This post comes to us from our friend Dale Newton at Bloguin’s Oregon site, The Duck Stops Here. Make DSH your go-to source for in-depth Oregon analysis during the coming week, as Marcus Mariota closes in on the Heisman Trophy next Saturday night.
Also, stay with DSH for coverage of Oregon’s College Football Playoff semifinal and — if the Ducks win — the College Football Playoff National Championship Game.
Wisconsin’s Melvin Gordon and wide receiver Amari Cooper of Alabama had unspectacular days in the Big Ten and SEC championship games Saturday, clearing the way for Marcus Mariota to win Oregon’s first Heisman Trophy by a wide and maybe even recording-setting margin.
More importantly, after beating #7 Arizona 51-13 in Friday night’s PAC-12 Championship Game, Mariota and the 12-1, #2-ranked Ducks seized firm control of at least the #2 spot in the final NCAA College Football Playoff Committee Poll, which places them in the West Semi-Final game at the Rose Bowl on January 1st, probably against 13-0 Florida State.
The Committee’s final rankings will be announced on ESPN at 9:30 a.m. Pacific today.
Yesterday Alabama won the SEC title with a 42-13 win over SEC East Champion Missouri. Florida State continued their habit of weekly narrow escapes, edging Georgia Tech 37-35 behind three touchdown passes by Jameis Winston and 177 yards rushing by freshman Dalvin Cook to become champions of the ACC.
Ohio State made a strong bid for the fourth spot and a trip to the Sugar Bowl opposite Alabama, driving Big Ten West representative Wisconsin all the way back to Lake Huron in a 59-0 whitewashing for the B1G crown. The win gave the Buckeyes a 12-1 record, same as Oregon, Alabama, TCU and Baylor, but their weakish nonconference schedule and week two 35-21 loss to unranked, 6-6 Virginia Tech places them behind the Ducks and the Tide but ahead of TCU and Baylor, because the Big 12 does not play a conference championship game.
At least that’s the way some analysts have it doped out. Nate Silver of the website 538, a stats wizard who regularly nails difficult-to-predict things like presidential electoral college voting and trends in economics and science, thinks TCU will claim the third spot with Florida State fourth.
The Horned Frogs were #3 this past week. They beat Iowa State yesterday 55-3 with 460 yards passing and four touchdowns from quarterback Trevone Boykin, who also had a 55-yard touchdown catch on a trick play. TCU bested three ranked teams this season to go 11-1, and their one loss came by a field goal, 61-58 to Baylor in Waco, Texas back in October.
Baylor is also 11-1, but they’re likely to be penalized by the committee for their nonconference slate, which included bottom feeders SMU, Northwestern State and Buffalo.
Everything clear so far? The committee has a difficult job, and the easiest, most defensible decision is to hold back the two contenders that didn’t face the pressure of a conference championship, especially after the other four won theirs so convincingly. There may be surprises and reversals announced in a few hours, and two fan bases are going to be pissed. Expect an outcry for expansion of the playoffs next year to begin somewhere around 12:35 p.m. It would have begun yesterday if Missouri clawed to an upset and the SEC was shut out.
In the Heisman race, Mariota’s last possible hurdle was a dramatic, record-setting day by Gordon or Cooper, but they were held in relative check Saturday. Gordon had 26 carries for 76 yards against the Buckeyes in the shutout loss, while Cooper, fed the ball incessantly by Alabama offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin, caught 12 passes for 83 yards and no touchdowns, nothing to “Roll Tide” about. He was a role player in a relentless Tide attack, one that swamped the Kitties behind 141 yards rushing and two touchdowns from tailback Derrick Henry. Senior quarterback Blake Sims was also sensational, 23-27 passing for 262 yards and a pair of TDs.
Sims and Boykin didn’t do enough over the season to catch Mariota, who’ll sweep to a resounding Heisman victory after racking up 53 touchdowns this year (38 passing, 14 rushing, one receiving) with only two interceptions. Oregon’s fabulous junior passed for 3783 yards (10,115 in his career) and rushed for 669 (2136 in three seasons). He’s the NCAA leader this year in both passing efficiency and yards per attempt, with touchdown runs of 61 and 46 yards.
Ballots are due Monday, and the official ceremony is to be televised live by ESPN on Saturday, December 13, at 5 p.m. Pacific Time.