Oregon Ducks QB Marcus Mariota already sits atop most Heisman Trophy power rankings, and rightfully so. The redshirt sophomore has racked up yardage and touchdowns at a blistering pace through seven games. So far, Mariota has amassed 2,544 yards (2,051 passing, 493 rushing) and 28 TDs (19 passing, 9 rushing) without a single interception to lead what has essentially become a quarterback contest to win college football’s most prestigious individual award.
Trailing Mariota are four very good QBs, listed in no particular order: Texas A&M’s Johnny Manziel (2,775 total YDs, 24 total TDs, 7 INTs), Florida State’s Jameis Winston (2,022 total YDs, 23 total TDs, 3 INTs), Baylor’s Bryce Petty (2,023 passing YDs, 20 total TDs, 1 INT) and Oregon State’s Sean Mannion (2,992 passing YDs, 29 TDs, 3 INTs).
Though each is having a spectacular season, it’s unlikely that any of these guys will be able to run down Mariota. At this point, they’re just chasing him in vain each week, with as much futility as the defenders that chase him around the gridiron every Saturday.
Why is he a lock to win the award?
You could easily point to the fact that Mariota is averaging 363 yards of total offense and ranks in the top five of most statistical categories without even attempting a pass in the fourth quarter in five of Oregon’s seven games. Or the fact that he is a threat on the ground and through the air and is the only player in the FBS that is averaging at least 10 yards per rush and 10 yards per pass attempt. Similarly, you could single out the fact that Mariota is the only player that has at least 15 pass touchdowns and seven rush touchdowns.
Further proof of his worthiness can be found in the fact he doesn’t turn the ball over – ever! Dating back to last season, Mariota has thrown a Pac 12 record 265 passes without an interception. Of those passes, 197 were thrown this season.
But to truly understand why this Duck can’t be caught, you have to look at what he could do the rest of the season, not what he’s already done. Simply put, Mariota’s best chances for “Heisman moments” are still in front of him, which means his resume only figures to get more impressive, a lot more impressive, if he continues his current level of play.
All five of the Ducks’ remaining opponents have winning records – No. 12 UCLA (5-1), No. 6 Stanford (6-1), Utah (4-3), Arizona (4-2) and No. 25 Oregon State (6-1). Three of these opponents are ranked, and leading Oregon to wins against each would add even more credence to Mariota’s Heisman claim.
But there is still yet another level of significance that must be considered – the Civil War season-finale against the Beavers could decide the Pac 12 North champion. If Mariota leads Oregon to the conference title game and helps the Ducks knock off the Pac 12 South champ, a possible rematch against the Bruins, he would be a virtual lock to become the school’s first Heisman winner.