- Heather Dinich, ESPN Staff Writer
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The ACC has quite a conundrum this fall -- an abundance of stars to choose from for the league's Offensive Player of the Year award. ESPN.com's David Hale and Heather Dinich have narrowed the list to two choices for you: Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston and Boston College running back Andre Williams. Both are Heisman contenders. Both have been invaluable to their team. Who deserves the award?
Depends on whom you ask, of course:
David Hale says Winston: The problem with making the case for Jameis Winston as the ACC’s player of the year is that he’s undercut his own resume by playing too well.
The overall numbers are certainly impressive: 70 percent completions, 32 touchdowns, 11 yards per attempt. Odds are, those numbers will be good enough to win Winston a Heisman Trophy.
But what’s really ridiculous about Winston’s success this season is that he’s barely seen the field in the second half. Those numbers were largely accumulated during first-half blowouts, and in the latter stages of nearly every game this season, Winston has been asked to do little other than relax on the bench.
In the last five games, Winston has thrown just seven passes in the fourth quarter — all against Miami. Overall this season, he’s thrown just 18. In the power five conferences alone, 90 other quarterbacks have thrown at least that many fourth-quarter passes.
To put it another way, Winston has been on the field for just 79 percent of Florida State’s offensive plays this season. Project his numbers out over 100 percent of those plays, and his stat line would include 40 touchdowns and nearly 400 yards passing per game.
Obviously, Winston has better talent around him than Williams has at Boston College, and that’s certainly helped Winston's numbers. But the offensive weapons for Florida State are largely the same as a year ago, yet the Seminoles’ offense is so much more dangerous. Overall, FSU is averaging 62 more yards per game -- nearly a yard more per play -- and a whopping 16 more points per game this season than it did a year ago, when it won the ACC and was one of the top offenses in the country.
Williams has carried Boston College, and that’s commendable. But Winston has made the players around him better. Nick O’Leary has blossomed into a star after two years of subpar results. Rashad Greene and Kenny Shaw are both on pace to become Florida State’s first 1,000-yard receivers since Anquan Boldin in 2002. Devonta Freeman is set to end a 17-year drought of 1,000-yard rushers. And none of them are playing regularly in the second half, either.
Finally, it’s Winston’s penchant for the spotlight that sets him apart. He dazzled in his debut against Pitt. He was a star on the national stage against Clemson. He was the emotional leader for Florida State in a victory over Miami. Overall, he’s completing a higher percentage of his passes, throwing for more yards per attempt and thrown more touchdowns against winning teams than against losing teams.
Winston’s greatness is obvious, but just how great he’s been might actually be a bit overlooked because — thanks in large part to his success — it’s all come so easily for Florida State this year.
Heather Dinich says Williams: The difference between Williams and Winston is glaring: The talent surrounding them.
Winston is running an offense filled with elite athletes, including possibly the best group of receivers in the country.
Williams is the offense, and he’s running wild.
There’s no denying that Winston’s numbers are good enough to win him the Heisman Trophy – he has been spectacular this season in spite of not being needed for four full quarters against lesser competition. Williams, though, has put in enough work for two backs. He has accounted for 51 percent of the Eagles’ offense. He has been one of the toughest, most durable players in the country, and he has single-handedly elevated his entire program and brought it back to bowl eligibility. Considering what he’s done for his team – with defenses knowing full well every Saturday that he was going to get the ball – Williams should be this year’s ACC Player of the Year.
To put his value into perspective, compare what Williams has done in his last three games in November with former Heisman Trophy winner Barry Sanders. Williams’ three-game stretch is ahead of what Sanders gained his final month of college football in 1988, outgaining him by 77 yards (897-820) in the same number of games. Ahead of Barry Sanders!
Not only has Williams been the most productive offensive player in the ACC, he also leads the country in rushing yards (2,073) and rushing yards per game (188.5). He is the 16th player in FBS history to surpass 2,000 yards in a season, a total that already ranks 12th all-time with two games to play.
And he’s done it against some of the best defenses the ACC has to offer.
Williams ran 21 times for nearly 100 yards -- by halftime -- against Florida State in Week 5. He finished the game with 28 attempts for 149 yards as the Eagles scored 34 points – the most of any opponent to date – against the Seminoles.
Against Virginia Tech’s defense -- a group of run-stoppers that at the time was ranked fifth in the country and is now eighth -- Williams rushed 33 times for 166 yards and two touchdowns in Boston College’s 34-27 victory.
In the past three weeks, Williams has rushed for at least 200 yards against every opponent. He has literally been unstoppable, and he has played his way into the Heisman conversation. He’s not a darkhorse candidate; he’s one who should absolutely be invited to New York. With more than 2,000 yards, Williams has earned his place in college football history.
He should be recognized for it as the ACC’s Offensive Player of the Year.
2dJeremy Crabtree and Brandon Chatmon