Heisman Watch: Week Ten

Opinion/Story posted November 4, 2014 in Sports, CommRadio by Tyler Zulli

Front Runners

Marcus Mariota, Junior QB, Oregon

Stock: EVEN

Week 10 Stats: 19-30, 258 yards, 2 TD, 1 INT, 9 carries, 85 yards, 2 TD

Season Stats: 169-248, 2541 yards, 26 TD, 2 INT, 71 carries, 410 yards, 7 TD

For the second week in a row, Mariota threw a pass to a player wearing a different color. It’s odd to think about, especially considering it was only the second time, how Mariota made a small mistake in the season because he’s been so good thus far. In fact, the junior quarterback has been nearly perfect. He’s thrown nearly 250 passes on the season and has only thrown two interceptions to this point.

Despite the interception, Mariota was terrific once again. Against the once powerful Stanford defense, the Ducks and Mariota drove up and down the field at will this weekend, scoring 45 points on the night.

Mariota completed close to two-thirds of his passes while throwing for over 250 yards. He added two touchdowns through the air, bringing his season total up to 26. He was equally as impressive with his feet this weekend, rushing for 85 yards on just nine carries. He punched in two more scores on the ground, raising his season total to seven.

Now, with four consecutive victories, the Ducks have improved to 8-1 on the season, and 5-1 in the Pac 12. Oregon has crept back into the top five with three games left to play this season.  They’ll next travel to Utah, to take on a very impressive Utes squad that just fell in a close battle with Arizona State. They’ll look to get back on track this weekend at the expense of the Ducks.

Mariota will have to, once again, be great in order to pick up Oregon’s ninth win of the season. If they get past Utah, the Ducks will then have just Colorado and in-state rival Oregon State standing in their way of an 11-win season.

Dak Prescott, Junior QB, Mississippi State

Stock: EVEN

Week 10: 18-27, 331 yards, 1 TD, 2 INT

Season Stats: 132-216, 2025 yards, 16 TD, 7 INT

Another day, another Mississippi State victory. Hold the phone, however. This one wasn’t nearly as comfortable as the Bulldogs would have liked it to be. The Bulldogs seven-point victory was the smallest margin of victory the Bulldogs have had this entire season. The Razorbacks of Arkansas gave the Bulldogs all they could handle before giving up a fourth quarter touchdown to surrender the lead for the final time.

However, a win is still a win, and the Bulldogs continue their unbeaten streak, stretching it to eight games. Of course, the center of everything is their junior quarterback Dak Prescott, who, since about four weeks ago, has garnered plenty of Heisman consideration.

Prescott was good once again this weekend, completing two thirds of his passes for well over 300 yards on the day. He completed passes to eight different receivers. The junior also added a passing touchdown on the day, raising his season total to 16.

The downside of the day were the two interceptions Prescott tossed, bringing that season total to seven on the year. That’s the major knock on Prescott and the reason as to why he hasn’t surpassed Mariota to this point.

After a crazy, stressful couple of weeks for the Bulldogs, Prescott’s squad will get a breather, taking on UT Martin next week at home. After that, however, they’ll have Alabama and Ole Miss two of the last three weeks of the season. If, and it’s still a huge if, the Bulldogs finish the season undefeated, Prescott will have a huge advantage in the Heisman race due to his record and schedule.

Second Tier

Melvin Gordon, Junior RB, Wisconsin

Stock: EVEN

Week 10 Stats: 19 carries, 128 yards, 2 TD

Season Stats: 173 carries, 1296 yards, 18 TD

Another week, another terrific outing from Melvin Gordon. I really cannot tell you how he’s not risen past third on this list. It must have something to do with my belief that a good quarterback generates more buzz than a good running back. I honestly don’t know. Gordon is consistently making it tough for me to overlook him as a legitimate Heisman threat.

On less than 20 carries, Gordon rushed for 128 yards, an average of almost 6.5 yards per carry. Not only was Melvin Gordon’s day outstanding, but it wasn’t even the best performance by a Wisconsin running back on the day. With a lead securely in tact most of the game, backup running back Corey Clement out-rushed Gordon by about three yards. They both notched two rushing touchdowns on the day, giving Clement seven touchdowns on the year, and Gordon 18.

Talk about a wealth of touchdowns. If Clement didn’t have the seven touchdown runs, or if they were given to Gordon instead, he’d have 25 rushing touchdowns already. I wish I could capitalize that number; that’s how impressive his season has been.

Wisconsin will have a bit of a break, not in the schedule but in who they are playing. Next week they go on the road to take on Purdue. The Boilermakers, as we’ve seen over the years, are far better at home than on the road. However, I still expect Gordon to have himself yet another fine day, looking to extend his consecutive 100-yard plus streak to seven games in a row.

Amari Cooper, Junior WR, Alabama

Stock: EVEN

Week 10 Stats: BYE

Season Stats: 71 rec, 1132 yards, 9 TD

Well, it was either Cooper or Ameer Abdullah this week. Had Abdullah played the entire game this weekend, and not gone out early with an injury, probably would have been here today. However, he played very little, leaving me with a bit of a dilemma. Do I give this spot to a guy whose team didn’t play this week or to a guy who didn’t play after an injury?

I eventually decided on the former, giving the spot to Cooper by default. I decided that since he was here last week, the spot remains his for the next week.

Cooper has been terrific all year, hauling in 71 catches for 1132 yards in just eight games. He’s added nine touchdown receptions on the season, as well. With these stats in mind, Cooper is on pace for 107 catches and 15 touchdown in 2014. That is an absurd season by any means, but even better realizing that Alabama’s Blake Sims is in his first full season as the starting quarterback.

The Crimson Tide, after a week off, will now face a barrage of SEC foes that look to deter Alabama from entering the first ever College Football Playoff. They’ll face LSU, Mississippi State and Auburn three out of the next four games, with Western Carolina sandwiched in between. Those three SEC opponents all sit within the top 20, with Auburn and Mississippi State in the top five.

Cooper will have to be the number one target that Alabama has come to expect over the season in order for the Crimson Tide to make it to the playoff.

Honorable Mention

Ameer Abdullah, Senior RB, Nebraska

Everett Golson, Senior QB, Notre Dame

Trevone Boykin, Junior QB, TCU

(Photo credit: AP Photo/Andy Manis)

Tyler Zulli is a junior majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email tzull34@gmail.com.