The Heisman Race Ain’t Over Yet

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Teddy Mitrosilis of Foxsports.com has proclaimed the 2014 Heisman Trophy race to be over. He thinks Oregon QB Marcus Mariota should be history’s first unanimous winner. Right now.

Invoking the words of ESPN’s Lee Corso: Not so fast, Teddy...

Although I’ll admit Mariota may very well win the Heisman, and may very well get my vote, I don’t think it’s over. It’s too early to call.

Yes, Mariota’s numbers are staggering–especially his interstellar 36-2 ratio of touchdown passes to interceptions. But, he’s not the only guy with eye-popping stats.

Alabama’s Amari Cooper should be in the conversation. He’s having perhaps the second-best season by a wide receiver in major college history. He’s amassed more yardage this year than all but SEVEN 1-A college RUNNING BACKS. And they all get a LOT more touches than Cooper.

Also, Cooper’s Crimson Tide play a tougher set of opponents than Mariota. And it’s not close. According to the Sagarin ratings, Alabama has played the 4th-toughest schedule in 2014. Mariota’s Ducks quack up at 34th in that category.

So, while Mariota did ring up six more TDs this past weekend, it was against the eager but meager Beavers of 5-7 Oregon State. In a loss earlier this year against a much more competitive Arizona squad, he managed a pedestrian two TD passes. Cooper meanwhile excelled this season against teams with names like Auburn, LSU, Ole Miss, and Mississippi State–all arguably better than ANY team Oregon faced all year.

Revisiting the touches issue, Cooper has scored 14 TDs on 107 touches. That’s a success rate, if you will, of 13%. He scores 13% of the time he gets the ball. Impressive Wisconsin running back Melvin Gordon, the other top Heisman candidate has 29 scores on about three times more touches, which equals a 10% TD-per-touch ratio. And, by the way, Wisconsin’s strength of schedule is 61st. The nerds in Big Bang Theory had more quality dates this year.

Regarding Cooper’s place in history against the single campaigns of other notable Heisman-winning wide receivers, he falls short of only Michigan’s Desmond Howard, who scored TDs on a mind-blowing 28% of his touches from scrimmage in 1991. By comparison, Tim Brown’s Heisman-winning season at Notre Dame in 1987 featured a TD-per-touch rate of just 5%.

Most of the 2014 Heisman hopefuls have one more game to impress the voters. Mariota and his Ducks play Arizona again this week. Cooper’s Tide rolls up on Missouri. In each case the foe has a 10-2 record. Both games offer the added pressure of conference championships. Both match ups occur on neutral fields in NFL stadiums. And Wisconsin’s Gordon has a similar test against Ohio State. May the best man win, Teddy.

Dave Coombs is a morning radio host and an official Heisman voter. He bears no resemblance to the picture (courtesy of SportsChump.net) at the top of this post.

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