Marcus Mariota tops HeismanPundit’s preseason Heisman Straw Poll


Oregon junior quarterback Marcus Mariota leads the 2014 preseason Heisman Straw Poll, released on Wednesday (Aug. 27).

This year’s early survey saw the Ducks quarterback collect six first-place votes from the 10-person panel of Heisman voters from around the country. Mariota totaled 24 points to finish five points in front of last season’s trophy winner, Jameis Winston of Florida State, who had three first-place votes and 19 total points.

“It’s Mariota’s turn,” said one voter. “He’s a really talented player who should have a great season for a Ducks team that should challenge for a national title. If he stays healthy, he’ll win.”

Thought Mariota is the front runner, Winston’s strength in the survey shows that, just like Billy Sims, Ty Detmer, Jason White, Matt Leinart, Tim Tebow and Johnny Manziel before him, he’s not going to go down quietly in his quest for that elusive second Heisman.

UCLA junior quarterback Brett Hundley was third in the balloting with six points, while Baylor senior quarterback Bryce Petty was fourth with five points. Hundley’s teammate, linebacker/running back Myles Jack, picked up the panel’s other first-place vote to place fifth.

Running back Melvin Gordon of Wisconsin, defensive tackle Leonard Williams of USC and wide receiver Ty Montgomery of Stanford also appeared on ballots.

It’s important to keep in mind that the HeismanPundit Heisman Straw Poll is merely a snapshot of what voters are thinking at the moment. No preseason top selection in the poll’s history has ever gone on to actually win the Heisman.

“It provides a starting point for the race and shows us what voters are thinking heading into the season,” said Chris Huston, who runs “But historically it hasn’t been a prediction of where the race will end up.”

Now in its ninth season, the Heisman Straw Poll is the college football world’s most trusted gauge of Heisman voter sentiment. It has been the most accurate Heisman poll in the country during the past eight seasons, with the final 2012 edition correctly picking the top five finishers while the final 2011 survey nailed the top seven. This year’s poll is made up of 10 anonymous Heisman voters from across the country selecting three players each. Tabulations for the preseason poll are tabulated like a real Heisman ballot, with three points awarded for a first-place vote, two points for a second-place vote and one point for a third-place vote.

Each week’s poll is released on Tuesdays throughout the season at

The 2014 preseason Heisman Straw Poll

Total Points (with first place votes in parentheses)

1. Marcus Mariota, Jr., QB, Oregon — 24 (6)

2. Jameis Winston, So., QB, Florida State — 19 (3)

3. Brett Hundley, Jr., QB, UCLA — 6

4. Bryce Petty, Sr., QB, Baylor — 5

5. Myles Jack, So., LB/RB, UCLA — 3 (1)

6. (tie) Leonard Williams, Jr., DT, USC — 1

Melvin Gordon, Jr., RB, Wisconsin — 1

Ty Montgomery, Sr., WR, Stanford — 1

Previous preseason straw poll selections (with eventual finish in parentheses)

2013 — Johnny Manziel (5th)

2012 — Matt Barkley (n/a)

2011 — Andrew Luck (2nd)

2010 — Mark Ingram (n/a)

2009 — Tim Tebow (5th)

2008 — Tim Tebow (3rd)

2007 — Darren McFadden (2nd)

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Predicting the four-team playoff


This is the first year of the four-team playoff format, so it’s time to make my fearless preseason prediction on which teams will make it in. Here goes:

Auburn – Gus Malzahn is the best football coach in America. Who else could’ve taken over a team that was 3-9 the previous season and guided it to within one minute of a national title?  And all with a first-year starting quarterback and a defense that couldn’t really stop anybody. Sure, Nick Saban is great. But he even he needed a throwaway season before getting Alabama back into the sport’s upper crust. Malzahn didn’t have time for that nonsense. This year, Auburn’s offense will be the SEC’s best and one of the top two or three in the country. That’s what Malzahn does, you know. He’s done it practically every year he’s been a coach. The defense will be better than last year, too. So…better offense and better defense plus very good recruiting class means a better team, in my book. Book their place in the playoff as the SEC champ.

Oklahoma – I was very high on Trevor Knight coming out of high school, so I was surprised by his early struggles as the OU starter last season. But his brilliant performance against Alabama in the Sugar Bowl made it clear to me that he’s ready to play at a high level as a sophomore. The Sooners have very good talent all around, especially on the defensive front, and a schedule that is favorable. Bob Stoops made it to the BCS title game four times with three different style quarterbacks. The dual-threat Knight will lead him to his first playoff appearance.

Florida State – All it took was one great season for the benefit of the doubt to be returned to Florida State. In seasons past, the mantra by pundits was that the Seminoles would always find some way to screw things up against at least one lesser opponent. Now that FSU finally made it through its slate unscathed, that assumption has been turned on its head and nothing less than dominance is expected in every outing. Based on talent and the ease of the schedule, that should indeed be the case in 2014. FSU returns too many key components on offense and defense for a letdown to have a deleterious effect. I don’t think the ride will be as smooth as it was last season, but the soft ACC should once again put up little fight against the ‘Noles.

Oregon – This is the Ducks’ year, at least on paper. They have the Heisman front runner in Marcus Mariota. They have a stable of talented running backs. They have most of their offensive line back. They’ve got a premier deep threat at wide receiver and some good athletes at tight end. The defense is Oregon’s most talented in the modern era. The offensive system is formidable. The only question is whether Mark Helfrich has what it takes to lead the Ducks to a Pac-12 title. Oregon is almost unstoppable when the sun is shining, but it tends to struggle when the sky gets dark and cloudy (I’m talking metaphorically here). Helfrich needs to teach this team how to overcome adversity, which is tough to do when things go your way so easily most of the time. If he figures out how to do it, the Ducks could win them all.

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HP’s Top 10 Teams

Here are my preseason top 10 teams:

1. Auburn

2. Oklahoma

3. Florida State

4. Oregon

5. Ohio State

6. Baylor

7. Alabama

8. LSU


10. Michigan State

On the cusp: South Carolina, Stanford, Clemson, Kansas State, Washington.

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Your guide to 2014’s big Heisman games

Melvin Gordan

The season is almost upon us. If you enjoy following the Heisman race, or if you are a Heisman voter, here are the games you must watch:

Week 1

UCLA at Virginia – Brett Hundley showcases his talents to the East Coast.

West Virginia vs. Alabama – We get our first peek at the new Bama offense under Lane Kiffin. Will either Derrick Henry or TJ Yeldon emerge?

Wisconsin vs. LSU – Melvin Gordon gets a chance to show his stuff vs. an SEC defense. Is this when Leonard Fournette breaks out, too?

Clemson at Georgia – Todd Gurley has a chance to get off to a great start in a high-profile matchup against the Tigers.

Florida State vs. Oklahoma State – Will defending Heisman winner Jameis Winston challenge for that second Heisman? This game could help reveal how close he’ll come.

Week 2

USC at Stanford – If either USC or Stanford is to have a Heisman contender emerge, it will likely come out of this game.

Michigan State at Oregon – Marcus Mariota and the explosive Oregon offense vs. the stingy Spartans defense. What more can you ask for?

Week 3

Georgia at South Carolina – If Gurley can put up back-to-back 100-yard efforts in wins versus Clemson and South Carolina, he’ll vault into the upper echelon of Heisman candidates.

Tennessee at Oklahoma – This is a curious matchup that will give us a good look at how much Trevor Knight has progressed since last season.

UCLA vs. Texas – Hundley needs a big game against Texas to stay in the middle of the early Heisman conversation.

Week 4

Auburn at Kansas State – Nick Marshall and the Tigers get a tough opponent on a Thursday night in Manhattan.

Clemson at Florida State – If any team in the ACC is going to stop FSU, it might be the Tigers.

Florida at Alabama – By this point, we should know which Bama running back is taking charge. And maybe Jeff Driskel shows signs of life.

Week 5

UCLA at Arizona State – It doesn’t get any easier for Hundley and UCLA. This is a tough Thursday night matchup.

Week 6

LSU at Auburn – Marshall will try to exact revenge for last year’s loss. Meanwhile, Fournette’s candidacy has a chance to take off.

Baylor at Texas – Bryce Petty should have outstanding statistics at this point. Beating Texas will help to validate them.

Marshall at Old Dominion – A great chance to see Heisman candidates Rakeem Cato and Taylor Heinicke in the same game.

Stanford at Notre Dame – Could this be where Everett Golson’s Heisman hopes blossom?

Nebraska at Michigan State – If Ameer Abdullah is going to challenge for the Heisman, he’ll have to prove himself here.

Week 7

Oregon at UCLA – Mariota and Hundley square off. The winner should emerge as the Pac-12’s leading Heisman candidate.

Texas vs. Oklahoma – This traditional rivalry showdown could be where Knight’s campaign gains traction.

Auburn at Mississippi State – Marshall takes it on the road against what should be a quality opponent. Does Dak Prescott make a little noise here?

Week 8

Notre Dame at Florida State – A classic matchup like this should do a lot to help or hinder Winston’s repeat chances.

Washington at Oregon – The Ducks host the dangerous Huskies a week after playing the Bruins.

Kansas State at Oklahoma – This will be a tough test for Knight.

Week 9

South Carolina at Auburn – Could Gamecocks running back Mike Davis emerge and make a late run at the trophy?

Ole Miss at LSU – By this time, we should know whether Fournette really is that rare true freshman who can compete for the Heisman.

Ohio State at Penn State – If Christian Hackenberg has a breakout season, this could be where he makes the most noise.

Week 10

Stanford at Oregon – Can Mariota finally beat his nemesis?

Auburn at Ole Miss – Marshall will need to avoid a letdown against the Rebels to have a shot.

Florida vs. Georgia – A traditional matchup for Gurley to impress voters. Would help more if the Gators were any good.

Week 11

Alabama at LSU – This could be a battle young superstar running backs named Henry and Fournette.

Baylor at Oklahoma – Petty can’t win the Heisman without beating OU.

Texas A&M at Auburn – We should see lots of scoring in this one. Marshall has a chance to have a huge game.

UCLA at Washington – Hundley in a tough environment in early November. Look out for rain.

Week 12

Auburn at Georgia – Marshall vs. Gurley. Can the Dawgs bounce back from last year’s heartbreaker?

Nebraska at Wisconsin – Abdullah vs. Gordon. Winner carries Big Ten’s Heisman mantle going forward.

Week 13

USC at UCLA – Hundley with yet another high-stakes matchup. Perhaps Javorious Allen has emerged by this point, too.

Week 14

Stanford at UCLA – Hundley nears the end of his season-long gauntlet by playing against the Pac-12’s most physical team.

Auburn at Alabama – If Marshall caps his season with another win over the Tide, he could be on his way to NYC.

Oregon at Oregon State – Rivalry games are tricky. Mariota needs to be at the top of his game if he wants to stay in contention.

Notre Dame at USC – College football’s greatest intersectional rivalry could feature a couple Heisman dark horses.

Week 15

Oklahoma State at Oklahoma – Bedlam has played an important role in the Heisman race over the last decade or so.

Kansas State at Baylor – With no Big 12 title game in place, this is Petty’s last chance to impress voters.

Pac-12 title game

ACC title game

Big Ten title game

SEC title game 

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The College Football Experience Podcast

Here’s the last couple podcasts (episodes 2 and 3) from the College Football Experience crew. HP is featured on episode 3.

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The 2014 preseason HeismanPundit Heisman Watch


The 2014 season is finally upon us.

Training camps have wound down. The first top 25 poll has been released. Every outlet imaginable has put out a preseason All-American team.

All that’s left on which to speculate is the race for the most prestigious award in sports.

Here are the 10 players with the best chance of actually winning the Heisman heading into 2014. The most effective way to look at this list is to imagine all of the players having huge statistical seasons while leading their teams to undefeated seasons. All those things being equal, who would the voters pick and why?

This list balances my educated guess of the likelihood of these players performing at a Heisman-worthy level with the built-in advantages they already possess with the Heisman electorate. In a sense, it is an odds list. Can a player not on this list win the Heisman or come close?  Absolutely. But predicting who will win the Heisman before the season starts is often a fool’s errand — see the last few years.  So we’ll be adjusting this list as the weeks go on. Players will come and go depending on the circumstances.

So without further ado, here is the 2014 Preseason Heisman Watch:

1. Marcus Mariota, QB, JR, Oregon

Mariota checks almost all the Heisman boxes. He the third-year starting quarterback for a national title contending team. He has excellent name recognition and he plays in an offense that allows him to put up big numbers. He’s considered an elite football talent with a bright future and he’ll play high profile games against Michigan State, UCLA and Stanford. The main obstacles to Mariota’s candidacy are the expectation levels placed on him and his team. Those can be tricky to navigate, which explains why Mariota failed to finish in the top 10 of last year’s vote despite a stellar season. If he can help his team get over the hump and avoid that yearly letdown, voters will reward him accordingly.

2. Nick Marshall, QB, SR, Auburn

Marshall led Auburn on the most unlikely run to the BCS title game in history. What’s remarkable is that he did so in his first year as a starter, which makes you wonder what he can do in his second season in Gus Malzahn’s offense. Big things, I think. With Tre Mason gone, he’ll be the focal point for the Tigers, who are once again national title contenders. Malzahn has sent two players to New York in his last three seasons at Auburn. Marshall has a good chance to make it three in four.

3. Trevor Knight, QB, SO, Oklahoma

Knight’s placement at No. 3 is not entirely due to his performance against Alabama in this past year’s Sugar Bowl. But that game did tell us a lot about his untapped potential. He has the skill set to put together the kind of season we’ve been seeing from Heisman winners of late. Playing for a traditional Heisman power that is also a national title contender helps, too. If he plays all season like he did against Alabama, he’ll become Bob Stoops’ third Heisman winner.

4. Brett Hundley, QB, JR, UCLA

As with the other spread quarterbacks on this list, Hundley has the chance to put up big numbers for a team that is considered a legit national title contender. Hundley’s profile and name recognition rose in the offseason as various pundits began touting him as a potential Heisman candidate and high NFL draft pick. He’s got a tough schedule ahead of him, but if he can bring his team through it mostly unscathed, he’ll likely be a Heisman finalist.

5. Bryce Petty, QB, SR, Baylor

Petty’s first year as a starter was excellent, as he led Baylor to the Big 12 title on his way to finishing seventh in the Heisman voting. He should be even better as a senior and one shudders to think what kind of production he’ll have in Art Briles’ system. Games against Texas and Oklahoma give him a chance to showcase his Heisman credentials and, if things fall his way, he could be Baylor’s second Heisman winner in four years.

6. Melvin Gordon, RB, JR, Wisconsin

Running backs have taken a back seat to spread quarterbacks in the last eight seasons, with only one (Mark Ingram) winning the Heisman (in 2009). But Gordon is a special back who plays in a system that could allow him to approach or surpass the magical 2,000 yard mark — a statistical accomplishment that almost always guarantees a trip to New York for a player at an FBS school. He had 1,609 yards last season while sharing carries with a now-graduated back (James White) who gained 1,444. It’s certainly possible that Gordon’s new backup Corey Clement duplicates White’s production, but it seems reasonable to suggest that Gordon will increase his production this year if he stays healthy. And that should mean a huge season with a good deal of Heisman votes to go with it.

7. Todd Gurley, RB, JR, Georgia

Gurley is oozing with talent and has put up two strong seasons for the Bulldogs so far. If he can stay healthy, he should have a very productive fall, which will keep him on the short list of Heisman contenders. Unlike Gordon, he probably does not need to rush or 2,000 yards to make it to New York thanks to the SEC’s lingering reputation for defensive prowess. The schedule is friendly and gives him the opportunity to finish strong. If Georgia wins 10 games and Gurley performs at a high level, he’ll be a Heisman finalist.

8. Ameer Abdullah, RB, SR, Nebraska

It’s been so long since a Nebraska running back has warranted Heisman attention. Abdullah has quietly put together a fine career for the Cornhuskers and this could be the year that he makes it into the spotlight. The schedule lacks many high-profile games for him to make his case, but if he leads Nebraska to a division title and approaches Rozier-like levels of production, he’ll have a shot at the Heisman.

9. Everett Golson, QB, JR, Notre Dame

Golson led Notre Dame to a 12-1 record and a spot in the BCS title game as a redshirt freshman. He sat out last year due to academic issues, but he’s back again as quarterback of the Irish. He has the potential to produce a very good season and, as history shows, a very good season for a Notre Dame quarterback almost always results in considerable Heisman attention. Golson is a long shot, but the infrastructure is in place for him to make a run at it.

10. Javorius Allen, RB, JR, USC

The USC running back position, like the Notre Dame quarterback, is well-suited for a Heisman run. All that is required is very good production, about nine or 10 wins and, voila. By the looks of it, Allen is primed for a big season. He had four 100-yard games and scored 13 touchdowns in his final six outings of 2013. He’s now in the same spread offensive system that enabled Bishop Sankey to run for over 1,800 yards and score 20 touchdowns last year. He’s got a good combination of size and speed and a full season should see his production soar. Gaining 1,700 yards for a USC team that manages to capture the Pac-12 South should get him to New York.

The Dark Horses:

Derrick Henry, Alabama; Taysom Hill, BYU; Leonard Fournette, LSU; Thomas Tyner, Oregon; Christian Hackenberg, Penn State

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Who are the new quarterbacks for 2014? (Pac-12 edition)

NCAA Football: Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl-Brigham Young vs Washington

Three of the last four Heisman winners have been quarterbacks who were first-time starters. To most observers, they seemingly came out of nowhere.

Could it happen again in 2014?

We’re taking a look at the first-time starters around the country to see if any of them have what it takes to challenge for the Heisman. If any of these players go on to win the Heisman, you won’t be able to say they came out of nowhere because we’re taking a good look at them now, right?

We  previewed the new SEC starters a couple days ago…now on to the Pac-12. We’ll rank them — all two of them! — in the order of how likely they are to mount an out-of-nowhere Heisman run.

1. Cyler Miles, Sophomore, Washington

Miles is an elite talent with great size, mobility and arm strength. His skill set is similar to that of Cam Newton’s. He started a couple games last season for the Huskies when Keith Price was hurt and he did a decent job, throwing for 418 yards and four touchdowns with two picks. He also ran for 200 yards on the year and averaged almost 9 yards per carry. He has to sit out the first game of the season against Hawaii due to an off-season altercation, but he should take up the starting mantle after that (or it could be Jeff Lindquist, a burgeoning talent in his own right). Miles has a chance to be a great college football player and, eventually, a high NFL draft pick — assuming he can develop the mental side of his game. Chris Petersen has a fantastic track record of developing quarterbacks and I’m sure he is salivating at the prospect of building his offense around Miles. Keep an eye on Miles, who could end up being one of the Pac-12’s best quarterbacks before the season is through.

2. Jerrard Randall, Junior, Arizona

Randall has actually made an appearance on HeismanPundit before, as I touted him as a future Heisman candidate from the class of 2011. He has had a checkered career, bouncing from Oregon to LSU to junior college and now to Arizona, where there’s no guarantee he’s even going to win the starting job for the Wildcats. But if he does, Randall’s combination of athleticism, speed and rocket arm should eventually produce big numbers in the Rich Rodriguez scheme. He has a chance to be scary good.

That’s it for the Pac-12 starters. Everyone else is back, including two or three Heisman candidates in their own right.

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