This handicapper points out that with the College Football season ending for many teams this week, so likely will the Heisman Trophy race if Oregon QB Mariota has a big game against rival Oregon State
Beavers Ready to Rain on Parade?
Oregon already has clinched the Pac-12 North Division and will likely play UCLA -- unless the Bruins lose this weekend at home to Stanford -- in the conference title game at the 49ers' Levi's Stadium. However, don't think that the Ducks, who are No. 2 in the most recent College Football Playoff rankings, will overlook hated rival Oregon State in this year's installment of the Civil War on Saturday. If Mariota has a big game and Oregon wins, the Heisman will be locked up. He is the heavy -700 favorite at sportsbooks like 5Dimes.
Mariota threw for 323 yards and three touchdowns and rushed eight times for 73 yards and a touchdown in this past Saturday's predictably easy win over Colorado. Mariota leads the nation with a rating of 185.2 while throwing 32 touchdowns to just two interceptions.
This Saturday's game will mean everything to the Beavers. They already have upset a good Arizona State team this season but did look flat in Saturday's 37-13 loss at Washington to fall to 5-6. Thus OSU has to win this game to get bowl eligible and perhaps save Coach Mike Riley's job. Last year OSU nearly won at Oregon, falling 36-35 on Mariota's game-winning 12-yard touchdown pass with 29 seconds left. He threw for 285 yards and three scores. Oregon has won six straight Civil Wars.
Oregon, which has won five straight games this season by at least 19 points, has opened as a 20.5-point favorite on College Football odds. That seems way too high of a spread for a rivalry game.
Gordon Likely to Finish No. 2
Really the only chance that Wisconsin's Melvin Gordon had to catch Mariota was to break his own FBS rushing record Saturday against Iowa. Gordon, who is the +200 second favorite on NCAA football Heisman odds, of course rushed for a record 408 yards two weeks ago in a win over Nebraska. He followed that up with 200 yards and two touchdowns in a close win over the Hawkeyes. It was Gordon's third straight game with at least 200 yards and fifth this season. Gordon reached 2,000 yards in just 241 carries, which is an NCAA record. The previous mark was 251 by Penn State's Larry Johnson.
Gordon's 2,109 yards lead the nation and are the 10th-most in a single season in FBS history. He has a decent shot at breaking the record of 2,628 yards set by Hall of Famer Barry Sanders in 1988 with Oklahoma State. Well, has a decent shot if Wisconsin wins this week at home against Minnesota. Do that -- and UW opened as a 13-point favorite at sportsbooks -- and the Badgers are in the Big Ten Championship Game against Ohio State. Then of course a bowl game. If the Gophers win, they are in the Big Ten title game. For what it's worth, Wisconsin won at Minnesota 20-7 last season, the Badgers' 10th straight win in the series. Gordon carried 12 times for 69 yards, but he was in a time-sharing deal last season with James White.
In one way, Gordon's chances to unseat Mariota were hurt because of what another guy did in Week 13. That would be Oklahoma freshman tailback Samaje Perine, who broke Gordon's week-old FBS record with 427 yards rushing.
The only other player under +5000 at sportsbooks is Ohio State freshman quarterback J.T. Barrett at +2500. His Buckeyes face rival Michigan this week. The Wolverines are in the same spot as Oregon State: must win to get bowl eligible and have a chance to ruin your hated rival's chances at reaching the College Football Playoff. Ohio State is in the Big Ten title game win or lose. Barrett likely will be your preseason favorite for next year's Heisman -- assuming he even starts in 2015 for the Buckeyes. Braxton Miller continues to say he will return to Columbus for his senior season, but many believe he will transfer or head to the NFL because of Barrett's ascension.
Free College Football Pick: Barring a three-interception day and loss to Oregon State, Mariota's your Heisman winner.