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Winston set to officially top Heisman Trophy finalists

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The Heisman Trophy ceremonies are ready to go on Dec. 14 on ESPN. For a time, it looked like the Heisman vote would be among the most controversial in the award’s history. But as the show approaches, everyone who watches knows the results will be a formality, with no controversy attached after all.

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Jameis Winston technically had the Heisman clinched weeks ago, thanks to his stats, the Florida State Seminoles’ rise to the BCS title game, and the failures of every other candidate. Whenever Winston’s challengers had a big Heisman opportunity, either they or their teams crumbled and took them out of the running.

However, if Winston had been charged with sexual assault, this would have made the Heisman vote divisive and difficult. With virtually no solid alternatives, the committee might have had to vote for Winston by default, even if he had been arrested.

Yet when he was cleared last week, it took all the drama and suspense out of the process. It also helped the Seminoles get to the national championship game with no debate -- a game that may be Winston’s first real tough on-field challenge of the season.

While Winston's legal troubles will no longer affect the Heisman race, they may not completely go away. On Dec. 13, Patricia Carroll, lawyer for the alleged victim, called for Florida's attorney general to investigate the Tallahassee Police Department's debatable handling of the case. With questions still unanswered on that front and with the potential for a civil suit, Winston could have more to face in the offseason.

At the moment, his Heisman coronation is coming first, despite any lingering issues elsewhere. The accompanying slideshow has the full list of candidates with him, although five of them are likely fighting for second -- with the winner possibly coming from Winston’s final opponent in the BCS title game. If he avenges his defeat in New York, then the Heisman will only be a small consolation prize to the Seminoles.

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