Ranking Heisman Trophy Finalists: Mariota, Cooper, or Gordon?


The Heisman Trophy race is down to three. They are all from different conferences, all from different positions, and all have put up remarkable stats. But only two of them were able to make it into the College Football Playoff.

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Now, it’s time to rank the Heisman Trophy finalists, but while Marcus Mariota seems like the runaway, should he be? You could make a strong case for Melvin Gordon’s numbers or what Amari Cooper has done, given that he’s a wide receiver going up against SEC Defenses.

What is clear is that this race came down to the final weekend of the college football season, and whichever way these players stack up has no bearing on how they’ll perform at the next level.

Let’s take a look where they should rank as far as winning the prestigious trophy.

3. Melvin Gordon, Running Back, Wisconsin Badgers

Last Game: 26 Carries for 76 Yards (2.9 YPC), Lost to Ohio State Buckeyes 59-0

2014 Season: 309 Carries for 2,336 Yards (7.6 YPC) and 26 Touchdowns, 17 Receptions for 151 Yards and 3 Touchdowns

Nov 29, 2014; Madison, WI, USA; Wisconsin Badgers running back Melvin Gordon (25) celebrates following the game against the Minnesota Golden Gophers at Camp Randall Stadium. Wisconsin won 34-24. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

Melvin Gordon deserves lots of credit for putting up incredible numbers this year and rushing for 408 yards in a game. But with that record broken a week later and the way he came up small in the biggest game of the year, he lost his spot.

Up until last week, we had Gordon ranked atop the Heisman race because of his incredible numbers. But with a 59-0 loss to Ohio State and rushing for only 2.9 yards per carry against one of the worst defenses in even the Big Ten, there is no way Gordon can legitimately stay in any race. How you perform on the biggest stage counts for something.

And Gordon didn’t perform. Therefore, he belongs at the bottom of this race.

2. Amari Cooper, Wide Receiver, Alabama Crimson Tide

Last Game: 12 Receptions for 83 Yards, Defeated Missouri Tigers 42-13

2014 Season: 115 Receptions for 1,656 Yards, 14 Touchdowns

Dec 6, 2014; Atlanta, GA, USA; Alabama Crimson Tide wide receiver Amari Cooper (9) runs the ball past Missouri Tigers defensive back Aarion Penton (11) during the first quarter of the 2014 SEC Championship Game at the Georgia Dome. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Liles-USA TODAY Sports

Amari Cooper isn’t just any wide receiver putting up huge numbers. For a large portion of the season, he was the entire Alabama offense, coming through in huge ways against Florida, Tennessee, and Auburn. That is three 200-yard games as a receiver, which is nearly unheard of, especially in the SEC.

But for Cooper, it’s not just the fact that he has put up huge numbers throughout the entire season that include another four 100-yard games, making seven total with more than 100 yards, and then games with 91, 88, 83, and 83 yards. It’s also when he came through. As the Tide were struggling early with Florida, it was Cooper who opened up the offense and broke the game open. Against LSU, Cooper was the one who led them down the field at the end. And against Auburn, with the Tide down by two scores, it was once again Cooper who broke it open to make sure Alabama won the game.

Cooper always came through in the biggest games and the biggest moments in addition to his huge numbers. So doing that in the SEC is enough to keep him in the Heisman race. But the reason he’s not No. 1 is…

1. Marcus Mariota, Quarterback, Oregon Ducks

Last Game: 25-of-38 (65.8%) for 313 Yards and 2 Touchdowns, 10 Carries for 33 Yards (3.3 YPC) and 3 Touchdowns, Defeated Arizona Wildcats 51-13

2014 Season: 254-of-372 (68.3%) for 3,783 Yards and 38 Touchdowns (Only 2 INT), 117 Carries for 669 Yards (5.7 YPC) and 14 Touchdowns

Dec 5, 2014; Santa Clara, CA, USA; Oregon Ducks quarterback Marcus Mariota (8) smiles after the Pac-12 Championship game against the Arizona Wildcats at Levi

Unfortunately for Amari Cooper, Marcus Mariota also put up unthinkable numbers. And his position is simply more valuable of a position. So with Melvin Gordon falling off the list, Mariota belongs at the top of the Heisman Trophy race and has earned the award. It’s all but certain he’ll get it.

A 38 to 2 Touchdown to Interception ratio is unheard of at any level. Add 14 rushing touchdowns for 52 total touchdowns and the fact that he had more than 4,400 total yards, and this Heisman should be a lock. But what’s most important is that Mariota was finally able to lead his Ducks into a demon-exercising game against Arizona, and they had no trouble exercising that demon. Against physical defenses like Arizona in the Pac-12 Championship, Stanford, and Utah, Mariota still managed to put up great numbers.

And that is enough for us to say that he belongs at the top of the Heisman race now and deserves the trophy. To throw for 313 yards and put up 5 total touchdowns against the one team that has plagued you with a championship on the line is enough for us. It seals the deal.

How Mariota will perform at the next level is still a major question for us, but as far as how this year has gone, he has proven himself to be the best and most valuable player of the year. So he deserves the Heisman.

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