(CNN) — Six distinct college football storylines converge in New York City on Saturday night for the awarding of the Heisman Trophy.
What the six finalists share is their outstanding performance on the field. But their seasons on and off the field have taken different, and sometimes controversial, paths.
Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston, the frontrunner according to many college football analysts, can’t shake questions about a rape allegation made against him a year ago. He was ultimately not charged, but a news conference by his accuser’s lawyer the day before the Heisman presentation kept feeding the story.
Asked about the case on Friday, Winston said, “It was stressful, but you’ve got to look forward.”
Winston led the top-ranked Seminoles to an undefeated regular season and a chance to play for a national championship in January. He recorded 3,820 passing yards and 38 passing touchdowns this year.
The Florida State quarterback would become only the second redshirt freshman to win the Heisman.
The first freshman winner came last year, when Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel took the honor. The dual-threat quarterback is a finalist again this year, vying to become only the second player in history to win the Heisman twice.
Controversy followed Manziel during the off-season amid allegations of profiting from autographs. Manziel quieted his critics with another impressive season, passing for 3,732 yards and 33 touchdowns, besting his numbers from 2012. During some of the Aggies’ biggest games at the end of the season, however, Manziel and his team fell short.
Auburn, meanwhile, enjoyed a hugely successful season that catapulted it to the championship game, and running back Tre Mason to the circle of Heisman finalists.
Mason rushed for 1,621 yards and 22 rushing touchdowns this season. This month alone, Mason set two Southeastern Conference Championship game records with 304 rushing yards and 46 carries.
Auburn played in the conference championship because of its memorable victory over rival Alabama. Alabama had won the two previous national championships and lost only two games in the last two seasons.
The quarterback and leader of this Alabama team is AJ McCarron, another Heisman finalist. He passed for 2,676 yards this season while being intercepted only five times. He is the winningest quarterback in Alabama history.
Northern Illinois quarterback Jordan Lynch hails from a less storied program, but he has put up some of the most impressive numbers.
Lynch finished seventh in Heisman voting last year, and had another breakout year in 2013. He was as effective with his feet as with his hands, throwing for 2,676 yards for 23 touchdowns and rushing for 1,881 yards for 22 touchdowns.
Northern Illinois competes in the mid-major Mid-American conference, and Lynch has raised his school’s profile.
The final Heisman finalist, Andre Williams of Boston College, already has some awards to put on his mantle. Most recently, he won the Doak Walker Award, given each year to college football’s best running back.
In 2013, Williams became the first Eagle to rush for more than 2,000 yards in a season. He also set the school’s record for most rushing yards in a game this year, with 339 yards.
In all, he rushed for 2,102 yards and scored 17 touchdowns, making him the nation’s leading rusher. He is considered the biggest reason behind the Eagles’ berth to a bowl game for the first time in three years.
The Heisman Trophy is voted on by more than 900 sports journalists and every living former Heisman winner.