Originally posted on The Duck Stops Here  |  Last updated 9/30/13
Each week DSH submits a mock Heisman Trophy ballot to the website College Football Zealots. This is the Week 5 submission, with notes and background on the race: Handicapping the Heisman Trophy race, there are several ways to look at the award. Who's the most likely player to win in December? Who should the voters choose? Who has the best stats? Who is leading in the minds of the voters right now? Who is likely to emerge, based on talent, schedule and exposure? And who is the most outstanding college football player in America, regardless of region, notoriety or position? Those are separate and distinct questions, each with a range of possible answers. Flyin' Hawaiian defies spyin': Marcus Mariota's home-run running ability is his X factor in the Heisman race. Outside of incumbent Johnny Manziel, he's the candidate most likely to make an exciting, memorable play with his feet. Already this season he has touchdown runs of 71 and 46 yards (Thomas Boyd, Oregonian photo). There are 928 voters for the Heisman Trophy: 145 sports journalists from six regions of the country, 57 past winners, and a fan ballot sponsored by ESPN, the result of which constitutes one ballot. Voting takes place online, and every vote must submit a first, second and third place selection, with three points awarded for first, two for second, one for third. Every voter has to name three different players or the ballot doesn't count. These voters alone choose the Heisman, the most celebrated individual award in sports, the only one that has its own banquet, award ceremony, TV show and half a dozen major watch lists on the web. The award is seriously flawed with regional and positional bias. It invariably goes to a quarterback from a top ten team, and is heavily biased toward traditional powers and schools with previous Heisman winners. It's the Best Actor Oscar of college football, heavily politicized, skewed by hype and perception, and prejudiced toward a candidate with an appealing back story and mass appeal. Even with these flaws, ultimately, you want your school to win one, but it makes it easier to land the athlete that win another one. It's too early to narrow the field to three. Here are my top five, in order: 1. Tajh Boyd, Clemson With a #3 ranking, a 4-0 record, and 100 career TDs, Boyd has a signature win over Aaron Murray and #6 Georgia in which he accounted for five tds. The 6-1, 225-lb. senior quarterback has 994 yards passing, 9 tds, no interceptions, and a 64% completion rate. He's also run for 159 yards and 4 tds, 3.2 yards a carry. Showdowns with #8 Florida State (October 19th) and #13 South Carolina (November 30), plus the ACC Championship Game right before ballots are due, should determine whether his Heisman hopes rise or fall. 2. Johnny Manziel, Texas A&M A certain cadre of Heisman voters will not vote for Johnny Football, some because he's last year's winner and there's only been one repeater in the history of the hallowed bronze, and others because they are turned off by his off-field antics and run-in with the NCAA. On the field, though, there is no denying Manziel's unique flair, charisma and brash play making ability. Two weeks ago he tormented the Tide, performing all kinds of heroics befor his defense failed him in a 49-42 loss. Already the swashbuckling quarterback/pirate has 1489 yards passing with 14 tds, 314 yards rushing with 3 tds, leading the #10 Aggies to a 4-1 record. None of the top candidates has less of the wow factor than Murray, and none except Marcus Mariota come close in that area to Manziel. Like him or not, the pride of Kerrville Texas is the party-hard face of college football, making more big, highlight-film plays than anyone. 3. Aaron Murray, Georgia The #6 Bulldogs only have one game remaining against a ranked opponent, November 2nd against the Gators between The Hedges. 6-1, 208, Murray is a pure passer with little mobility, but he pilots a productive offense, 1338 yards passing, 11 tds and 3 interceptions in a 3-1 start. He leads a potent offense in the premier conference in college football. His trophy chase is likely to come down to the SEC title game, possibly a rematch with A.J. McCarron and Alabama. Murray made the biggest leap this week after a national TV game in which he out-dueled Zach Mettenburger and LSU in another confrontation of vaunted SEC defenses, 44-41. The Georgia senior led a 6-play, 75-yard drive in the final minutes, zipping a beautifully-thrown 27-yard dart to Justin Scott-Wesley for the winning td. In all he threw for 298 yards and 4 tds in a win that vaults the Dawgs back into the national title picture. 4. Marcus Mariota, Oregon Mariota is the leading candidate in the West, and the electoral math of the award benefits him in that he doesn't presently have a serious rival west of the Mississippi, although Baylor quarterback Bryce Petty and Washington running back Bishop Sankey could climb into the picture if 1) their team keeps climbing in the polls and 2) they keep up a strong statistical start. (Again, recognizing that Manziel will be disqualified by a portion of the electorate, and his voter base is in the Southeast.)   Mariota is the triggerman for college football's most exciting team, the #2, 4-0 Ducks. He has 1003 yards passing, 9 touchdowns, no interceptions, and he is the best dual threat in the race with 21 carries for 295 yards and 5 tds, 14 yards a carry. So far he's completing 56.1% of his passes, but the Ducks played in a monsoon on Saturday night, swirling winds, heavy rains and an uncommon September chill. His subpar game against Cal didn't cost him heavily in the Heisman chase, for a number of reasons. One, the game started at 10 p.m. for most of the country, which at most saw the game capsule and a two-minute highlight that shows Mariota passing for two tds and running for one. Two, the game was played in recognizably miserable conditions, swirling rains and 25 mph winds. His season numbers are still representative, particularly when likely voters (it's a decision made by them, not all-caps screeds) factor in his electric dual-threat ability. Three, he's 15-1 as a starter for the #2 team in the country, and a career 65% passer with a 163 quarterback rating. Fourth and most importantly Mariota has three marquee games over the next six weeks that will cement or shatter his viability as Oregon's first-ever Heisman Trophy winner. The Ducks travel to Seattle to meet Northwest rival, #16 Washington October 12th, host current #12 UCLA October 26th, and have a rematch with Kevin Hogan and #5 Stanford on November 7th. All four schools are currently unbeaten, but in the rigorous 9-game PAC-12 conference schedule, they're are each slated to face the other three. 5. Teddy Bridgewater, Louisville Bridgewater is the likely #1 draft pick next April, the NFL's Heisman rebuttal. He'll rack up stats all season leading a loaded Cardinal team that doesn't face a ranked opponent all year. A pure pocket passer, he currently has 1,214 yard passing and 14 tds with just one interception. He's led his team to a 4-0 record and a #7 ranking, completing a scintillating 71.8% of his passes in four lopsided wins. Bridgewater's claim to the award has to be driven by a loud, forceful statistical supremacy: he needs to go undefeated, with 5,000 yards and 50 tds. If he hits those marks, he could be this year's Robert Griffin III.  
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