Oregon’s Marcus Mariota is off to a great start this season and many would probably say, well, he should be.
He’s piled up 21 combined touchdowns running and passing against the weakest part of the Ducks schedule. Thanks to his stellar play, though, Oregon is doing what great teams should be doing to lesser competition — blowing them out. The Ducks are winning by an average score of 59-12 and Mariota is putting up his gaudy numbers despite not playing in large chunks of second halves.
As a result, Mariota is this site’s current favorite to win the Heisman Trophy. He has been ever since Braxton Miller bowed out of the race with a leg injury.
But Mariota’s Heisman worthiness will ultimately be determined by how he plays in the next four games. The Ducks take on No. 16 Washington, an improved Washington State team, No. 11 UCLA and No. 5 Stanford in the next month.
First up is the road trip to take on the Huskies this Saturday. Washington gained a lot of respect by playing Stanford tough last week and now Mariota has a chance to start accumulating capital with Heisman voters by leading his team over UW in a hostile environment.
It helps that this is probably the marquee game of the day. ESPN’s Game Day will be in Seattle and we’ll be sure to see lots of love coming Mariota’s way. The game is in the heart of the afternoon, so lots of voters will be tuning in.
If Mariota plays well and Oregon wins, he’ll pass his first test and further solidify his status as the front runner in this race. If he doesn’t play well and Oregon still wins, he’ll be in decent shape since he can make up for it with big games later against UCLA and Stanford. If Washington pulls off the upset, it won’t be fatal to Mariota’s Heisman hopes, since he also has a chance to win the Heisman via a spectacular statistical season (like the way Johnny Manziel did last year with two losses). The wildcard, of course, is the details of what happens in the game. Mariota might have a Heisman moment and score the winning touchdown, or he may throw a key pick with the game on the line. Or the game might be a quick blowout that causes viewers to tune out.
Whatever the case, we should have a much clearer view of the Heisman race come Monday.