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Heisman Watch: Mariota jumps into contenders' fray

Ben Fisher, TSN.ca

10/14/2013 3:39:14 PM

If there were any worries Oregon's highly-touted offence would take a step back this year, with Chip Kelly now working his craft in the NFL, Marcus Mariota has done a remarkable job the first seven weeks of the season putting them to bed.

Not all the credit can be given to Mariota, Mark Helfrich has orchestrated a seamless transition from Kelly at head coach, but the redshirt sophomore's performance has allowed the Ducks to pick up where they left off in torturing opposing defences on a weekly basis.

And with Mariota, Helfrich might have something Kelly never did, a Heisman Trophy winner.

Despite failing to surpass 50 points for the first time this season, Oregon's 45-24 win over PAC-12 rival Washington was perhaps their strongest effort of the year, and Mariota was the catalyst.

The Honolulu native threw for 366 yards and rushed for 88 more with four combined scores against the 16th-ranked Huskies defence.

His numbers on the year rank among the best in the NCAA with his 25 combined touchdowns (17 passing) and zero interceptions really standing out. His 1,724 passing yards are 17th in the nation but fourth among Heisman candidates, and buoyed by his 426 yards on the ground this season.

Mariota's strong Week 7 propelled him into the Top 3 of the Heisman Watch while at the same time bumping down a former top contender, Louisville QB Teddy Bridgewater.

Bridgewater was only okay (21-31, 310 yards, 2 TDs to 1 INT) against Rutgers in a game the Cardinals relied more on their defence for the win.

The other two sitting atop the Heisman Watch are of course Tajh Boyd and Johnny Manziel. Boyd was solid for Clemson in Week 7, throwing for 334 yards and scoring two TD combined against Boston College. His Heisman bid, along with the No. 3 Tigers' season, could very well come down to next week's matchup against Jameis Winston and the fifth-ranked Florida State Seminoles.

Manziel meanwhile, shook off a serious enough looking knee injury to lead Texas A&M to a SEC win over Ole Miss. The defending Heisman winner was 31/39 for 346 yards and an interception, while adding 124 yards and two touchdowns on the ground against the formerly ranked Rebels.

Fringe contenders this week include Alabama QB AJ McCarron, Baylor RB Lache Seastrunk, and UCLA QB Brett Hundley.