Heisman Watch: Week 13

Opinion/Story posted November 25, 2014 in Sports, CommRadio by Tyler Zulli

The Heisman Watch, in my mind, has become a two-dog race at this point. I will continue to write a piece on the second tier, but, at this point, I will start to write about just the top three players in the Heisman Watch. That’s simply a credit to just how good the two front-runners have been this year.

Front Runners

Marcus Mariota, Junior QB, Oregon

Stock: EVEN

Week 13 Stats: 24-32, 323 yards, 3 TD, 8 carries, 73 yards, 1 TD

Season Stats: 210-309, 3103 yards, 32 TD, 2 INT, 97 carries, 597 yards, 9 TD

This weekend was complete domination for the Oregon Ducks, as, after they’ve played a tough schedule over the last few weeks, were able to grab an easy victory at the hands of the lowly Colorado Buffaloes. Colorado came into the matchup with just two victories under their belt, and it wouldn’t get any easier for them heading to Eugene to take on the Ducks. The outcome probably wasn’t even as bad as it could have been, as the Ducks called off the dogs after three quarters and didn’t score a single point in the fourth quarter. 

At the center of those first three quarters, and the victory in general, was, of course, Marcus Mariota. The Ducks’ leader was, once again, terrific in leading his team up and down the field all night. Completing 75% of his passes, Mariota threw for well over 300 yards on the day. He added three touchdowns through the air, connecting with Royce Freeman twice for scores. All in all, Mariota and Freeman connected 17 times on the day for 105 yards and those two scores. The three touchdowns that Mariota threw on the day put him over the 30-touchdown mark on the season for the third straight season. He is now currently sitting in third place in touchdown passes on the season. He sits only behind Ohio State freshman J.T. Barrett and Western Kentucky Hilltopper Brandon Doughty, who have 33 and 36 touchdowns respectively. 

Of course, what would a Mariota day be without a handful of carries to make him an electrifying, dual-threat, matchup nightmare of a quarterback. He added eight carries for 73 yards on the day. The junior quarterback found the back of the endzone again with his legs, giving him now nine total touchdowns on the ground. He is now currently in the top-10 for rushing touchdowns by a quarterback this season.

As the Ducks head into rivalry week, they’ll prepare to take on in-state rival Oregon State with a chance to finish the season with 11 victories. Assuming they pull the win, which I expect that they should do fairly easily, they’ll finish the season with seven consecutive victories. They’ve already punched their ticket to the Pac-12 championship game, where their opponent is still to be determined. Arizona State still remains the frontrunner out of the South, but the last week could change so many things. As is tradition, the Ducks will rely heavily on Mariota to take them to the promise land, which will be a Pac-12 championship and a trip to the first-ever playoff. If, and probably when, Oregon makes it the playoffs, I wouldn’t be surprised to the see the Ducks and their high-flying offense run the table come January.

Melvin Gordon, Junior RB, Wisconsin

Stock: EVEN

Week 13 Stats: 31 carries, 200 yards, 2 TD

Season Stats: 254, 2109 yards, 25 TD

Only 200 yards this weekend, Mr. Gordon? Shame on you. Of course, I only kid when I say this, as Melvin Gordon just continues to shred competition on a weekly basis. This week was no exception, as the Badgers pounded the football on the ground, running the ball 31 times with Gordon alone.

On those 31 carries, Gordon picked up 200 yards on the ground, averaging six and a half yards per carry. He also was able to find the endzone twice, as he’s now scored a touchdown in nine straight weeks. He’s also scored multiple touchdowns in seven of those weeks, scoring four times in three weeks this season. All in all, Gordon has rushed for 25 touchdowns on the season, and has 27 total touchdowns, as he’s added two receiving. He currently leads the league in rushing touchdown, two ahead of his next closest competition in Jarvion Franklin from WMU.

Now, in the last three weeks, Gordon has rushed for at least 200 yards in every game, of course capping those weeks off with the 400-plus yard outburst two weeks ago against Nebraska. With that being said, Gordon, who has rushed for 813 yards in the last three weeks, now has 2109 yards from scrimmage on the season. Like I said last week, I doubt he’ll be able to track down Barry Sanders’ record for most rushing yards in a single season, but nonetheless, his season has been one for the ages. His total rushing yards also leads all of college football, and this stat is not that close. He leads Big Ten rival Tevin Coleman by over 200 yards. His next closest competition, James Connor of Pitt, is more than 500 yards behind Gordon.

Despite a much closer win than the Badgers would have liked against Iowa this weekend, the team has won six consecutive games, pushing their season record to 9-2 and 6-1 in the Big Ten. They currently sit ranked 16th in all college football, and had they have beaten LSU in the beginning of the season, they would, for sure, be ranked within the top-10.

Regardless of the two losses that the Badgers have suffered this season, the team is sitting in great position to make it to the Big Ten Championship game, which barring a miracle this weekend, will set up a date with Ohio State. A victory in the last week of the season against Minnesota is not guaranteed, but I would expect the Badgers to be willed to a victory by the legs of Melvin Gordon. 

Second Tier

Dak Prescott, Junior QB, Mississippi State

Stock: EVEN

Week 13 Stats: 16-21, 193 yards, 3 TD, 6 carries, 30 yards, 1 TD

Season Stats: 189-308, 2714 yards, 23 TD, 10 INT, 171 carries, 891 yards, 12 TD

Like I mentioned earlier, it appears to me that the Heisman Watch has become a two-dog race at this point. However, that doesn’t change the fact that Dak Prescott has had himself a heck of a season as the signal caller for Mississippi State. It really just goes to show you how good the first two guys on this list have been this season. 

Prescott tried his absolute best to stay in the hunt this weekend with a beat down of the lowly Commodores of Vanderbilt, 51-0. With that victory, the Bulldogs punched their tenth victory of the season, remaining very much alive in the hunt for the college playoff.

The junior had himself a terrific outing against Vandy before being pulled in the fourth quarter for backup Damien Williams. Before his early exit, Prescott completed over three quarters of his passes, going 16-for-21 for just under 200 yards on the day. He also added three scores through the air, bringing his season total to 23 on the year. He also added a touchdown with his legs on just six carries on the day, a season low for carries.

Prescott has been terrific all season, but there is simply one number that is holding the junior from being a legitimate contender in this year’s Heisman contention: 10. The Bulldogs’ quarterback has thrown ten interceptions this season, and hasn’t looked particularly sharp against the better competition he’s faced. He’s been outstanding against lesser talent, but I still am not particularly convinced until he performs better and more consistently against better opponents.

Prescott will have a chance to bring his Bulldogs their eleventh win of the season next week as they’ll head on the road, but remain in state, as they’ll take on rival Ole Miss in the Egg Bowl. This could be the biggest matchup between these two teams in the illustrious history of the rivalry. The winner will certainly improve their bowl projections. A victory for Mississippi State, paired with an Alabama loss to Auburn, and we’ll see the Bulldogs playing for the SEC championship. Expect Prescott to need to shine the next few weeks in order for the Bulldogs to play in important games come December. 

Honorable Mention

Amari Cooper, Junior WR, Alabama

Trevone Boykin, Junior QB, TCU

J.T. Barrett, Freshman QB, Ohio State

(Photo credit: AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)

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