XN Sports Heisman Watch: Oregon QB Mariota Gets The Nod

Marcus Mariota

Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota, Wisconsin running back Melvin Gordon and Alabama wide receiver Amari Cooper are the three finalists for the 80th Heisman Trophy which will be awarded Saturday night in New York.

The finalists are determined by the percentage of votes received from 929 voters comprised of media members and former winners.

The clear favorite, Mariota hopes to become the first Oregon player to win the Heisman and the fifth straight quarterback to capture the award. In fact, since 2000 a quarterback has won the award every year except for 2009 when Alabama running back Mark Ingram won it.

“It is humbling to be considered for an award that I have admired for a very long time,” Mariota said in a statement. “I would like to thank my teammates and coaches as I could not have been recognized as a finalist without their help.”

Mariota had led the Ducks to a 12-1 record and a spot in the first college football playoff. He has thrown for 3,773 yards with 38 TDs and just two interceptions. Mariota has added 699 yards rushing with 14 TDs and has accounted for four or more TDs in six straight games including 11 TDs in his last two games.

With numbers like that, Mariota finishes first in the final XN Sports Heisman Watch and should win the award Saturday night.

Mariota should walk away with the Heisman but he’s not the only player who has had a great season.

Gordon leads the nation in rushing yards (2,336), leads the nation in rushing yards per game (179.7) and leads the nation in rushing touchdowns (26). Gordon has single-handedly rushed for more yards than 85 FBS teams but the last time any voters saw him in action was in the Big Ten title game when he was shut down and the Badgers were blasted by Ohio State, 59-0.

It appears that Gordon has just one more game to go as a Badger as he went on the Dan Patrick Show on Wednesday and said “Yep” when asked if leaving early, going to the Heisman ceremony and playing in the Outback Bowl was official.

Gordon finishes second in the XN Sports final Heisman Watch followed by Cooper.

Cooper set Alabama records with 1,656 yards and 14 touchdowns while setting a Southeastern Conference record with 115 receptions. He ranks second nationally in both receiving yards and catches per game.

“I think that Amari’s gotten better and better every year because he’s a hard worker and really a prideful guy in terms of his performance,” Alabama coach Nick Saban said. “And I just think he’s played with a lot more consistency this year and his focus has been better. He hasn’t let little things bother him, whether it’s a little nagging injury or whatever and has just been kind of a demon every time the game comes in terms of how he competes. And we’ve used him and featured him and he certainly has taken advantage of those opportunities.”

While only three finalists are headed to New York there have been so many standout performances this year that there really should be a top five.

Ohio State quarterback T.J. Barrett would get the fourth spot after a season in which he filled in for an injured Braxton Miller and put up impressive numbers with 2,834 yards passing and 34 TDs with 938 yards rushing and 11 TDs. If not for a broken ankle suffered in the Michigan game, Barrett would likely have put up a 3,000-1,000 season and earned a trip to New York.

TCU QB Trevone Boykin and Mississippi State QB Dak Prescott were also outstanding this season but our fifth-place vote goes to Washington linebacker/running back Shaq Thompson, probably the most versatile player in college football

Thompson has started multiple games at both linebacker and running back for the Huskies and rushed for 456 yards and two touchdowns while averaging 7.5 yards per carry and he added 70 tackles, returned three fumbles for touchdowns and returned an interception for a touchdown.

Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston won’t win a second straight Heisman but he can win a second straight national title. His Seminoles face Mariota and the Ducks in the Rose Bowl on New Year’s Day in one of the national semifinals. Ohio State and Alabama meet in the Sugar Bowl in the other semifinal.

Ohio State running back Archie Griffin is the only player to win two Heismans.

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John Nestor
John Nestor is a Philadelphia sports fan and veteran sportswriter trapped in Connecticut. Tweet him @nestorjdn