Mariota Poised To End Oregon’s Heisman Drought

Oregon meets Stanford at Autzen Stadium.

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.

Mariota's scrambling ability has been crucial to the offense's success

Kevin Cline

Mariota’s scrambling ability has been crucial to the offense’s success.

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.

After a hot start, Dak Prescott has been pedestrian in his past few games

Screenshot From Video

After a hot start, Dak Prescott has been pedestrian in his past few games.

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

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Will Denner

Will Denner

Will Denner is a junior at the University of Oregon majoring in journalism with a focus in electronic media. Since he worked for The Oregonian as a freelance sports reporter, he has known for sure that he wants to pursue a career in the field of journalism. Will is most passionate and knowledgeable about Oregon Ducks football, basketball and softball. You can follow him on Twitter @will_denner

  • Anthony Joseph Gomes

    the heisman trophy is a piece of junk. im sort of hoping he doesnt get it. let them give it to jamies again. he deserves it.

    • Will Denner

      Why do you think it’s a “piece of junk”?

      • Anthony Joseph Gomes

        the award is political. football is a team game. lane kiffin going after the award for barkley a couple years back is a good example. kiffin had barkley throwing for the end zone when they should have ran the ball to get his pass efficiency rating up to pimp him for the heisman. he had barkley playing in trash time at the end of games to pimp him for the heisman. result? barkley gets injured in trash time and hurts the team. wittik and kessler could have been put in during trash time to gain valuable experience. result is they are weak at QB the next year and kiffin has a quarterback controversy. USC struggles a whole year to know who will lead them on offense. kiffin’s belief that getting barkley the junk award was worth risking the loss of games was stupid. i could keep citing instances like this but if you want to believe the media this stuff matters all the proof in the world would never shake your beliefs.