This season has been one for the books. A brand new playoff system has been implemented and will make it’s trial run at the beginning of the new year. But, while some things change, some things remain the same. This Saturday, the coveted 20 pound bronze statue known as the Heisman will be awarded to one of three candidates.
The first of the candidates is Amari Cooper, the wide receiver out of Alabama. The junior leads the FBS with 115 receptions and 1,656 receiving yards, as well as 14 receiving touchdowns. Cooper has been unstoppable this season, and shows no sign of slowing down when the Crimson Tide takes on Ohio State in the Allstate Sugar Bowl.
In fact, if Cooper manages 85 yards against the Buckeyes, he will break the SEC all-time record for receiving yards in a season, a record currently held by LSU’s Josh Reed from back in 2001. This shouldn’t be too challenging for Cooper, as he’s been very productive against some of the best defenses in the country, averaging 119 receiving yards and nine catches. Additionally, Cooper has 26 receptions for 20 yards or more, which is the second most in the FBS and just so happens to be 9 receptions more than any other athlete in the SEC right now.
This has been an incredible season for the SEC and for Alabama, as Cooper has really had a chance to shine, though it may at times go under appreciated. As a wide receiver, Cooper isn’t the odds on favorite to take the stiff arm statue home. However, the fact that he is a wide receiver makes his invitation to New York City all the more impressive. No matter the outcome, Cooper can rest easy knowing he will have a career in the NFL if he wants to pursue it after the season.
Cooper would be the second Alabama player to take home the Heisman in six seasons, the last being Mark Ingram in 2009. Cooper is just one of those players that can get the job done. He knows why he is out on the field, and works well with his team.
Next up on the list of contenders is Wisconsin’s own Melvin Gordon. Gordon has made more than a little splash this season. The running back has totaled 2,336 rushing yards this season, which is the fourth most all-time in an FBS season. This also allowed him to set the Big Ten record for rushing yards in a season. Not only that, but Gordon is also the fastest player to reach 2,000 rushing yards , doing so on his 241st carry.
Gordon is known for putting on a show; he wants to leave an impression once he steps off the field. After pulling off a particularly challenging play this season, Wisconsin coach Gary Andersen commented, “If you drew that play on the board, you’d say, ‘No Chance.’ But that’s just who he is. Special athletes do special things at special moments.”
Coach Andersen seems to have it right about Gordon. He is not only a special athlete, but just an all-around happy person. He is known amongst his teammates for his classic Snapchats, and for walking up to random people he has never met before and just talking to them. He has an outgoing personality, and is clearly easy to get along with.
Gordon is also incredibly hardworking. His teammates have repeatedly reported of the cutouts Gordon put on his wall Freshman year of the Heisman. He is known for being dedicated, and wanting to make himself better than before. Gordon is driven by competition, and when he sees someone do something incredible, he works to do the same.
Gordon would be the third Badger overall to win the award, standing as a legend next to Alan Ameche (1954) and Ron Dayne (1999). Dayne is reportedly a mentor to Gordon, sending him encouraging messages and supporting him through the whole process. Gordon is another player who has a bright future ahead of him.
The third finalist for the Heisman is none other than Marcus Mariota, the quarterback for the Oregon Ducks. Mariota sits with a 91.9 total quarterback rating, leading the FBS after being second the previous two seasons. Mariota set an FBS and Pac-12 record when he benchmarked 53 touchdowns this season.The man behind center also leads the nation in yards per attempt with 10.2 and in interception percentage at 1%.
While the Ducks themselves are a fun team to watch, Mariota is one of those players that steps out onto the field and makes superhuman feats possible. He is the most dominant player in college football right now, and completely deserves his trip to New York City.
Mariota is an interesting player, though. If it was up to Oregon, they would have done all they could to run a Heisman campaign for him. This wasn’t what he wanted, and he told the higher ups so. Mariota prefers to interact with his fans and take pictures with them. Mariota commented “I really didn’t want all that attention. I’m glad they were able to accept that and respect that decision.”
Just as a fun fact, every player since 2007 who has lead the nation in total QBR is either a Heisman winner or a current NFL starting quarterback. Mariota would be the first player in Oregon Ducks’ history to win the award.
This year’s set of Heisman finalists are impressive, as they are every year. These guys will all have a chance to find themselves playing professionally, should they elect to. They have helped contribute to one of the most entertaining seasons of college ball we have seen for a few years. We will just have to see who gets to haul the 20 pounds of bronze home!
*Section Photo credit to Kevin C. Cox, Getty Images; Featured Photo (above) credit to Scott Olmos, USA Today Sports.