CHRIS DUFRESNE / ON COLLEGE FOOTBALL

Youth has been served; now it's time for seniority in Heisman race

No senior has won Heisman Trophy since 2006. But Alabama's AJ McCarron and several other seniors are viable candidates this year.

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A.J. McCarron

Quarterback A.J. McCarron is all smiles on the Alabama bench during a 48-7 Crimson Tide victory over Kentucky in which he passed for 359 yards and a touchdown with no interception. (Garry Jones / Associated Press / October 12, 2013)

The kids are all right, but now it's time for senior leadership.

This year's Heisman Trophy race, in case you missed it, has become muddled.

The bids of non-seniors Marcus Mariota, Johnny Manziel and Bryce Petty all got sacked last week in losses.

Freshman quarterback Jameis Winston is the top player on the nation's No. 2-ranked team, but his Heisman candidacy has been impaired by an investigation into a possible sexual assault.

The Florida state attorney may not make a decision about whether to charge Winston until after Heisman ballots are due, so what's a Heisman voter to do?

Here's a thought: vote for a senior.

Cast your ballot for a player who doesn't need a baby sitter, legal counsel, or directions to the library. Vote for someone taking classes on campus, not online.

Consider statistics but also character, honor and contribution.

The alternative is giving college football's most cherished award, for a second straight year, to a freshman.

I had no problem with Johnny Manziel winning last year. I think he's the most exciting player the sport has seen in years. But Manziel clearly did not know how to handle fame.

It was understandable because Manziel was just a kid. So how about we honor a grown-up?

Winston, based simply on performance, probably deserves this year's award. However, there may be too many ancillary factors clouding his campaign. At best, Winston has not demonstrated good judgment. Other off-field stories are also starting to leak out.

Youth has already been pampered and served. No senior has won the Heisman since Ohio State quarterback Troy Smith in 2006.

So, make 2013 a senior moment as you consider:

AJ McCarron, Alabama

Two interceptions against Mississippi State on Nov. 16 appeared to take McCarron out of the race. He's back in it now with a chance to make a huge statement against Auburn on Saturday.

Forget any lifetime achievement talk. McCarron is the leader of the two-time defending national champions. He has 72 career touchdown passes with only 13 interceptions. Manziel has 13 interceptions this season.

If Gino Torretta and Jason White can win the Heisman Trophy, so can McCarron.

Andre Williams, Boston College.

The tailback is a quintessential come-from-nowhere story. He gained only 38 yards in 17 carries against USC on Sept. 14. Yet, Williams has rocketed up Heisman short lists by gaining nearly 900 yards in his last three games. With 2,073 yards for the season, he is one of only 16 players in NCAA history to break the 2,000-yard barrier.

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