Hunting the Heisman: Huge implications this weekend
Although neither are likely, if it's going to happen, it'll be in the next two weeks.
Oregon travels to Stanford on November 7. The Cardinal were the only team to knock off the Ducks in 2012, controlling their high-powered offense and forcing Mariota into the worst game of his career (44.9 QBR).
Then there's Winston, who will face a stingy defense in No. 7 Miami (Fla.) on primetime television. The game is at home, but Al Golden's secondary has allowed just 200.6 yards through the air per game (17th overall) and six passing touchdowns.
We also can't forget about Bryce Petty, A.J. McCarron and Johnny Manziel, among some other worthy dark horse candidates.
1. Marcus Mariota, QB, Oregon
vs. UCLA: 21-of-28 (70.0 percent), 230 yards, TD ... 7 carries, 18 yards
2013: 144-of-225 (64.0 percent), 2,281 yards, 20 TDs ... 56 carries, 511 yards, 9 TDs
Why: From a stat standpoint, Mariota is coming off his least impressive game of the season. UCLA did a good job containing his running lanes and limited his downfield throws, forcing him to use checkdowns more often than he would have liked. Still, he managed the game to perfection in the fourth quarter and set up his teammates to make the big plays. The Bruins have some NFL talent on defense, but nothing like Stanford's front seven. Mariota will be challenged on Thursday night football, and it could make-or-break his chances.
2. Jameis Winston, QB, Florida State
vs. North Carolina State: 16-of-26 (61.5 percent), 292 yards, 3 TDs, INT
2013: 128-of-183 (69.9 percent), 2,177 yards, 23 TDs, 4 INTs ... 44 carries, 126 yards, 3 TDs
Why: There might not be a more impressive individual in college football than Jameis Winston. Mel Kiper and Todd McShay both agree that he'd be the No. 1 overall pick in the 2014 NFL Draft, if he were eligible. He's got an Andrew Luck-like demeanor and playing style, and means the world to his football program. Plug E.J. Manuel back into the system and the Noles are a 11-2 disappointment once again.
3. Bryce Petty, QB, Baylor
vs. Kansas: 20-of-32 (62.5 percent), 430 yards, 3 TDs ... 4 carries, 22 yards, TD
2013: 122-of-176 (69.3 percent), 2,453 yards, 18 TDs, INT ... 28 carries, 73 yards, 6 TDs
Why: Baylor's schedule may have been favorable to this point, but that's no discredit to what Petty has been able to do. He's one of the best deep-ball passers in the country and is extremely efficient, no matter what kind of scheme has been thrown his way. Petty gets a real Heisman stage this weekend when the Bears host No. 10 Oklahoma, and my guess is that he (along with the rest of the offense) puts on a show.
4. A.J. McCarron, QB, Alabama
vs. Tennessee: 19-of-27 (70.4 percent), 275 yards, 2 TDs
2013: 145-of-209 (69.4 percent), 1,862 yards, 16 TDs, 3 INTs
Why: I'm aware that the Heisman Trophy isn't a lifetime achievement award. That's not why I have McCarron on my list. This isn't your typical run-first Alabama offense; McCarron is being asked to do much more from a quarterback standpoint, rather than "manage the game." Sure, he's not the most dynamic athlete on the field. He doesn't dominate. But he definitely gets the job done, and all he does is win.
5. Johnny Manziel, QB, Texas A&M
vs. Vanderbilt: 25-of-35 (71.4 percent), 305 yards, 4 TDs, INT ... 4 carries, 11 yards
2013: 184-of-252 (73.0 percent), 2,594 yards, 22 TDs, 8 INTs ... 89 carries, 497 yards, 6 TDs
Why: At this point last season, Manziel had 3,009 total yards and 29 touchdowns—and that's not even including his Heisman-winning performance over Alabama, which was in Week 11. He's basically right where he was a year ago, except his defense has completely rolled over. Still, Manziel is throwing the ball a few times less per game than he did in 2012, and he's one interception from matching what he did all of last season. He needs some help from the front-runners and some huge numbers vs. LSU and Missouri in order to repeat the title.
Also in the hunt: Teddy Bridgewater, QB, Louisville; Melvin Gordon, RB, Wisconsin; Derek Carr, QB, Fresno State; Jordan Lynch, QB, Northern Illinois; Brandon Cooks, WR, Oregon State.
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