CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Ye olde notebook:
I point to when USC's Reggie Bush won the trophy in 2005. Afterward, in the Rose Bowl, for the BCS championship, Vince Young put on a show for the ages. Quarterbacking for Texas, he rushed for 200 yards, passed for 267 and lifted the Longhorns to the title - against Bush and the Trojans.
Yet the 2013 Heisman ballots have been mailed. Votes must be in after the conference championship weekend of Dec. 7.
Thankfully, there is time to follow the case of Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston, who is being investigated over an alleged sexual battery. The Heisman goes to the player "whose performance best exhibits the pursuit of excellence with integrity." So, yes, character matters. As it should.
As it stands, Winston is my No. 1. It's nice because, for once, my top candidate is indeed the best player on the nation's best team. (Yes, I've been voting the Seminoles No. 1 in the Associated Press Top 25 balloting.)
Understand, though, I not only watch college football, but I take Heisman voting seriously and conduct research. One could make a very strong case for another quarterback: Fresno State's Derek Carr. He's guiding the nation's No. 16 team as the NCAA leader in both passing yards per game (394.8) and total offense (405.2) with 39 touchdowns and four interceptions.
But look closer. In regard to passing efficiency, Carr is No. 14. The leader: Winston, with a jaw-dropping rating of 194.5. Baylor's Bryce Petty, another terrific candidate, is second at 194.1. No others are above LSU QB Zach Mettenberger's 176.1.
Winston is 14th nationally in passing yards per game at 287.5 and 19th in total offense (299). Those numbers, though, are greatly diminished because of the numerous blowouts Florida State administers. Rarely does Winston see the field in the fourth quarter.
Johnny Football? Another good candidate. Texas A&M's Johnny Manziel is eighth nationally in passing yards per game (321.5), second in total offense (382) and fourth in passing efficiency (174.9). Petty, though, is better among the QBs who play most of their teams' snaps at No. 5 in passing yardage (335.1) and total offense (352.4) and No. 2 in pass efficiency.
But let's get off the subject of quarterbacks for a few. Regular readers know I look for the best player, not necessarily the best quarterback. (See last year's vote of Jadeveon Clowney.)
South Carolina's Clowney, a defensive end, apparently decided to take the year off. He might wreak havoc this Saturday against Clemson and, indeed, be the first pick of the next NFL draft. So far, though, he's mailed in the season.
So let's skip him and go around the horn. At wide receiver, USC's Marquis Lee seemed to be a surefire Heisman finalist before the season began, but had knee problems and has just 604 receiving yards, tied for No. 118 nationally. Otherwise, I like Baylor's Tevin Reese, Auburn's Sammie Coates and Texas A&M's Mike Evans over all receivers, including Clemson's Sammy Watkins. But not enough.
At running back, the nation's leading rusher is Boston College's Andre Williams (188.5 yards per game), followed by Arizona's Ka'Deem Carey (155.9). Overall, it's not an impressive group, although Carey is fun to watch. Of those I observed this year, I'd take Georgia sophomore Todd Gurley, who missed three games because of injury, or Miami's Duke Johnson, who broke his ankle against Florida State.
Defensively, UCLA's Anthony Barr is expected to be one of the top few players taken in the next NFL draft. This season, he has 57 tackles, 17 for loss (tied for eighth nationally) and eight sacks (tied for 26th). Good, but, again, not good enough.
The most worthy defensive players in my eyes have instead been Georgia linebacker Ramik Wilson, Stanford defensive end Trent Murphy, Pitt lineman Aaron Donald, Buffalo's Khalil Mack and Ohio State linebacker Ryan Shazier.
My guy is Shazier. In solo tackles, the junior linebacker is fourth nationally, averaging seven a game. In tackles for loss, he's third (behind No. 1 Donald), averaging 1.8. In total tackles, he's No. 22, averaging 9.8.
In one game against Indiana, Shazier had 20 tackles, five for loss. The Butkus Award finalist is the first Buckeye to have 20 in one game since A.J. Hawk did so in 2004.
I voted for Hawk back then. I'm leaning toward voting for Shazier this season. As of now, my ballot is 1. Winston, 2. Shazier, 3. Petty.
Athletic director Oliver Luck will certainly sit down with Holgorsen after this Saturday. He'll certainly look for improvement in coaching and player conditioning. He'll certainly seek upgraded recruiting efforts, especially along the offensive and defensive fronts. There might even be a limited staff shakeup.
Don't, however, expect large-scale changes.