Heisman Watch: Week Twelve

posted November 18, 2014 in CommRadio, Sports by Tyler Zulli

Front Runners

Marcus Mariota, Junior QB, Oregon
Stock: EVEN
Week 12 Stats: BYE
Season Stats: 186-277, 2780 yards, 29 TD, 2 INT, 89 carries, 524 yards, 8 TD

The Ducks had themselves a much deserved bye weeks after a rigorous couple of weeks in Pac 12 play. That, however, doesn’t stop Marcus Mariota from continuing to lead the Heisman watch list for another week. He’s simply been too good to be denied the top spot.

Mariota has his Ducks flying high once again, as they are currently 9-1 on the season and 6-1 in the Pac 12. After Mississippi State fell from the unbeatens this past weekend, Oregon currently sits ranked second in the country, and are in prime position to make it into the College Football Playoff.

The duel-threat quarterback has been outstanding all season long, throwing for 29 touchdowns to just two interceptions. One more touchdown, and Mariota will have thrown at least 30 in three straight seasons. He’s thrown for nearly 2800 yards and is on pace for 3000-plus yards for the second consecutive season. He has completed over 67% of his passes on the season, which is currently the second best mark in his personal career.

Obviously Mariota wouldn’t be the quarterback we’ve come to know with just his arm. On the ground, the junior has rushed for 524 yards on 89 carries. He’s also punched in eight touchdowns with his legs.

The Ducks will be back in action this Saturday, as they head home to take on the lowly Colorado Buffaloes as the season winds down. Just Colorado and Oregon State stand in the Ducks way of a trip to the Pac 12 Championship, where they could await any one of a number of teams, including USC, Arizona State, UCLA or even Utah. My money’s on Arizona State due to their remaining schedule. Regardless of which team squares up against the Ducks in the Pac 12 Championship, I’d take Oregon to win the game outright.

Melvin Gordon, Junior RB, Wisconsin
Stock: UP
Week 12 Stats: 25 carries, 408 yards, 4 TD
Season Stats: 223 carries, 1909 yards, 23 TD

My goodness, what a performance this weekend from Gordon. The junior had, and even I admit maybe undeservedly, been muddling around at the third spot on this list for the last few weeks. It had to have been the “quarterbacks trump running backs” thing again that I continue to look back on and question why I thought that in the first place. It’s time that Melvin Gordon got the legitimate respect he deserves, and a chance to crack the “Front Runners” list.

Gordon, who has been terrific all season, went absolutely ballistic this weekend against the Nebraska Cornhuskers. Running the ball 25 times, Gordon racked up 408 total rushing yards. Wait, what? Did you just say 408? Yes, that’s exactly right. Gordon rushed for 408 yards on the day, breaking the college football record for most rushing yards in a single game, a record that was previously held by some guy named Ladanian Tomlinson. Maybe you’ve heard of him?

Want to hear something even crazier than the amount of rushing yards Gordon ran for on the day? He did it all in three quarters of play. That’s right, Gordon didn’t touch the ball in the fourth quarter of this contest, as the team was up 52-17 entering the final 15 minutes of play, thanks to, you guessed it, a Melvin Gordon touchdown run.

As if the 408 yards weren’t good enough, the junior found the end zone four times on the day, bringing his season total up to 23 on the year. He now leads the college football world in rushing touchdowns and rushing yards, with over 1900 to his credit.

I’d be hard pressed to think that in the final two games of the season Gordon will be able to rush for over 700 yards to break Barry Sanders’ all-time rushing record for a single season, but, he’s proved me wrong before.  The Badgers will travel to Iowa before they play host to Minnesota to wrap of the season. 350 yards a game is absurd, but if anybody can do it, it’s Melvin Gordon.

Second Tier

Dak Prescott, Junior QB, Mississippi State
Stock: DOWN
Week 12 Stats: 27-48, 290 yards, 2 TD, 3 INT, 22 carries, 82 yards
Season Stats: 173-287, 2521, 20 TD, 10 INT, 165 carries, 861 yards, 11 TD

Down go the Bulldogs! For the first time all season, the Missisippi State Bulldogs have lost, stripping them of their undefeated status. The loss came at the hands of the Alabama Crimson Tide, a team that was wildly underappreciated all season. If you also remember, I did in fact predict the Crimson Tide to win outright in last week’s watch.

The Bulldogs’ generally fearless leader looked a bit timid in this contest with Alabama, as Dak Prescott was definitely not his normal self. Prescott only completed 56% of his passes on the day, going 27-48 with 290 yards passing. He did throw two touchdowns on the day, but on the flip side, threw three interceptions, as his season total continues to rise. He’s now hit double digits with ten interceptions on the season.

The junior, who is also generally tremendous with his legs, was held in check by the Alabama defense all afternoon. He rushed 22 times for just 82 yards, a number that comes out to be less than four yards per carry. That’s also a number that we don’t expect from Prescott, who’s been deadly on the ground this season.

The loss, matched with Prescott’s average play and with Melvin Gordon’s monster game, has dropped Prescott from the rankings of “Front Runners” and lowered him back into the “Second Tier”.

I do, however, expect Prescott to bounce back for the final two game of the Mississippi State season.  The Bulldogs will have a chance to take out their frustration next week, as the Commodores of Vanderbilt will come to town. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Prescott play deep into that one in order to get his Heisman stock back up a bit.

Amari Cooper, Junior WR, Alabama
Stock: EVEN
Week 12 Stats: 8 rec, 88 yards, 1 TD
Season Stats: 87 rec, 1303 yards, 11 TD

On the flip side of the matchup between the Bulldogs and the Crimson Tide, Amari Cooper once again was dynamite in the spotlight. He continues to impress, and show scouts and NFL teams alike why he has what it takes to make it at the professional level.

Cooper hauled in eight passes on the day against Mississippi State. Those eight grabs turned into 88 yards receiving and a touchdown. The junior now has 87 receptions on the season, all while picking up 1303 yards. Those 1303 yards lead college football by over 20 yards. He’s also found the back of the end zone 11 times this year, good for fourth most in all of college football.

The Crimson Tide find themselves right back in the thick of things in the College Football Playoff after this victory, as they’ve moved up to inside the top-5 in the rankings. Alabama will next get a much needed breather, as they’ll take on Western Carolina at home next week. After that, it’s on to the Iron Bowl, as they’ll finish the season at home against rival Auburn.

Despite only four teams getting into the playoff, I think that Alabama has as strong of a chance as any team to make it in, and the best chance off all the teams to win the whole thing. That’s just what Nick Saban’s teams seem to do.

Honorable Mention

Trevone Boykin, Junior QB, TCU
Duke Johnson, Junior RB, Miami
J.T. Barrett, Freshman QB. Ohio State

Photo Credit: (AP Photo/Morry Gash) 

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