Heisman retrospect

Kyle Riviere
Weekly Citizen Sports Editor Kyle Riviere

Well, I hate to sit around and play Monday morning quarterback with Saturday night's Heisman presentation, but I have yet to chime in on the subject.

Last week, when I should have been crafting a column to tout my favorite for the coveted trophy, I was busy venting about LSU's shortcomings against Alabama on the recruiting trail.

Besides, I had to wait to see what was going to happen with the Jameis Winston sexual assault case, and I wanted to see how the candidates were going to perform during championship week.

Well, after taking in the entire regular season and the conference championship clashes, I'm here to say that I disagreed with the outcome Saturday night.

Considering the margin in which Winston won the trophy, it's pretty obvious that my opinion isn't a popular one. However, I thought Auburn running back Tre Mason should have been the school's fourth Heisman winner.

I get that Winston had a great year; I'm in no way disputing that, but good enough to make him only the second freshman ever to win the award? I didn't think so.

There is no doubt, Winston started the season off with a bang. In his first ever start, he went an amazing 25-27 for 356 yards and four touchdowns against Pittsburgh.

He then became my clear-cut Heisman front-runner when he took Florida State to Clemson and left with a crushing 51-14 victory--a victory in which he threw for 444 yards and three touchdowns.

After that game, he put up good numbers, but he just hadn't had that "wow factor" that he had early in the season, nor has he had those Heisman moments you look for.

Down the stretch, he only faced two ranked opponents in Miami and Duke, and he threw a pair of interceptions in each game.

In fact, the seven teams he faced after the Clemson game had a underwhelming combined record of 37-48, and 10 of those wins came from an overmatched Duke squad in the ACC Championship Game.

There just wasn't that marque matchup after the Seminoles' Oct. 19 clash with the Tigers that allowed him to have a performance that screamed, "Heisman."

Even the game with No. 7 Miami looked suspicious from the beginning after the 'Canes came into the contest fresh off of ugly wins against Wake Forrest and North Carolina. Winston finished with 325 yards passing but threw two bad interceptions in the first half.

Mason was my guy. He rushed for 1,621 yards and 22 touchdowns in the SEC, had an impressive 5.7 yards per carry average and most importantly, he had his biggest games at the biggest times for Auburn on their improbable run to the title game.

In the big come-from-behind victory at Texas A&M, Mason ran for 178 yards and a score. In the miracle win against Georgia, he rushed for 115 yards and a touchdown.

But most impressively, in the two biggest games of the year for the Tigers, he delivered his best.

In that epic Iron Bowl upset over Alabama, he put up 164 yards and a score against that stout Tide defense--which ranked No. 1 in the SEC in stopping the run. And in a game Auburn had to win to make it to the title game, Mason put together a Heisman performance that was his best of the year. Against a fifth-ranked Missouri squad that ranked second in the SEC against the run, he carried the ball an amazing 46 times for an astounding 304 yards and four touchdowns.

Even in Auburn's lone loss against LSU, he was their one constant--rushing for 132 yards and two scores.

Here are the two most important notes. First, in Auburn's final five games, Mason averaged 174 yards a game and scored 13 touchdowns.

Three of those five opponents were ranked--two of which were in the top five. Their combined record was 38-22.

Second, against SEC opponents, Mason averaged 143 yards a game and scored 17 touchdowns.

Anybody that can cash in those kinds of performances against ranked SEC teams and help lead his squad to the title game is Heisman material in my book. Let's not forget that Auburn was a 3-9 laughing stock just last year.