A little after 8 p.m. Eastern on Saturday we will learn who the 80th winner of the Heisman Trophy is.
The three candidates invited to the Best Buy Theater in Manhattan for the announcement – Alabama wide receiver Amari Cooper, Wisconsin running back Melvin Gordon and Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota – each have had special seasons, rewriting the record books along the way.
While Mariota is viewed by most to be the front-runner, nothing is certain until we hear a name called to the podium to collect the 25-pound bronze statue.
Here’s what you need to know about the candidates and Saturday night’s presentation:
The 80th Heisman Trophy presentation
Saturday, 8 p.m. Eastern on ESPN
Best Buy Theater, New York City
Jameis Winston, Quarterback, Florida State
Meet The Candidates
Amari Cooper, Wide Receiver, Alabama
Cooper is the premier receiver in the country for the top-ranked team in the inaugural College Football Playoffs. The record-setting junior’s 115 receptions and 1,656 yards lead the FBS and his 14 touchdowns are tied for second. And this from an offense known for its balanced attack, not a pass-happy one.
Cooper set the SEC’s single-season record for receptions and broke nearly every season and career school mark during the 2014 campaign. Thursday night he was honored with the Biletnikoff Award, which is given annually to the nation’s most outstanding receiver.
“Coop” has saved some of his best for season’s end. In his last 2 games, he tied his own school record for yards with 224 against Auburn (to go with 13 catches and 3 TDs), then followed a week later with a game-record 12 receptions in the SEC Championship vs. Missouri.
He has amassed 7 100-yard games, including 3 of at least 200.
Melvin Gordon, Running Back, Wisconsin
As the nation’s leading rusher, Gordon certainly deserved his invitation to NYC. The junior’s 2,336 yards are 300 more than the No. 2 rusher, Tevin Coleman of Indiana. His 29 total touchdowns (26 rushing, 3 receiving) also lead the FBS for non-quarterbacks. Gordon set the FBS record for yards in a game by running for 408 against Nebraska on Nov. 15. But his mark amazingly lasted just 1 week at Samaje Perine of Oklahoma went for 427 yards Nov. 22 against Kansas. Still, Gordon’s record-setting game earned him Tecmo Bowl treatment.
Only Oklahoma State’s Barry Sanders (2,628 yards in 1988), Central Florida’s Kevin Smith (2,567 in 2007) and Southern Cal’s Marcus Allen (2,342 in 1981) have rushed for more yards in a season than Gordon.
Gordon hit the 2,000-yard mark faster than anyone in history, reaching the mark in his 241st carry of the season.
The Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year announced Wednesday he will skip his senior season to enter the 2015 NFL Draft. Then on Thursday, Gordon won the Doak Walker Award as the nation’s top running back.
Marcus Mariota, Quarterback, Oregon
A quick glance at Mariota’s numbers will surely elicit a double-take. How can a quarterback account for so many touchdowns and so few interceptions other than in a video game? The redshirt junior has thrown for 38 scores and just 2 picks to go with 3,783 passing yards. And let’s not forget the 14 rushing TDs and 669 ground yards.
Thursday night, Mariota collected a trio of honors: the Walter Camp Player of the Year, the Davey O’Brien National Quarterback Award and the Maxwell Award as the nation’s most outstanding player.
The Pac-12 Offensive Player of the Year and conference first-teamer is at or close to the top in nearly every statistical category for quarterbacks.
Mariota has been other-worldly the past month, accounting for 19 touchdowns (12 passing, 7 rushing) in the last 4 games (all wins). The Ducks have won 8 straight behind Mariota, who has been responsible for at least 4 touchdowns in a game 10 times, including at least 5 scores in 4 contests.
He’s also got a 100 percent scoring rate as a receiver – his lone reception this season went for a 26-yard touchdown against Arizona, Oregon’s only loss.
And the winner of the 2014 Heisman Trophy is … Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota
Mariota’s season has been nothing short of remarkable. He’s got everything the voters look for: the gaudy numbers, the team in the hunt for the national championship and, of course, the word “Quarterback” next to his name. Signal callers have won 12 of the past 14 Heismans. Cooper and Gordon have also had amazing years. And in most any other season Cooper would likely be the first receiver to win the Heisman since Desmond Howard struck the pose in 1991 and Gordon would be Wisconsin’s third running back (Alan Ameche in 1954 and Ron Dayne in 1999) to take home the statue. Unfortunately for Cooper and Gordon, Mariota decided to put up over 50 touchdowns and just a handful of turnovers for the No. 2 team in the country.