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Oregon’s Marcus Mariota top challenger to Jameis Winston for 2014 Heisman

June 18, 2014

The favorite to win the Heisman Trophy hasn’t won it often in college football history so perhaps it bodes well for Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota that he’s only the second-favorite on WagerWeb’s 2014 Heisman odds at +400. Last year’s winner, Florida State’s Jameis Winston, is the +250 favorite.

It’s certainly possible that Winston and Mariota could face off for the national championship this season. FSU is +350 at WagerWeb to repeat as the champion while Oregon is +750. It’s also quite possible that those two are selected with the first two picks in the NFL Draft. Winston had to return to school as a redshirt sophomore but Mariota, now a junior, could have declared if he wanted.

Oregon has never had a Heisman winner, but it likely hasn’t had a quarterback before as good as Mariota, a native of Hawaii. Mariota ranked seventh in the country in passing efficiency (167.7) last year, completing 245-of-386 passes (65.8 percent) for 3,665 yards, good for second on the school’s single-season passing yards list. He tied for ninth nationally in total points responsible for (240) and 12th nationally in touchdown passes (31). He repeated as a first-team All-Pac 12 selection, Oregon’s first two-time all-conference quarterback in 27 years (Chris Miller in 1985 and ‘86). Mariota has thrown at least one touchdown pass in every game of his career and went 327 pass attempts in 2012 and into last year without an interception.

It could be argued that Mariota was a front-runner for the 2013 Heisman for the first two months of the season as Oregon started 8-0. However, Mariota was injured on Oct. 26 against UCLA and it slowed him a bit the rest of the season. His ability to run was compromised in the final four regular-season games and Oregon lost two of them. The Ducks finished 11-2 and beat Texas in the Alamo Bowl. Mariota led all rushers with 133 yards on 15 carries. He was 18 of 26 for 253 yards passing in his Heisman Trophy campaign tune-up for 2014.

Oregon opens the season Aug. 30 with a glorified scrimmage against South Dakota. Mariota can make an early Heisman case on Sept. 6 against defending Rose Bowl champion Michigan State. The Ducks are WagerWeb favorites to take the Pac-12 title, which should get them into the new four-team College Football Playoff.