Heisman Watch: Week Eight

Opinion/Story posted October 19, 2014 in CommRadio, Sports by Tyler Zulli

Front Runners

Marcus Mariota, Junior QB, Oregon
Stock: Even
Week 8 Stats: 24-33, 336 yards, 2 TD
Season Stats: 132-188, 1957 yards, 19 TD, 56 carries, 289 yards, 5 TD

The fleet-footed master of the collegiate gridiron wasn’t his typical self when it came to the running game this Saturday against Washington. That, however, means absolutely nothing when ones looks at the overall game that Mariota played.

For the second straight week, Mariota finds himself atop this watch list, and for good reason. His play this year, with the exception of perhaps Dak Prescott, has been far better than any other quarterback in the country. And, if tradition tells us anything, a good quarterback’s play tops a good running back’s play most years.

The junior quarterback was outstanding once again, as we’ve come to expect week after week. Mariota threw for well over 300 yards, all while completing all but nine passes on the day. He added two more touchdowns through the air, raising his season total to 19.

Like I mentioned, Mariota wasn’t great in the run game this weekend, as the Huskie defense held the scrambler to negative yardage on seven carries. This, however, could be affected by the way sacks are recorded at the college level. Even without the rushing yards, Mariota was still spectacular, as he continues to lead his Ducks’ offense with proficiency and poise.

Outside of their slip up against Arizona, the Ducks continue to roll right along through the heart of their Pac 12 schedule. They’re now 6-1 overall and 3-1 in Pac 12 play. Mariota’s play has been a major reason for that, as he’s yet to throw an interception to this point in the season.

It will be a short turnaround, however, for Oregon, as they’ll travel to California to take on the Golden Bears Friday night on the road. Although it’s not a defense up to the standards of Stanford or USC, the Golden Bears are no pushover either. I expect a great game, but one that Mariota and the Ducks will come out on top of if he continues to excel.

Dak Prescott, Junior QB, Mississippi State
Stock: UP
Week 8 Stats: Bye
Season Stats: 96-156, 1478 yards, 14 TD, 4 INT, 106 carries, 576 yards, 8 TD

Alright, I get it. I know I’ve done this time and time again this season: sliding somebody up the ranks after a bye week. In what has been one of the craziest, wildest, and most unpredictable college football seasons in recent memory, I’ve come to the conclusion that that reasoning means nothing anymore, and I’m going strictly off of who I believe are the four (or seven, based on honorable mention) best players in football.

With that being said, Dak Prescott has absolutely earned the right to call himself a top four player in football this season. He, just like the rest of the Mississippi State squad, has been outstanding all year, rising all the way from unranked to the number one team in the land. Seriously, raise your hand if you thought at the beginning of the year that the Bulldogs would hold the No. 1 spot in the country. Now, put your hand back down you silly people you. Let’s be real, nobody saw this coming.

However, it has come to fruition, and the Bulldogs should be here to stay. Behind the terrific play of their dual threat quarterback, the Bulldogs are serious contenders for a national championship. Prescott has been outstanding, throwing and rushing for a combined over 2000 yards early in the season. He’s added another 22 combined touchdowns. The junior has limited the turnovers as well, throwing just four picks to this point.   

The Bulldogs continue their SEC West schedule, or as I like to call it, Battle Royale, this coming weekend with a trip to Kentucky, where another formidable opponent awaits them. The West continues to beat up on each other, and I would not be surprised to see not two, but three SEC teams in the playoffs later this year. Even at No. 1, the Bulldogs are guaranteed nothing to this point, as Ole Miss remains undefeated, and lurking at the end of the season. Alabama, Georgia and Auburn also only have one loss, which is a total that could easily win the SEC this year. Prescott will have to remain terrific if he wants to keep his team’s national title, and his Heisman hopes alive.

Second Tier

Melvin Gordon, Junior RB, Wisconsin
Stock: UP
Week 8 Stats: Bye
Season Stats:  132 carries, 1036 yards, 13 TD

I look back to last week and notice the break I gave to Todd Gurley. If, and it was a major if then, he returned, all would be forgiven from a Heisman standpoint. Well, as we all know, he has not returned, and therefore will no longer be in consideration for this list. Melvin Gordon, a back who really didn’t need any help to begin with, will get a push as the premiere back in all of college football now.

It’s a position that is well-deserved for Gordon, who has been absolutely sensational this entire season for the Badgers, completely tearing up opposing defenses to the tune of over 1000 yards on just 132 carries. He’s added an incredible 13 touchdowns to his credit.

Ooh, yeah, did I forget to mention all of this has happened in just six games for Gordon? Or that he had a 17 carry, 38 yard peformance in week two of the season? Take that into consideration, and Melvin Gordon has rushed for 998 yards in five games. FIVE GAMES. That comes out to an average of just shy off 200 yards per contest.

Gordon has been outstanding all season for the Badgers. He’s been so good, in fact, if I were a voter, I would completely throw out that the Badgers have lost two games already and may lose one or two more before the season’s over. Wisconsin could lose out, and if Gordon continues to put up the numbers he has, the Badger could still be in great consideration for the Heisman.

Everett Golson, Senior QB, Notre Dame
Stock: UP
Week 8 Stats: 31-52. 313 yards, 3 TD, 2 INT
Season Stats: 166-268, 1996 yards, 19 TD, 6 INT

It’s become a week where nearly every player on this list had their stock increase. Of course, Mariota didn’t move anywhere, which is a good thing for him, but every other player slid up at least one spot on the list. Golson, however, made the biggest jump of the week, going from the third spot on the honorable mention, or seventh overall, to getting a write up about him, placing fourth this week.

Yes, I understand that Notre Dame lost this week, suffering their first loss of the season. Yes, I also understand that Golson threw two costly interceptions in the game against Florida State late Saturday night. He did, however, look incredibly poised throughout the game, leading his Fighting Irish up and down the field most of the night.

Golson played well, with the exception of the two interceptions. He threw for over 300 yards on over 60% passing. He added three touchdowns through the air to keep the Irish in the game most of the night. In fact, if it weren’t for an offensive pass interference call, Notre Dame and Golson would have knocked off the Seminoles at Doak Campbell.

The loss will be tough for the Irish to swallow, as most felt they were robbed at the end of the game, losing their first game of the season. Notre Dame will have a week off before heading to Navy to take on the Midshipmen. Although Navy has themselves a decent team, I would expect nothing short of a beat down on the first of November, as Notre Dame will likely take out all of its frustration on Navy. I also expect Golson to be at the forefront of that attack. Watch for a rise in the coming weeks.

Honorable Mention

Amari Cooper, Junior WR, Alabama
Bryce Petty, Senior QB, Baylor
Ameer Abdullah, Senior RB, Nebraska

(Photo credit: AP Photo/Mark Wallheiser)

Tyler Zulli is a junior majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email tzull34gmail.com.