Saturday night at the Best Buy Theater in New York City’s Times Square, the 80th winner of the Heisman Trophy will be announced.
Sitting in the front row and hoping to hear his named called will be Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota. The record-setter and Heisman front-runner has his Ducks (12-1, 8-1 Pac-12) as the No. 2 seed in the inaugural College Football Playoffs, where they’ll face No. 3 Florida State in the Rose Bowl on Jan. 1.
If Mariota, who on Monday won the Johnny Unitas Golden Arm award, does get called to the podium to collect the 25-pound bronze trophy, it’ll be the first time a University of Oregon player has done so.
The Heisman Trophy announcement will air on ESPN at 8 p.m. Eastern.
Here’s what you need to know about Mariota:
The Mariota File
Passing: 254-for-372 (68.3%), 3,783 yards (291 yards per game), 38 touchdowns, 2 interceptions, 186.3 rating, 10.17 yards per attempt
Rushing: 117 attempts, 669 yards (51.5 yards per game), 14 touchdowns
Receiving: 1 reception, 26 yards, 1 touchdown
Passing: 729-for-1,094 (66.6%), 10,125 yards (259.6 yards per game), 101 touchdowns, 12 interceptions, 172.6 rating, 9.2 yards per attempt
Rushing: 319 attempts, 2,136 yards (54.8 yards per game), 28 touchdowns
Receiving: 2 receptions, 28 yards, 2 touchdowns
Oct. 30, 1993 (21 years old)
Saint Louis School
Toa Mariota and Alana Deppe-Mariota
Mariota wasn’t exactly the most sought after quarterback coming out of high school. He was recruited by a number of schools, including Oregon, Hawaii, Notre Dame, UCLA, USC, Stanford, Arizona and Memphis, among others, but only Oregon and Memphis offered scholarships. Well, we know the rest. He accepted the Ducks’ offer and has become one of the most prolific passers in college football history.
Not much is known about Mariota off the field as he successfully maintains a low-key life despite his enormous popularity and success, and he’s rarely seen doing interviews on the major sports networks. One aspect of his life that has been reported is Mariota has a longtime girlfriend, Nicole Watase, and has dated her since high school.
Also, there is one recent incident of his personal life in which Mariota would probably like to replay the down: he was ticketed back in November for speeding. 80 in a 55-mph zone. Mariota was apparently quite cooperative with police, though.
“Mr. Mariota was polite and respectful, he was professional and took the citation appropriately and acted appropriately,” state police Lt. Josh Brooks told oregonlive.com. “Everybody gets tickets and 80 in a 55 is a tad fast. We send you on your way, it’s just that.”
Mariota’s entire Oregon career has basically been a highlight reel. All he does is put the ball in the end zone. He is always among the Pac-12 and national leaders in passing, both seasonally and for his career. He does not turn the ball over. And he wins games. Mariota just accounted for 5 touchdowns (2 passing, 3 rushing) in Oregon’s 51-13 drubbing of Arizona in the conference championhip game.
One of his biggest highlights can be seen in the clip below: his career-long 80 yard touchdown pass to Devon Allen in a win over Washington State, a game in which Mariota tied a season-high with 5 TDs.
Mariota was honored Thursday night with the Walter Camp Player of the Year Award, the Davey O’Brien Award as the nation’s top quarterback and the Maxwell Award, which is given annually to the country’s most outstanding player.
He was also named the Pac-12 Offensive Player of the Year and was made first-team all-conference for the third-consecutive season.
Why Mariota Will Win
Because Mariota’s stats are ridiculously gaudy and he has his Oregon Ducks as the No. 2 seed in the inaugural College Football Playoffs. Those got him the invitation to New York City for the presentation.
But it certainly doesn’t hurt Mariota is a quarterback. Of the 79 times the Heisman has been awarded, 31 have gone to quarterbacks, including 12 of the past 14 winners. The past 4 honorees have been signal-callers (Jameis Winston, Johnny Manziel, Robert Griffin III and Cam Newton).
A quarterback with eye-popping numbers and a team very much in the national championship hunt are definitely pluses to the Heisman voters. Mariota has both of those checked off.
Why Mariota Won’t Win
You probably have a better chance of spotting Bigfoot than you do of finding a hole in Mariota’s resume. This season he has just 2 meaningless interceptions in 2 games the Ducks won handily, Oct. 24 at Cal (59-41) and Nov. 1 vs. Stanford (45-16).
If you’re looking for a Mariota negative, see the above clip. All-America candidate Scooby Wright III strip-sacked Mariota then recovered the fumble during Arizona’s 31-24 win over the Ducks earlier this season. There aren’t many other Mariota mistakes available on film.
His Heisman case is pretty airtight. But this section is supposed to be about why he won’t win.
Cooper had a record-setting season for the No. 1 team in the nation. Opposing defenses haven’t stopped him all season. Gordon is the nation’s leading rusher by a wide margin and has the most ground TDs (26). His team isn’t in the CFP Final Four, but earlier this season Gordon set the single-game rushing record with 408 yards, which he held for a week until this happened.
Perhaps this is the year the voters buck the trend of awarding the Heisman to a quarterback.
We’ll find out Saturday night.