Before placing your College Football pick on the Heisman Trophy winner, understand that it is surely going to be one of two players: Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota or Mississippi State signal-caller Dak Prescott.
Mariota's Lead Grows
If you have read these stories all year you know I was big on the Ducks' Mariota back in the summer and only jumped off that bandwagon briefly following the loss to Arizona. I got back on just a couple of weeks later and now it's full steam ahead with my Heisman Trophy picks.
Oregon's national title and Pac-12 championship hopes had been derailed the past two seasons by a very physical Stanford squad, but the Ducks cleared that major hurdle in Week 10. The game was still in doubt late in the third quarter when Stanford made it 24-16, but the Ducks scored 21 unanswered points for the 45-16 victory. Stanford hadn't allowed more than 30 points in 31 straight games. Mariota finished 19 of 30 for 258 yards, two touchdowns and an interception. It was the 35th straight game that he had a touchdown pass, which is fourth all-time in FBS history. The record is held by current Marshall quarterback Rakeem Cato with 40. Mariota also rushed nine times for 85 yards and two touchdowns vs. the Cardinal.
Mariota was a -200 favorite on College Football odds last week and I mentioned that if Oregon did beat Stanford and Mariota played well that it was his Heisman to lose. I firmly believe that, and Mariota is now listed at -250. I believe only two things can stop him. The first of course would be an injury. The second would be a second loss. The Ducks will be favored the rest of the way, including in the Pac-12 title game presuming they get there. Oregon is a -275 favorite on NCAA football odds to win the Pac-12 title game and, somewhat surprisingly, now the site's +450 favorite to win the national championship.
However, there are some potential potholes along the way. One is this week at Utah. The Utes are vastly improved this season and already have beaten UCLA and USC. They did lose in overtime at Arizona State on Saturday. That makes the Sun Devils the most likely opponent for Oregon in the Pac-12 Championship Game. Oregon is an opening 9.5-point favorite at sportsbooks for the Utah matchup. The Ducks will be huge favorites in their next game, Nov. 22 vs. a bad Colorado team. The regular season ends with the Civil War at Oregon State. How badly would the Beavers like to end the Ducks' title hopes and Mariota's Heisman chances!?
Prescott Only Challenger
Mississippi State's Prescott is the +350 second favorite on NCAA football odds, up from +225 last week. He was 18 of 27 for a career-high 331 yards in the Bulldogs' ugly 17-10 win over Arkansas. Prescott threw for a touchdown but also had two interceptions for the second time in the past three games. Prescott added 61 yards rushing. He did play through a foot injury.
Prescott can't match Mariota's overall numbers, but Mississippi State also has yet to lose and remains the No. 1 team in the nation. Don't be surprised if Prescott doesn't put up big numbers this week even though MSU faces weakling Tennessee-Martin. First of all, it's a huge trap game with a mammoth one the following week at Alabama. Second, Bulldogs coach Dan Mullen likely will just want his starters to get a big lead and then get them out of there to ensure full health for the Crimson Tide. Mississippi State is +750 to win the national title and +275 to win the SEC title at sportsbooks, behind Alabama (+200).
As was the case last week, Wisconsin running back Melvin Gordon rounds out the favorites, but his price rose from +800 to +1000. The Badgers beat Rutgers 37-0 in Week 10. Gordon had 128 yards and two scores. It was his sixth straight game of at least 100 yards. Wisconsin has a potential trap game this week at Purdue with a huge one vs. Nebraska in two weeks. The Huskers' Ameer Abdullah is still listed on the Heisman odds at +2500, but he was hurt in Saturday's win over Purdue. Abdullah injured his knee in the first quarter and finished with just 1 yard rushing. That ends his Heisman chances. He still might get an invite to New York.
Free College Football Pick: I expect Mariota's lead to only grow after this week barring a Ducks loss in Salt Lake City. He remains the right College Football pick.