Oregon Football: Why Marcus Mariota Is a Top Heisman Contender

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Oregon Football: Why Marcus Mariota Is a Top Heisman Contender
Christian Petersen/Getty Images

Lost in all the hullabaloo over Geno Smith is the fact that Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota is having a Heisman-caliber season in his own right.

That Oregon would be getting elite production out of the quarterback position seems to be taken for granted by now, but Mariota is among the best in a long line of success at Oregon.

As a redshirt freshman, Mariota has 16 passing touchdowns to just five interceptions, while completing over 60 percent of his passes in all but one game this season. 

What makes Mariota special, of course, is his ability as a dual-threat quarterback. His 86-yard touchdown against Arizona State on Thursday night was the first of what should be many long touchdown gallops in Mariota's career. 

Week in and week out, Mariota puts the Ducks in position to not just win, but dominate. 

During one three-week stretch, Mariota threw the ball 95 times in a pass heavy attack. He threw the ball 28 times against Tennessee Tech, 35 against Arizona and 32 against Washington State in three blowout victories. When the game rests on his arm, he dominates.

Even when Mariota's passing is not the focal point of the offense, he is capable of taking over a game, as he proved Thursday. Mariota only threw the ball 12 times, but his running helped the Ducks take complete control. They lead 43-7 midway through the second quarter, allowing them to coast to an easy win.

Likewise, Mariota only threw for 166 yards in a matchup against Fresno State, but he also ran for 67 yards, sparking the Ducks' dominant offense to a 42-25 victory.

Whether on the ground or through the air, Mariota has delivered all season long. Oregon has not scored fewer than 42 points in a game this season, and the brilliant play of Mariota has been the catalyst.

He not only racks up stats himself, but Mariota also makes his teammates better as well. Seven Ducks have managed at least 10 catches this season, as Mariota spreads the ball around better than almost anybody in the country. 

His ability to read defenses has also been a major boon for the Ducks, as it has allowed Kenjon Barner and De'Anthony Thomas to dominate opposing defenses. The two of them have combined for 1,272 yards on their own, and the team as a whole has 2,220 rushing yards at six yards per carry.

A lesser quarterback would not have this offense operating so effectively, but Mariota is the real deal.

He might not have the flashy stats that Geno Smith has, but Mariota has been every bit as important to Oregon's season. He definitely deserves at least an invite to the Heisman ceremony.

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