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Five Reasons Marqise Lee Should Have Been A Heisman Trophy Finalist

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Five Reasons Marqise Lee Should Have Been A Heisman Trophy Finalist

Marqise Lee Celebrates
Kirby Lee - USA TODAY Sports

The finalists for the Heisman Trophy were announced yesterday, and while nobody can argue that the three players who were invited are more than worthy candidates, the argument can also be made for the players who didn’t get invited. There were plenty of worthy athletes who got left off the invite list, but most egregious among them was Marqise Lee of the USC Trojans.

When you look at the season that Lee put together, it is easy to see why many make the argument that he is the best college football player in the country this year. His freakish athletic ability jumps off the tape as he cut opposing defenses to ribbons all season long. He is head and shoulders above any other pass catcher in the country, yet somehow not Heisman material?

There are plenty of excuses for the snub. Wide receivers are seen as “dependent” on the play of their quarterback, so any success they have is often attributed to the quarterback, especially in the modern football culture that puts the quarterback position up on a pedestal. Any success that would go to a dominant receiver more often goes to the QB throwing him the ball, fair or otherwise.

Then there were the struggles of USC this season. Ranked No. 1 to start the season, the Trojans stumbled down the stretch, losing four of their last five games to tumble out of the top 25, finishing the year 7-5 and being deemed one of the worst preseason No. 1 selections in the history of college football.

Anytime a team has a “worst in history” tag attached to it, it’s hard to muster a lot of national attention for the outstanding play of some of its players, even ones as outstanding as Lee. The losses cut into his Heisman campaign as his stock with voters tumbled just like USC did out of the BCS rankings.

But those reasons just don’t hold water. There is no possible justification for leaving the best college football player out of the Heisman Trophy presentation ceremony. With that, here are five reasons Marqise Lee should have been a Heisman Trophy finalist.

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Unmatched Production

Maqise Lee Leaping
Jayne Kamin-Oncea - USA TODAY Sports

Looking at the field of receivers this season in college football, you would be hard pressed to find anyone as dominant as Lee. He caught a ridiculous 112 passes for 1,680 yards with 14 touchdowns while averaging nearly 30 yards per kick return, including a 100-yard return for a touchdown.

His receptions rank first in the country and he is second in yardage. He caught at least one touchdown pass in nine games this season as he was a constant threat to bust open a huge play. Five of his touchdowns this season were of 70-yards or more, making him one of the best home-run threats in college football.

He was head and shoulders above just about every other receiver in the country, but not high enough to get noticed for the Heisman.

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Heisman Moments

Marqise Lee Breaks Away
Matt Kartozian - USA TODAY Sports

No Heisman campaign would be complete without the signature moments for the candidate to hang their hat on. Lee had plenty. His biggest was likely his performance against the Arizona Wildcats where he caught 16 passes for 345 yards and two touchdowns. The sophomore was unstoppable as he demolished the Wildcats secondary.

Then when USC hosted the Oregon Ducks, Lee went deep and scored the longest touchdown of the season that Oregon had given up with a 75-yard strike from Matt Barkley as Lee ran away from the Ducks’ defenders. He single-handedly ended the talk of Oregon having an elite defense with one play in the second quarter before going on to catch 12 passes for 157 yards and a pair of touchdowns.

Highlight reel performances just about every week, yet he couldn’t catch the eye of the Heisman voters.

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Record Breaking Season

Marqise Lee Stiff Arm
Gary A. Vasquez - USA TODAY Sports

Lee has been so good this year that he’s stamped his name into the record books on several occasions. His unbelievable performance against Arizona set the Pac 12 record for receiving yards in a single game. It was the fifth highest total in FBS history, and the most yards in a game by a receiver this season.

He wasn’t just a one-game wonder either. Lee’s 112 receptions shattered the Pac 12 single season receptions record and his 1,680 receiving yards were also a conference record. The sophomore turned in the greatest season the Pac 12 has ever seen and one that ranks among the best in college football history.

One of the all-time greatest seasons for a wide receiver…and it isn’t good enough for Heisman consideration.

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Award Winner

Marqise Lee Rushing
Richard Mackson - USA TODAY Sports

While he has been snubbed for the Heisman, Lee isn’t walking away from this season empty handed. Lee has already been named the Pac 12 Offensive Player of the Year. He was also the only sophomore to be unanimously named to the All-Pac 12 first team as everyone who saw him play recognized the amazing talent.

He’s also in line for some national recognition as well. Lee is a finalist for the Biletnikoff Award, given to college football’s most outstanding wide receiver where he is a heavy favorite to win in a walk. Lee is also a finalist for the Walter Camp Award, which honors the nation’s top college football player, as voted by FBS head coaches and sports information directors.

Most people recognized the great talent of Lee…except for the Heisman voters apparently.

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Historical Dominance

Marqise Lee Returns
Rich Barnes - USA TODAY Sports

To put Lee’s season into perspective, we can take a look at the history of the Heisman Trophy and the other players who played wide receiver to win. Four times has a player who played receiver won: Johnny Rodgers of the Nebraska Cornhuskers, Tim Brown of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish and Desmond Howard and Charles Woodson of the Michigan Wolverines, though Woodson primarily played defense. Lee blows all of them out of the water.

Lee has more receptions, receiving yards, and total yardage than any of the previous winners. His 14 touchdowns are second only to Howard who scored 19 touchdowns the year he won the award. Lee has accounted for an astounding 38.5 percent of USC’s all-purpose yards this season, a higher percentage than any of the previous pass catching Heisman winners.

He stands above the field of previous winners at his position, but still can’t get an invite? It’s a travesty and one of the biggest snubs of all time.