Oregon Football: Marcus Mariota's Hot Start Lands Him at Front of Heisman Race

Joseph SheltonContributor IIISeptember 25, 2013

When it comes to efficiency, Mariota holds a slight edge over Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel.
When it comes to efficiency, Mariota holds a slight edge over Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel.Joe Robbins/Getty Images

With all the Heisman talk this season, Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel is currently dominating the discussions. The controversial QB won the award in 2012 and is looking to repeat as champion. If he does, he'll be the first player since Archie Griffin to win multiple Heismans' since 1974-75.

But Oregon QB Marcus Mariota looks to be Manziel's biggest threat for the Heisman in 2013. The athletic Hawaiian is laying down some strong numbers in the first three games of the season. He has averaged 17.5 yards per carry (262 yards). He had completed 59.8 percent (49-of-82) passing yards for a total of 889 yards. With seven touchdowns and zero interceptions, Mariota has been making an impact on the Heisman watch.

Let's look a little bit into his 2013 beginning and Manziel's 2012 beginning. While Manziel averaged 8.8 yards per pass attempt, Mariota is averaging 10.8 yards. While Manziel ran with the ball for an average of 7.1 yards per carry in 2012 (with a total of 201 carries), Mariota has been averaging 17.5 yards per carry. Given that, Mariota relies more on passing than running the ball, unlike Manziel.

Mariota is an athletic quarterback who has the ability to post numbers like Reggie Bush, Troy Smith and Ricky Williams, all of whom are former Heisman winners. Add to that the strength of the Oregon offense, who has been rattling off bone-jarring victories left-and-right, and you could be looking at an Oregon national championship to go along with Mariota's Heisman.

Mariota hasn't faced his biggest test yet and won't until they face Stanford on November 7. Even then, it doesn't bode well for Stanford considering how well the Mariota-led offensive line is at Oregon.

Speaking of the Oregon offensive line, Mariota has been working well with fellow Heisman hopeful De'Anthony Thomas this season. In their recent 59-10 annihilation of Virginia, Mariota and Anthony were able to squeeze 246 yards and four touchdowns out of 15 carries. Mariota's works with his teammates quite well, especially Thomas, who manages to complement Mariota's style on the field.


Mariota holds a slight advantage over Manziel in yardage, as Mariota has 1,151 yards to Manziel's 1,137 yards. Manziel has 19 more plays than Mariota, so the more efficient player would be Mariota. He is ranked No. 4 in the nation for total offense per game, just ahead of No. 5 Manziel. He's a focused player and an asset to the Ducks' legacy, so if all goes well this season Mariota will be the deserving recipient of the Heisman award.

Given other Heisman contenders such as Teddy Bridgewater (Louisville QB), A.J. McCarron (Alabama QB) and Jameis Winston (Florida State QB), Mariota and Manziel are a league ahead of them even though Bridgewater topped the Heisman odds before his recent performance against Kentucky. Manziel is an aggressive player who seems to enjoy peacocking on the field. He's extremely athletic and has shown confidence in his abilities that borders on certainty. That confidence is what made him the first freshman to ever win the Heisman.

Meanwhile, Mariota seems to almost revel in having a quieter profile than Manziel. He knows what he can do, but unlike Manziel he chooses to keep himself in check on the field. His athleticism exceeds that of Manziel's, and he knows that he doesn't really have to prove himself in that aspect. He just wants to win games.

Both young men have contrasting styles, yet it is Mariota who should be everyone's pick to win the Heisman. If his start is any indication of how he is going to play this 2013 season, it's going to be a good year for the Oregon QB.