Oregon's Marcus Mariota & his No. 2 Ducks are 8-point favorites on NCAA football odds for the Jan. 1 Rose Bowl national semifinal against No. 3 Florida State.
Heisman vs. Heisman
Oregon (12-1) was No. 2 in the College Football Playoff rankings entering the Pac-12 Championship Game and stayed there despite a very impressive 51-13 win over No. 7 Arizona that frankly wasn't even that close. The Wildcats had upset Oregon in Eugene 31-24 on Oct. 2, but the rematch at Levi's Stadium in Santa Clara, Calif., was never in doubt. Mariota sewed up the Heisman Trophy by throwing for 313 yards (perfect 11-for-11 in the second half) and two touchdowns while running for a career-high three scores in the win on a rainy night. Oregon outgained Arizona by 403 yards, the Ducks' largest differential in yards over a Pac-12 opponent in the past 10 seasons. In the first matchup, Arizona held Oregon to a season-low 144 yards rushing and sacked Mariota five times.
The Oregon offensive line was decimated by injuries back then. It's not as much now even though star center Hroniss Grasu missed the Pac-12 title game with a left leg injury. He should be fine for Florida State. Pac-12 coaches voted Grasu first-team all-conference for the third consecutive season. Running back Thomas Tyner (88 carries, 387 yards, three touchdowns) also missed the conference championship game but should be back for the Rose Bowl.
The Ducks have now scored at least 40 points in eight straight games and gained at least 500 yards in seven straight. Both are the longest active streaks in the FBS. Chip Kelly who? Since its loss to Arizona in Week 6, Oregon has won eight straight by an average margin of 26 points. The Oregon Ducks rank third in the country in scoring overall at 46.3 points per game.
The Heisman Trophy ceremony is next Saturday and you can mark it in stone that Mariota becomes the first Oregon winner of the award. Second and third, in whichever order, likely will be Wisconsin running back Melvin Gordon (who didn't have a good day in the Big Ten Championship Game loss against Ohio State) and Alabama receiver Amari Cooper. Mariota may well go No. 1 overall in the 2015 draft as well. This will be Oregon's second time playing for the chance at a national title. It lost to Auburn -- and Heisman Trophy winner Cam Newton -- in the BCS Championship Game following the 2010 season.
Because this game is in California, it should be largely a pro-Ducks crowd and obviously Oregon knows the Rose Bowl well if that means anything. There used to be a Heisman curse in terms of winning a national championship, but that hasn't been the case of late. Of course Florida State won it all last year behind Heisman winner Jameis Winston. Newton won the title with Auburn against the Ducks. In fact, the last Heisman winner to lose a bowl game was Oklahoma's Sam Bradford in the BCS National Championship Game to Florida in the 2008 season.
This is the first time that Oregon and Florida State will meet in football. The Ducks and Seminoles didn't have a common opponent this season. Oregon is 4-0 against ranked teams in 2014, winning each by at least 12 points.
Free College Football Pick: Really the only knock on Oregon this season is that it has played just one close game and that was a loss. FSU has thrived in close games. Oregon wins, and will face Alabama, but take the points at The Greek +8 (100).