College Football Handicapping: What Mariota Heisman Means to CFB Playoff
by Trevor Whenham - 12/16/2014
Marcus Mariota won one of the least dramatic Heisman Trophy races in memory. By the time the award was announced, there was absolutely no mystery about who was going to win, and there really hadn't been any for about a month. It was a coronation. And given his impressive numbers on the ground and through the air, his position in the College Football Playoff, and his seeming allergy to throwing interceptions, it was a no-brainer.
There was little joy in betting on Mariota's win - at least not in the last few weeks when the futures odds were microscopic. What we can focus on now is how Mariota might perform in his national semifinal against Florida State and last year's winner, Jameis Winston.
Will winning the Heisman, and all the craziness that goes with it, have a negative impact on Mariota's bowl performance? The simple answer is, well, maybe. If we look back at the last eight winners of the award we see that some have had incredible performances to cap their award-winning season, while others have been just plain disastrous. Mariota has a few things going for him - the award was less of a distraction for him than many because it was clearly his for so long, he is a quiet and grounded guy, and he is an experienced player who was the presumed frontrunner from the start of the season. Therefore he's far more used to the chaos than some that have come before him. Of course, as you'll see, experience doesn't always matter - the last two redshirt freshmen winners have had strong bowl performances, while Troy Smith was a seasoned veteran who certainly wasn't helped by his experience. So, will Mariota shine or flop in the postseason? Here's a look at the last eight winners and how they did:
2013 - Jameis Winston, Florida State: Winston is the first of three players on this list to cap his Heisman-winning season with a National Championship. Winston went 20-for-35 for 237 yards and two touchdowns as his team won 34-31 over Auburn. He was named offensive MVP of the game thanks to the last of those touchdowns, when he marched the team 8 yards down the field to score the winning touchdown with just 13 seconds on the clock.
2012 - Johnny Manziel, Texas A&M: Manziel and his Aggies beat up on Oklahoma in the Cotton Bowl - the final was 41-13. Offensive coordinator Kliff Kingsbury had already left for Texas Tech, so Manziel was working with an unfamiliar playcaller. It didn't matter. He ran for the game's first two touchdowns and had two long touchdown passes to close out the scoring. In the end he was 22-for-34 for 287 yards and two touchdowns with one pick, and he ran 17 times for 229 yards and the two scores. It should go without saying that he was named offensive MVP.
2011 - Robert Griffin III, Baylor: Griffin and his Bears beat Washington in a truly ridiculous Alamo Bowl by a final score of 67-56. Griffin had a solid day - 24-for-33 for 295 yards. He threw for only a single touchdown and ran for one other, though. The incredible star of the day was running back Terrance Ganaway. He ran for each of the final five Baylor touchdowns.
2010 - Cam Newton, Auburn: The Tigers won the National Championship with a 22-19 victory over the Oregon Ducks. Newton threw for 262 yards with two touchdowns and a pick, and he rushed for 65 yards. He fumbled late in the game, though, and Oregon used the opportunity to tie the game. Newton was not at his best, but after the game he was seen lying on the ground in obvious pain as his back was far from right for the contest.
2009 - Mark Ingram Jr., Alabama: Ingram won the National Championship 37-21 in a game that was most memorable because Texas QB Colt McCoy was knocked out very early and the impossibly-unprepared Garrett Gilbert had to finish out the game. Ingram carried the ball 22 times for 116 yards and two scores and was named the offensive MVP of the game.
2008 - Sam Bradford, Oklahoma: Bradford got the hardware, but previous Heisman winner Tebow got the BCS Championship as Florida beat Oklahoma 24-14 in the big game. Bradford was 26-for-41 for 256 yards, and he threw two touchdown passes to Jermaine Gresham. He threw two picks, though, and one from the 3-yard line with six seconds to go in the first half was a crushing blow for the Sooners.
2007 - Tim Tebow, Florida: Tebow lost the Gator Bowl to Michigan in Lloyd Carr's last game as coach of the Wolverines before retirement. The Heisman winner played reasonably well in the 41-35 loss, though. He was 17-of-33 for 154 yards and three touchdowns, and he ran for 57 yards and another score. In the end, though, he was outdueled by Chad Henne.
2006 - Troy Smith, Ohio State: It would be really tough to overstate just how bad Smith was in this game. He completed four passes. Four! He wound up 4-for-14 for 35 yards with a pick and a lost fumble. He was sacked five times. It was obviously and easily the worst game of his career, and his Buckeyes were crushed 41-14 by Chris Leak and Florida in the BCS Championship Game.
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