Using the past to project the future has major flaws but in the case of the Heisman Trophy, the past can be extremely useful.
There are a few numbers college football fans need to know when it comes to the Heisman Trophy and how to handicap the race for the 2014 stiff-armed trophy.
First, quarterbacks have won the award four straight years and 12 of the last 14. Mark Ingram (2009) and Reggie Bush (2005) are the only running backs since the turn of the century to win the Heisman Trophy.
Second, only once in the nine-decade history of the award has anyone ever repeated. Ohio State’s Archie Griffin won in 1974 and was successful in defending his award the following year. Matt Leinart, Tim Tebow, Sam Bradford, Mark Ingram and Johnny Manziel all failed to repeat in the last decade.
Third, only twice since Griffin has a conference won two consecutive Heisman Trophies. USC repeated with Leinart and Bush (2004-05) and the SEC did the same with Ingram and Cam Newton (2009-10). In fact, only twice since 1955 has a conference won consecutive Heismans with two different teams. UCLA’s Gary Beban and USC’s O.J. Simpson went back-to-back in 1967-68.
Finally, only one true defensive player (Charles Woodson) and only two wide receivers (Tim Brown, Desmond Howard) have ever won the award.
With this in mind, here are the ACC’s front-runners to win the Heisman Trophy in 2014:
1. Jameis Winston, QB, Florida St (4/1)
The only reason Winston wouldn’t be the front-runner in the ACC is because he won the award last year. He is the most talented player on the best team and will likely have the best numbers on a championship team. Picking anyone else is just being cute here.
2. Duke Johnson, RB, Miami (33/1)
From a talent standpoint, Johnson is the only other option in the ACC who can compete with Winston. He has elite-level, breakaway speed and explosiveness. The biggest speed bump in The Duke’s Heisman campaign will be staying healthy. The smallish back has dealt with injuries but if he can stay on the field and post 250 touches, his numbers could be ridiculously good.
3. Cole Stoudt, QB, Clemson
The keys to one of the shiniest offenses in the nation have fallen in Stoudt’s lap and he deserves his opportunity. Stoudt has waited his turn behind Tajh Boyd and all signs point to him being more than capable of running the Chad Morris attack. He is all about tempo and is a solid fit for an offense that consistently posted huge statistics. An early upset over Georgia or Florida State are almost a must, however, to get into the Heisman mix.
4. Karlos Williams, RB, Florida St (33/1)
By default, the starting tailback at Florida State should be a high-profile, highly productive position. And Karlos Williams has all the raw physical tools to become a star on the national level. He averaged over eight yards per carry and scored 11 times while splitting time with two other guys — both of whom have moved on. With a full workload, Williams could post Doak Walker-type numbers.
5. Marquise Williams, QB, North Carolina
Williams flashed a lot of ability last fall and should only continue to develop. The Tar Heels went 6-1 over their final seven games and the offense averaged over 40 points per game due in large part to his play. With a full season of making plays, Williams has a chance to get into the national conversation.
6. Tyler Boyd, WR, Pitt
No wide receiver belongs this high on Heisman lists — normally — but Boyd is a special talent with rare ability. He has elite NFL upside and plays for a head coach who normally produces big numbers in the passing game. Look for Boyd, just a sophomore, to make a run at the Biletnikoff Award as the nation’s top wideout. Should that happen, landing in the Heisman conversation isn’t out of the question.
7. Will Gardner, QB, Louisville
This is a bit of a leap but there are many things worse than betting on a Bobby Petrino quarterback. Gardner is a tall, pocket passer who fits his system perfectly. And with a gifted offensive line and deep supporting cast, it’s not unthinkable that Gardner becomes the second-best passer in the ACC.
8. Rashad Greene, WR, Florida State
The star wideout for the Noles could have gone pro but decided to return for his fourth year in Tallahassee. He has scored 22 receiving touchdowns and is coming off his best season. With Winston still throwing passes and the best OL in the nation, there is no reason Greene won’t be an All-America candidate.
9. Dominique Brown/Michael Dyer, RB, Louisville
While the QB gets all of the attention, Petrino's running backs have been nationally acclaimed as well. Michael Bush scored 24 times in 2005 and Knile Davis was a star in the SEC in '10. With a solid veteran offensive line returning, both Cardinal tailbacks could find themselves in All-ACC territory this fall.
10. Chad Voytik, QB, Pitt
Looking for a longshot breakout star in the ACC? Look no further than Pitt’s Chad Voytik. The first-year starter has a superstar wideout to throw to, a mad scientist designing the passing offense in Paul Chryst and plays in a league devoid of star power under center. Look for Voytik and Pitt to make some waves this fall in the ACC.
Others to consider: Nick O’Leary, TE, Florida State; Jamison Crowder, WR, Duke; Devante Parker, WR, Louisville; Shadrach Thornton, RB, NC State; Kevin Parks, RB, Virginia
Five defensive players who should but won't be in the mix:
Vic Beasley, DE, Clemson
The nation’s top returning sack master is the Tigers star — who posted 13 a year ago. For a defense that could be the best Clemson has had in years, Beasley’s explosive playmaking ability should make for national headlines.
Jalen Ramsey, S, Florida State
Not many true freshmen start every game for a national champion but that is what the former five-star recruit did for the Noles a year ago. The lanky playmaker should develop into one of the best players in the nation and should be an All-American this fall.
Kendall Fuller, CB, Virginia Tech
Much like Ramsey, Fuller is a big-time, five-star recruit who delivered in a big way as just a true freshman in 2013. Fuller picked off six passes and posted 58 tackles and is in store for a breakout season for the Hokies this fall.
Stephone Anthony, LB, Clemson
Finally delivering on his elite recruiting potential, Anthony posted his best season last fall. He registered career highs in tackles (86), tackles for a loss (15.0) and sacks (4.5). He simply makes plays and with another big season, could find himself attending postseason award ceremonies.
Denzel Perryman, LB, Miami
The veteran All-ACC performer has racked up 240 tackles in the last three years, including 108 in 2013. Miami’s defense must improve and it falls to leaders like Perryman to transform the unit. If it does improve, the Canes could easily win the Coastal Division.