The Heisman Trophy is by far the most prestigious individual award in college athletics. A few former Ducks, including LaMichael James and Joey Harrington, have been good enough in years past to contend for the award, but no one has ever won the Heisman in the team’s history.
That should change at the end of this year, because Marcus Mariota is having a season that will be remembered for a long time. If the Ducks can finish the regular season unscathed and take care of business in the PAC-12 Championship game, there’s no reason Mariota shouldn’t be recognized as college football’s best player.
All due respect to the likes of Dak Prescott and Melvin Gordon, but Mariota is playing on a level right now that no one else in the nation can touch. It’s not just about the numbers he’s putting up and the Ducks’ win streak; it’s the near-impossible way in which he’s getting these things done.
With all the injuries this team has endured, particularly on offense, it’s nothing short of a miracle that the Ducks are 9-1. And the Ducks have had several miracles when they’ve needed them most, in the form of Marcus Mariota.
Starting with a revolving-door of an offensive line, Mariota has been forced to make plays on his own and persevere in many adverse situations. Believe it or not, perseverance is an important quality in deciding the Heisman Trophy winner.
From the Heisman’s official website: “The Heisman Memorial Trophy annually recognizes the outstanding college football player whose performance best exhibits the pursuit of excellence with integrity. Winners epitomize great ability combined with diligence, perseverance, and hard work.”
It’s fair to say that Mariota exceeds most of these qualities based on his efforts this season. How many games would the Ducks have realistically won this season if it wasn’t for Mariota? For starters, I’m not convinced they would’ve beaten Michigan State or Washington State without several huge scrambles from Mariota to keep the plays alive. This makeshift offensive line has quite simply been out-matched in several games this year, yet they could’ve looked even worse if not for a Heisman-caliber quarterback like Mariota leading the team.
The only thing going against Mariota’s Heisman resumé is the early season loss to Arizona. Some will argue that loss hurts Mariota’s Heisman chances, but after Prescott and Mississippi State lost to Alabama on Saturday, that argument would have to apply to both players.
And Prescott’s other recent performances have been last than stellar after his early season hot streak. Over the past five games of the season, including Saturday’s contest against Alabama, Prescott has thrown only five touchdowns against eight interceptions. Mariota has six interceptions in the last two seasons combined.
A case could also be made for Wisconsin’s Gordon, who broke the all time FBS rushing record in Saturday’s game against Nebraska. The knock on Gordon though, is that he’s played a significantly weaker schedule in the Big 10 conference, especially when compared to the PAC-12 and SEC.
A player’s margin for error is very slim to remain in contention for the Heisman Trophy throughout a season. Mariota certainly hasn’t been perfect this year, but outside of that Arizona loss, there’s not much evidence that suggests he shouldn’t win college football’s most prestigious award.
The College Football Playoff Committee has already forgiven Mariota and Ducks’ early season loss by moving them ahead of undefeated Florida State in the latest rankings. The voters who decide the Heisman Trophy winner should do the same, because there’s not a single person in college football who is more important to his team than Mariota.
Feature Photo by Craig Strobeck