NEW YORK — The only thing standing in the way of Jameis Winston and the Heisman Trophy is the Duke Blue Devils.
The quarterback of No. 1 Florida State will not be charged with sexually assaulting a woman who accused him of rape, it was announced Thursday.
Even while Winston was being investigated for sexual assault, oddsmakers had pegged him as a clear favorite.
Now only a terrible performance in the ACC Championship Game on Saturday night against heavy underdog Duke will keep him from a runaway Heisman victory.
Chris Huston, who runs , heismanpundit.com, says: "He'll win very comfortably."
The deadline for the 928 Heisman voters to submit electronic ballots is Monday. Finalists will be announced that evening and the 79th Heisman Trophy will be awarded Dec. 14 in New York.
Heisman spokesman Tim Henning said the Heisman Trophy Trust never considered extending the voting deadline if the case against Winston had not been settled before Monday.
"The great thing about this happening (Thursday) — just from the pure Heisman perspective — if you're the Heisman Trust, this avoids a whole lot of possibly messy situations," Huston said.
If the case had not been settled, it would have overwhelmed the Heisman proceedings and could have had a significant impact on the voting.
"How this case affected the national title race and the Heisman Trophy balloting is so far down the list of what matters, it feels almost silly to talk about," said Heisman voter Doug Lesmerises of the Cleveland Plain Dealer. "But in trying to make an informed choice for an award that does matter to people, the fact that a decision has been made regarding the legal process does allow us all to vote with a clearer mind."
Huston said that now it's unlikely the allegations will cost Winston enough votes to affect the outcome.
Winston would be the second freshman to win the award, and the second straight, joining Texas A&M's Johnny Manziel. Winston is a redshirt freshman, as Manziel was last year.
Huston has been taking a straw poll of Heisman voters for seven years and has successfully predicted the winner each year. Last year, he correctly predicted the top-five vote-getters.
His latest straw poll was released Tuesday and Winston had received seven of the 10 first-place votes. Northern Illinois quarterback Jordan Lynch received the others and was second. Alabama quarterback AJ McCarron and Ohio State quarterback Braxton Miller were tied for third.
Huston said Winston's performance would merit a large margin of victory. Winston, 19, is challenging the major college record for passer efficiency, with a 192.6 rating. He has thrown for 3,490 yards and 35 touchdowns, with eight interceptions, while rarely playing deep into the fourth quarter because FSU has blown out so many opponents.
This Heisman vote could be similar to 2010, when Cam Newton won it for Auburn after an NCAA investigation into his recruitment put a cloud over him in the last month of the season. The NCAA cleared Newton and Auburn the week leading into the SEC title game. The pay-for-play allegations likely cost Newton votes, Huston said, but the quarterback's victory was still by the 10th largest margin (1,184) in history.
"People don't want to vote for someone who is a jerk if they can avoid it," Huston said. "This allows them to give a clear benefit of the doubt" to Winston.