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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 raping her about a year ago. State Attorney Willie Meggs made the announcement Thursday, saying there was not enough evidence to win a conviction.
Even while Winston was being investigated for sexual assault, odds makers had pegged him as the clear favorite.
Now only a terrible performance in the Atlantic Coast Conference championship Saturday night against No. 20 Duke will keep him from a runaway Heisman victory.
Chris Huston who runs the website 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 Saturday night in New York city.
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 today — 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.
Huston said that now it's unlikely the allegations will cost Winston enough votes to affect the outcome.
Not long after the announcement of no charges was made, RJ Bell of pregame.com Tweeted that the Heisman odds for Winston improved from -2000 to -3000, or a $30 bet in Las Vegas on Winston to win would pay out $1.
Winston would be 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 he has successfully predicted the winner each year. Last year, he correctly predicted the top-five voter 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 is challenging the major college record for passer efficiency, with a 192.6 rating heading into Saturday's game. He has thrown for 3,490 yards and 35 touchdowns, with eight interceptions, while rarely playing deep into the fourth quarter because Florida State has blown out so many opponents.
The allegations against Winston could cost him a few votes, Huston said.
"I don't think he'll have a landslide in the order of Troy Smith," Huston said. "It'll probably be more like something like Rashaan Salaam, who doubled the point total of the No. 2 two guy (in 1994)."
Smith, the Ohio State quarterback, won the 2006 Heisman by the second-largest point margin (1,662), behind only O.J. Simpson's victory by 1,750 points in 1968.
Voters cast ballots with first-, second-, and third-place finishers. Three points is awarded for a first-place vote, two for second and one for third.
This Heisman vote could have some similarities 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 championship game, though the NCAA did find that his father tried to get Mississippi State to pay for his son to play there. The pay-for-play allegations cost likely cost Newton votes, Huston said, but the quarterback's victory was still 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.
Follow Ralph D. Russo at www.Twitter.com/ralphDrussoAP