Heisman Watch: Week Nine

Story posted October 26, 2014 in CommRadio, Sports by Tyler Zulli

Front Runners

Marcus Mariota, Junior QB, Oregon
Stock: Even
Week 9 Stats: 18-30, 326 yards, 5 TD, 1 INT
Season Stats: 150-218, 2283 yards, 24 TD, 1 INT, 62 carries, 325 yards, 5 TD

The chip in the armor finally showed this weekend for Mariota, as he tossed his first interception of the 2014 season. However, it did take Mariota nearly 200 attempts before he finally connected with a player of the wrong color jersey.

With that being said, however, Mariota was still absolutely terrific this weekend against California. The junior quarterback threw for well over 300 yards and connected with three different receivers for five scores throughout the night.

It took all of that effort from Mariota in order for the Ducks to slip by an underrated Cal team. The Ducks offense was prolific, scoring 59 points on the night. All in all, he connected with six different receivers, completing 18 of 30 passes on the night.

Mariota continues to be the best college football has to offer to this point in the season. After his big five-touchdown performance, the Ducks’ leader now has 24 touchdowns on the season. Mariota is tied for third in the nation in passing touchdowns on the year, behind Pac 12 rivals Jared Goff of the very Cal team that Oregon defeated this week and high octane quarterback Connor Halliday of Washington State.

The Ducks season rolls right along, as they’re now sitting at 7-1 on the season and 4-1 in the Pac 12. They’ve moved well back into the College Football Playoff picture, as Oregon currently is ranked No. 6 in the nation. The Ducks will next head home and take on the Cardinal of Stanford in what has been, over the last few years at least, a terrific matchup with conference implication.

Mariota continues to shine, and I wouldn’t expect anything different from the Ducks’ quarterback, even as the stout Cardinal defense travels to Eugene to take on Oregon.

Dak Prescott, Junior QB, Mississippi State
Stock: Even
Week 9 Stats: 18-33, 216 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT, 18 carries, 88 yards, 2 TD
Season Stats: 114-189, 1694 yards, 15 TD, 5 INT, 124 carries, 664 yards, 10 TD

The Bulldogs continue to roll, and so does the electric Dak Prescott. The junior quarterback has been nothing short of sensational as his undefeated Bulldogs rolled again this weekend, defeating a, as the theme seems to be, underrated Kentucky Wildcats team.

Prescott was fair with his arm this weekend, throwing for over 200 yards and a score in the win on the road against the Wildcats. The junior connected with eight different receivers on the day, as well. He did, however, throw another interception, his fifth of the year, and the reason Prescott remains under Mariota on this list.

Despite his average day through the air, Prescott was terrific on the ground, rushing for 88 yards on 18 carries.  He averaged nearly five yards on the ground per carry. He also punched in two scores with his legs, those two scores being the difference in the contest, as the Bulldogs won the game 45-31.

With another outstanding day on the ground, Prescott sits in fourth on the season in rushing yards for quarterbacks, with 664 yards total. He also has 10 rushing touchdowns on the season, ranking him third among quarterbacks in that category.

The Bulldogs continue to roll, and that roll will only continue as Prescott moves along. Mississippi State will have a bit of a breather in the next couple of weeks, as they’ll take on Arkansas, who, despite being a tough team, seem relatively small compared to Auburn, Alabama and Ole Miss, as well as UT Martin, quite possibly the easiest team on the Bulldogs schedule this season. These two upcoming weekends will be nothing but “stat padders” for Prescott, who continues to close the gap on Marcus Mariota.

Second Tier

Melvin Gordon, Junior RB, Wisconsin
Stock: Even
Week 9 Stats: 22 carries, 122 yards, 3 TD
Season Stats: 154 carries, 1168 yards, 16 TD

I am running out of words to describe the play of Wisconsin’s sensational running back Melvin Gordon. I also find it absolutely incredible the line of running backs that Wisconsin has produced in the last few years. James White, Montee Ball, and now Melvin Gordon.

Gordon continues to do more than impress in his time as the feature back for the Badgers. His trend of rushing for over 100 yards continues to extend, reaching five games in a row of going over the century mark. He’s now also scored a touchdown in every game except for one.

The junior rushed for 122 yards on 22 carries, pushing him over 1100 yards on the season alone. He’s now solely entrenched in fourth place in rushing yardage, closing in on 1200 yards. He also picked up another three touchdowns, raising his season total to 16 scores on the year. He sits only behind Jarvion Franklin of Western Michigan and Big Ten rival Ameer Abdullah of Nebreska.

Gordon continues to roll, and the Badgers are moving incredibly well offensively, scoring 37 points per game, scoring at least 50 for the second time this season last weekend. The Badgers will next travel to New Jersey to take on the Scarlet Knights of Rutgers. Despite an average defense, I expect Gordon to continue his near dominance of opposing defense next weekend.

It will just be another day at the office for Gordon, as I expect at least 100 yards on the ground and a score or two. Gordon is looking to become the first running back to win the Heisman since Mark Ingram.

Amari Cooper, Junior WR, Alabama
Stock: UP
Week 9 Stats: 9 rec, 224 yards, 2 TD
Season Stats: 71 rec, 1132 yards, 9 TD

This on again, off again relationship with Cooper on this list is becoming a bit a nuisance if you ask me. One week Cooper looks like he could become the Heisman Trophy winner and future break out star in the NFL. The next, he looks like your average college wide receiver who will have a decent NFL career. The last two weeks, however, have been enough to springboard Cooper back onto this list for the first time in a couple of weeks.

Coming off an eight catch, 140 yard performance in which Cooper found the back of the endzone twice, the junior followed up his stellar performance with another terrific one, this time against Tennessee. The wideout caught nine balls for an insane 224 yards on the day. That averages out to an incredible 25 yards per catch. He also hauled in two more touchdowns, raising his season total to nine touchdown grabs. That’s good for third in the nation in touchdown receptions.

The touchdown catches were great in their own right, but how about the 224 yards receiving he had against the Vols? 25 yards per grab on top of that, and I’m at a loss for words at how well Cooper played this week. He’s shown, over the last two weeks especially, that he has the makings of an NFL superstar. He currently sits in second in yards in the country, just five yards behind Rashard Higgins of Colorado State.

As the season progresses, watch for Cooper to continue to be dominant as Alabama looks to make a serious run at the college playoff and the National Championship. A week off will provide huge relief for the Crimson Tide, as they head into the home stretch of conference play. LSU, Mississippi State and Auburn await Alabama three of their final four games. This stretch will prove just how good the Crimson Tide actually are.

Honorable Mention

Ameer Abdullah, Senior RB, Nebraska
Everett Golson, Senior QB, Notre Dame
Jameis Winston, Sophomore QB, Florida State

(Photo credit: AP Photo/David Stephenson)

Tyler Zulli is a junior majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email Tzull34@gmail.com.