Marcus Mariota Has His Ducks in a Row to Win the 2014 Heisman Trophy
As we sit with the 2014 season still a couple months away, the sportsbook Bovada gives Mariota 11/2 odds to win the Heisman—just behind last year's winner Jameis Winston at 3/1 odds. Mariota and Winston both have all of the prerequisite variables expected of a preseason Heisman contender.
Quarterbacks have won the last four consecutive Heisman Trophy awards, and 12 of the last 14. The four players with the best odds of winning the 2014 Heisman are all quarterbacks (Winston, Mariota, Braxton Miller and Bryce Petty). Winston plays quarterback for Florida State, which is the prohibitive favorite to rank No. 1 when the first preseason polls are released. So really, this is Winston's Heisman Trophy to lose.
And that's exactly what he'll probably do.
No disrespect to Winston as a player. It's just that Heisman Trophy winners never repeat, or at least no one has repeated since Archie Griffin in 1975. Even if a guy puts up better numbers than the year he won the Heisman, he still usually doesn't receive a second consecutive Heisman Trophy. Just ask Johnny Manziel.
Mariota matched Winston's numbers last season, as both quarterbacks exceeded 4,000 yards of total offense. More of Mariota's yards came on the ground (715 yards rushing) despite that he was in a knee brace for five games. It's not unreasonable to predict that Mariota would scramble for substantially more if healthy all season, and not wearing protective gear for key stretches.
Oregon's schedule will have a couple high-profile nationally televised games, so Mariota gets ample spotlight time. The Ducks have Michigan State on Saturday night in Week 2, broadcast nationwide on Fox. They have the Thursday nighter against Arizona at home on October 2. ABC has not scheduled the Ducks in any of their big Saturday night games, but Oregon has an additional nationally televised Friday night game being thrown out there to try to get people to subscribe to something called Fox Sports One.
Mariota will need Heisman help from his teammates on Oregon's roster. De'Anthony Thomas is now a Kansas City Chief, and the fabulous junior receiver Bralon Addison may be out much of the season with an ACL tear. Running backs Byron Marshall and Thomas Tyner were both scintillating in relief of Thomas last season, so one can expect solid performances from them. Otherwise, though, big receiver Keanon Lowe is the only offensive skill player of note that Mariota will have from last season's roster.
Mariota's Heisman chances are predicated not only on staying healthy all year, but also standout performances from the supporting cast. Players who are not household names will have to emerge for him in clutch situations.
The Heisman race does not occur in a vacuum of just your preseason favorites. Other players we've not yet heard of will emerge, perhaps even from within an improved Pac-12. And the Ducks are a superstar contending team this season. If Oregon loses two games or more, Mariota's Heisman power ranking will drop along with the team's national ranking.
But Marcus Mariota is the top Heisman candidate who didn't win the trophy last year, which makes him the likeliest preseason pick to win the trophy this year.