The finalists for college football's most prestigious individual award were announced on Monday evening.
The announcement, which came from a Twitter post by ESPN SportsCenter, included Oregon Ducks quarterback Marcus Mariota, Wisconsin Badgers running back Melvin Gordon, and Alabama Crimson Tide wide receiver Amari Cooper as the finalists for the prominent award. According to Chip Patterson of CBS Sports, Mariota may be the betting favorite to win this honor.
"Given Mariota's strong finish to the season in Oregon's dominant Pac-12 title game victory, it is hard to imagine that the Ducks star finished second to either of the other finalists in the voting," Patterson wrote.
The Heisman Trophy Trust, which runs the selection process, expects 929 votes for the 2014 voting, which include 870 sports media members, 58 previous Heisman winners and 1 fan vote sponsored by Nissan. According to Patterson, each voter is asked to give a first, second and third choice, after which the ballots are tabulated by independent accountants with a 3-2-1 points system.
According to Timothy Rapp of Bleacher Report, Mariota was asked how it felt to win the Heisman. After all, he finished 25-of-38 with 313 passing yards, two touchdowns, 33 rushing yards and three more scores on the ground in a 51-13 win against the Arizona Wildcats.
"I haven't won the Heisman," Mariota humbly said. "I haven't even been invited."
Rapp thinks that it would be a huge shock if Mariota didn't win the trophy. He argues that Mariota's statistics speak for themselves.
"A 38-to-2 touchdown-to-interception ratio is rather superb, and his total of 53 touchdowns scored (one reception touchdown) easily tops that of any of the other Heisman finalists," Rapp wrote. "Mariota led Oregon to a 12-1 record, and now he and the Ducks are preparing for a playoff showdown against Florida State and last year's Heisman winner, Jameis Winston."
Rapp notes that Mariota has already won the Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Award and deserves the Heisman as well. However, it would be difficult to ignore Cooper's contributions on the gridiron.
"Cooper caught an SEC-record 115 passes for 1,656 yards and 14 touchdowns this season, incredibly impressive marks," Rapp wrote. "More importantly, though, he's come up huge when the Crimson Tide needed him most. In wins over LSU, Mississippi State, Auburn and Missouri down the stretch, he notched 41 receptions for 478 yards and five touchdowns."
Rapp adds that if a signature performance was needed to win the Heisman, Cooper did just that by catching 13 passes for 224 yards and three scores during his performance in the Iron Bowl.
As for the third contender, Rapp thinks that Gordon also deserves the Heisman based on signature performances. According to Rapp, the Wisconsin running back rushed 25 times for 408 yards and had four touchdowns against Nebraska, which broke an all-time NCAA single-game rushing record set by LaDainian Tomlinson 15 years ago, which was 406 yards.
"For the season, Gordon rushed 309 times for 2,336 yards and 26 touchdowns, adding 17 receptions for 151 yards and three more scores," Rapp wrote. "He was the nation's top running back and helped lead Wisconsin to a 10-3 record and an Outback Bowl matchup against Auburn."
The winner of the Heisman Trophy will be announced in a ceremony on Saturday night in New York City.