Jameis Winston is the sure Heisman Trophy winner, the quarterback who's racked up video games stats, the man who's put Free Shoes University back on the map. But that doesn't make Winston the equal of the last two Heisman winners. He's no Robert Griffin III, no Johnny Manziel.
Winston isn't even the most exciting offensive player of the 2013 college football season. That's still Manziel, who will be like a living ghost hanging over Winston's shoulder at Saturday's trophy ceremony, showing off true star power. Manziel's been invited back to New York as one of the six Heisman finalists, even though everybody knows he has no shot of repeating.
But he probably should. Think about it. What's the single most exciting individual performance from this season?
Texas A&M still has the best college quarterback in the nation. Florida State has the quarterback who took advantage of a weak schedule to look great.
It's Manziel racking up 562 total yards and five touchdowns in haughty Alabama's "revenge" game that turned into the Crimson Tide's white-knuckled, 49-42 escape. Don't let the recency of Auburn's field goal return miracle against those same Tide cloud your vision. That never even happens if Nick Saban doesn't arrogantly commit one of the great coaching blunders of all time, trotting out a shaky kicker for a no-chance 57-yard field goal with one second left.
Manziel's moment didn't rely on any such fluke. He created his own magic.
And his season didn't stop being impressive on that September day. What Manziel did with a no-defense Texas A&M University team is amazing. Yes, A&M lost four games this season after going 10-2 in the regular season during Manziel's Heisman campaign. But Manziel and the Aggies put up 42 and 41 points in two of those losses and a respectable 21 points in another.
If you can't win when scoring more than 40, it's not on your quarterback.
Texas A&M still has the best college quarterback in the nation. Florida State has the quarterback who took advantage of a weak schedule to look great. When Clemson is your biggest win, you have some strength-of-schedule issues. Even Urban Meyer is wondering whom the Seminoles have played.
This will sort itself out on its own, team-wise, during the BCS National Championship Game. But the Heisman slight will not.
The most exciting player in college football will watch a quarterback who's not his difference-making equal pick up the trophy he won last year. Whom would you want on your team in a big game? Manziel or Winston? The choice is as clear as Gary Kubiak's day planner.
You don't think Johnny Manziel could have gone 13-0 against Florida State's schedule if he replaced Winston in the Seminoles huddle?
Johnny Football steps up
Manziel raised his completion percentage, passed for seven more touchdowns than in his Heisman season, averaged 9.55 yards per attempt and put up a 170.4 passer rating this season. All under the intense, crushing scrutiny of being the returning Heisman Trophy winner.
Whom would you want on your team in a big game? Manziel or Winston? The choice is as clear as Gary Kubiak's day planner.
He's the only quarterback in college football to rank in the top 10 of all eight of the major passing categories. If that's not a dominant force, what is?
Manziel hurts his shoulder and plays on against Auburn, desperately trying to will the defensively overmatched Aggies to a win. If that's not a gamer, who is?
Without that shoulder injury, without the dinged throwing hand, without the ankle troubles, Manziel's follow-up Heisman numbers are even greater. As is, they're historic.
All the while, Johnny Football received more backlash from a silly supposed autograph scandal than Winston has from a rape allegation that a Florida prosecutor declined to file charges on because the evidence didn't meet the burden of proof.
This Saturday won't be the first time that a Heisman finalist watches a lesser player walk away with the distinctive trophy. Jameis Winston probably believes he's the best player in college football. Any competitor would. But anyone who's really watched college football this season knows better.
Jameis Winston is no Johnny Football. He's no RGIII before that. Heck, he's no Cam Newton before that. He's just an awfully lucky guy who didn't have to play an SEC schedule. Or anything close to it.
Johnny Manziel is a better player now than he was as a history-making redshirt freshman — when he emerged as the best player in America. And he has no chance of Heisman repeating.
College football's never been very good at making sense.