fine?

Lynch gashed the Broncos for a career-high 321 rushing yards on 27 carries (11.9 yards per attempt). His rushing total didn’t just mark a personal best for the redshirt senior; Lynch’s outburst broke his own single-game FBS record for rushing yards by a quarterback (316).

He is the only player to notch two 300-yard rushing games in the FBS this season and ranks third among all players in rushing yards (1,755) and rushing touchdowns (20).

Western Michigan coach P.J. Fleck saw enough of Lynch to know where the quarterback should stand in the Heisman race. “Jordan Lynch is the best player in college football and that's no disrespect to anyone else,” Fleck told reporters after the game.

Whether Lynch garners that respect on a national level remains to be seen. Lynch may face weaker opponents than many Heisman contenders, but he also boasts a relatively weaker supporting cast with the Huskies’ roster. It’s hard to ignore Lynch’s numbers, which are already comparable to Heisman winners. His rushing totals are better than that of Alabama’s Mark Ingram (1,658 yards, 17 touchdowns), the only running back to win the Heisman (2009) since 2000.

MANDEL: Who will Northern Illinois meet in its BCS bowl?; complete bowl projections

Stock rising

Bryce Petty

The current free-for-all among Heisman contenders could also play in Petty’s favor. Baylor’s quarterback suffered a tough loss to Oklahoma State two weeks ago, but his numbers in that loss (358 passing yards, two touchdowns) weren’t unimpressive. Petty accounted for another three touchdowns in Saturday’s tight win over TCU. His one-yard touchdown run with 3:27 left in the second quarter gave the Bears the lead for good against the Horned Frogs. Petty remains the nation’s second-most efficient passer and its leader in yards-per-attempt. If he lights up Texas this weekend, don’t sleep on his shot at New York.

Andre Williams' Heisman buzz ended quickly when he rushed for just 29 yards Saturday before getting injured. Andre Williams' Heisman buzz ended quickly when he gained just 29 yards Saturday. (Cal Sport Media via AP Images)

Stock falling

Andre Williams

Williams was the Heisman flavor of the month after he’d averaged nearly 300 rushing yards per game over his last three contests. But that hype was short-lived. Things looked promising for Williams early against Syracuse on Saturday when he scampered 26 yards for the game’s first touchdown, but he left with an injury after the first play of the third quarter. In all Williams finished with a measly 29 yards on nine carries. That’s a disappointing effort in the last game we’ll see of Williams before Heisman votes are due.

AJ McCarron

Alabama’s veteran quarterback capped his own Heisman moment early in the fourth quarter of Alabama’s loss to Auburn. Pinned on the Crimson Tide 1-yard line, McCarron hurled a 99-yard touchdown bomb to Amari Cooper that gave Alabama a 28-21 lead in the Iron Bowl. But the eventual loss sent the Tide tumbling from the top spot in the BCS. That ended Alabama’s shot at a third straight title and McCarron’s chances of claiming the Heisman despite throwing for 277 yards and three scores.

THAMEL: Auburn delivers indelible BCS moment in stunning Alabama

Heisman chatter

Tweets of the week

The Legend of Johnny Football has come to an end:

https://twitter.com/ralphDrussoAP/status/407031831934935041

You can admit to loving Jordan Lynch. Really, you can:

https://twitter.com/martinrickman/status/405529463309344768

That’ll happen with a wild Iron Bowl finish:

https://twitter.com/Lana/status/406942980008730624

Video of the week

Jordan Lynch basically carries two defenders into the end zone at the end of this 37-yard run against Western Michigan:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u9N4vNfunOs

MANDEL: USC makes questionable move tapping Washington's Sarkisian

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