There's still plenty of time remaining in the 2013 college football season, but Oregon Ducks quarterback Marcus Mariota might want to start polishing a spot on his mantle for a bronze statue.
The sophomore signal-caller had yet another statistical frenzy on Saturday, as the Ducks went on the road and delivered a 57-16 pulverization. Mariota completed 16 of his 27 passes and threw five touchdowns, adding another two scores and 43 yards on the ground.
The individual plays were nearly as spectacular as the overall stats. He made a quick read and found Bralon Addison wide open streaking down the sidelines in the second quarter for a 75-yard touchdown. The duo pressed the copy-paste button in the third period, with Mariota faking out the defenders on a read-option handoff and firing a strike to Addison streaking over the middle.
By the time Oregon made its first mistake of the game—a fourth-quarter interception—it was coming from a different quarterback. Mariota was kicked back sipping Mai Tais (virgin ones! he's only 19, people) by the 45-minute mark.
The effort was one of spectacular individualism and schematic brilliance. Mariota was poised and accurate with his throws, and he picked his spots when taking off with the ball.
It's been a season full of those performances for Mariota. Five games into the season, the Oregon quarterback is yet to throw an interception in 134 pass attempts, juxtaposing that by tossing 14 touchdowns. He's also added 338 rushing yards and seven touchdowns on only 28 carries. Again, Marcus Mariota scores the football one of every four times he carries the football.
Those are the types of numbers that—if you didn't get any indication where this was headed in the lede, now's a good time to go back—win you a Heisman Trophy.
Heading into this week, Mariota had already cemented himself in the Heisman pole position. Bovada listed him at 8-5 odds, dwarfing those of his next closest competitors, Louisville quarterback Teddy Bridgewater (11-2) and Texas A&M signal-caller Johnny Manziel (15-2). Barring any superb, Heisman-moment type outings from those players trailing behind, it's very likely that those three quarterbacks will stick in their spots going forward.
Bridgewater has already locked up the Andrew Luck Annual Award, for a player whose NFL hype seeps into the voters' minds and locks him into an invite to New York City. Manziel is probably the best individual player in college football from a week-to-week basis.
But Mariota and his Ducks teammates have been the most outstanding. Bleacher Report's Adam Kramer pointed out that despite Oregon being favored by 191.5 points this season (38.3 per week), they've covered every single time:
Such was the case on Saturday. Mariota's Ducks were posted as 39-point favorites by kickoff and wound up paying out every single penny.
As for what Saturday in particular means to Mariota's Heisman chase? Meh, not all that much. When taken in the micro sense, Mariota's performance against Colorado isn't going to catalyze his Heisman cause. His performance was certainly spectacular, but it wasn't unexpectedly so.
Colorado is coming off a game where it gave up 44 points to Oregon State. The Buffaloes have won exactly three Pac-12 games since joining the conference. Three. Not per season, either. Total. Their lone win in the conference last season was a 35-34 win over equally putrid Washington State.
This isn't a backhanded slap to Stanford by any stretch of the imagination.
The best one could really say is that Mariota didn't put his favorite position in jeopardy. He came out, performed as expected and atoned from a somewhat mediocre performance against Cal last week. What happened is exactly what should have.
And looking through Oregon's opponents, there's a ton of "we are who we thought they were." The Ducks struggled for about a quarter against Tennessee before smacking them by 45 points, but other than that this has been an expectedly breezy start. Their combined FBS opponent record this year is 8-11. None of the teams have records above .500. Each will very likely finish below that mark.
There are plenty of folks who have disregarded Ohio State's hot start by citing opponents played. Perhaps we should pick up our mouths a bit from the slack-jawed drooling and realize that Oregon hasn't played much better. Without strong victories against top-tier opponents—some folks would like to refer to these as "Heisman moments"—Mariota's candidacy is going to be pinned down a bit.
Luckily, Mariota should have plenty of opportunities going forward. Oregon takes on its first ranked opponent of the season next week when it travels to Washington, beginning a four-game stretch where the Ducks play three Top 25 foes. Their clashes against UCLA and Stanford will be particularly important to Mariota's campaign, as they will not only represent what he can do against elite opponents, but those contests will also be the final difficult games on the slate until the Pac-12 title game.
Still, don't take this as a discounting of Mariota. He was superb yet again, and perhaps only Peyton Manning has a better quarterback Q-Score than Mariota.
But his push toward pulling away with the race begins in seven days' time. If he pulls off similarly spectacular outings when the schedule finally ratchets up to B from F on the NCAA Football 14 schedule meter, then we can talk.
Saturday's win against Colorado? It should be little more than a mere footnote when all is said and done.
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