Marcus Mariota Is Jameis Winston's Biggest Threat to Repeat as Heisman Winner

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Marcus Mariota Is Jameis Winston's Biggest Threat to Repeat as Heisman Winner
Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
Mariota (right) is poised to make a run at 2014 Heisman Trophy.

After being snubbed as a finalist this season, look for Oregon Ducks quarterback Marcus Mariota to be a major challenger to Florida State Seminoles quarterback Jameis Winston for the Heisman Trophy next year.

In fact, Mariota might even have the inside track.

For much of 2013, the sophomore was the front-runner for college football’s most coveted award.

He sparked a Ducks offense that ranked among the best in the nation, relying on both his arm and legs to pick opponents apart. Mariota helped lead the Ducks to an 8-0 record and a No. 2 ranking in the polls through 10 weeks.

Then he slipped up in a 26-20 loss to Stanford on November 7. A second loss late in the year against Arizona, in which Mariota didn't play exceptionally well, put an end to his Heisman candidacy.

But with another year of experience under his belt, don’t expect those struggles to continue in 2014.

Here’s why.

 

1. He’s Surrounded by Talent

Doug Pensinger/Getty Images
Mariota (right) will have plenty of help from the backfield in 2014.

Through 12 games this season, Oregon ranks No. 3 in scoring (46.8 PPG) and No. 2 in total offense (573.0 YPG).

The good news: Almost all of the team’s offensive weapons will be returning next year.

Barring early entry into the NFL draft, the Ducks will be returning each of their top four rushers. It’s a group that (including Mariota) has combined for 2,847 rushing yards and 40 touchdowns.

In the receiving corps, the team will lose seniors Josh Huff (57 REC, 1,036 YDS, 11 TD) and Daryle Hawkins (23 REC, 347 YDS, 3 TD). However, sophomore Bralon Addison (56 REC, 842 YDS, 7 TD) has shown plenty of potential to take over.

With the additions of incoming 5-star running back Royce Freeman and 4-star wide receiver Jalen Brown, Oregon will have plenty of playmakers on offense. 

Look for the team to continue their high-octane pace next season.

 

2. The Schedule Backs Him Up

Steve Dykes/Getty Images
Mariota and Co. will have a schedule that benefits a Heisman run.

Sometimes, putting up the numbers just isn’t enough—ask Fresno State’s Derek Carr and Arizona’s Ka’Deem Carey about that.

To be a successful Heisman Trophy candidate, one must also play in enough competitive matchups. Furthermore, it helps to win those games, as Heisman candidates typically come from the top teams each year.

Fortunately, the Ducks’ 2014 schedule will provide Mariota with plenty of opportunities:

 

Oregon 2014 Schedule
Date Opponent Venue
Aug. 30 South Dakota Autzen Stadium
Sept. 6 Wyoming Autzen Stadium
Sept. 13 Michigan State Autzen Stadium
Oct. 24 at Cal Levi's Stadium
TBA Stanford Autzen Stadium
TBA Washington Autzen Stadium
TBA at Oregon State Reser Stadium
TBA at Washington State Martin Stadium
TBA Pac-12 South Opponent TBA TBA
TBA Pac-12 South Opponent TBA TBA
TBA Pac-12 South Opponent TBA TBA
TBA Pac-12 South Opponent TBA TBA

FBschedules.com

Although South Dakota and Wyoming shouldn’t provide too much of a contest, the same can’t be said about Oregon’s Week 3 opponent: Michigan State.

The Spartans will be coming off a Big Ten title and a 12-win regular season. Depending on how their bowl game with Stanford shakes out, the team could be the defending Rose Bowl champions.

The matchup against the Spartans should be an early favorite to get a visit from ESPN’s College GameDay. A convincing showing in that game would go a long way in jumpstarting Mariota’s 2014 Heisman campaign.

The Ducks will also play two other potential Top 25 opponents in Stanford and Washington. Fortunately for Mariota, both games will be at home.

There will also be four matchups against Pac-12 South competition that will be announced at a later date. Given the vast improvement of that division, there’s a good chance Oregon will get a competitive matchup or two.

All in all, Mariota should have plenty of matchups that could either make or break his candidacy.

 

Summing It All Up

Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images
Will Mariota leave Eugene with a Heisman Trophy?

By all accounts, Mariota had one heck of a season in 2013.

If it wasn’t for suffering a partial MCL sprain, there’s no doubt that the Honolulu, HI, native would have earned himself an invitation to New York City for last weekend’s ceremony. There's good chance he might have even finished in the top three in the vote if his stats before the injury continued at the same pace.

But luckily, Mariota has one, possibly two, seasons to finalize the collegiate chapter of his football career.

While it’s ultimately up to him, it’s looking more and more likely that a 2014 Heisman Trophy candidacy is a given.

 

All stats and rankings used in this article are courtesy of NCAA.com.

For complete coverage and everything college football, you can reach Sebastian on Facebook, on Twitter and via email at Sebastian.LenaBR@gmail.com.

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