While the college football season winds down we wait for the answer to who is the best football player in 2014.
The magic words that often doom a professional career are, "And the 2014 Heisman Trophy Award goes to...."
By now you've heard too many coaches say they have a Heisman candidate playing for them. Ohio State's Urban Meyer said he lost two Heisman candidates to injury this year. He's probably got two more redshirting for next year.
The ESPN Heisman Watch and Nissan Heisman House ramp up the excitement leading to the big stage. Who will win the biggest prize in college football?
Melvin Gordon, running back from Wisconsin.
Gordon had a great game during a super season, but one thing we know about running backs: they need a line to run behind.
It takes more than one game, one play, or one over the top hype campaign to win the Heisman. A big game against Minnesota is thrilling, but it's better if you run Alabama's defense ragged.
Amari Cooper, wide receiver from Alabama.
Wide receivers are the divas of football. They play in open space. They run, they jump, and they catch. Is this football or Swan Lake?
They also take hellacious hits across the middle intended to separate them from the ball. It looks like the hits could separate receivers from their senses, and often does.
With former Oakland Raider, Tennessee, and USC coach Lane Kiffin running the Alabama offense, the air raid he dropped on Auburn is quite different than the usual run, run, run, then run again.
If Amari were an Alabama running back he'd have a better chance.
Trevone Boykin, quarterback, TCU.
Are you ready for a Horned Frog Heisman winner? Yes, he tore up Texas and looked All-World, but it was Texas. They've been rebuilding since Vince Young.
And what is it with Texas and horns? We all love the hook 'em horns hand sign from the University of Texas, but a horned frog? Horned toad, okay. Frog? That's stretching it.
Texas Christian University's Boykin will miss this Heisman.
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J.T. Barrett, quarterback, Ohio State.
He's out with broken bones, but before he left he whomped up on Michigan. Michigan? They used to be a quality win but not recently. Their coach is already fired, that's how bad they are.
Braxton Miller, their other Heisman candidate who was injured early in the season, would have beat Michigan on crutches.
Their next man up, Cardale Jones, will probably get a push for Player of the Year if he has one good game.
The only player missing from this group is the #1 Heisman candidate from the University of Oregon Ducks, a Hawaiian named Marcus Mariota, so lets take a look at him.
Marcus Mariota, quarterback, University of Oregon.
The Flyin' Hawaiian's season is on track for the sort of greatness reserved for legends of the game.
He's had one loss this year, to Arizona, and he gets another shot at them in the PAC12 Championship game.
He throws for touchdowns, runs for touchdowns, and even catches passes for touchdowns.
What more does he do? He's restoring credibility to the idea of the student-athlete in big time college sports.
On today's Jim Rome Show Oregon Coach Mark Helfrich explained how Mariota is the face of college football you can show kids without making excuses.
Recent Heisman guys don't translate. Who is propping up Jameis Winston as a college football example? Johnny Football Manziel gets plenty of attention, but one rolled up bill in a Las Vegas bathroom is tough to explain.
Robert Griffin in 2011 seems like a fine man off the field, but hard to figure on. Cam Newton, quarterback of the Auburn Tigers when they beat the Ducks for the title in 2011, played under a cloud of NCAA doubt.
Marcus Mariota is here to set the Heisman right. If he had the wild man instincts of Winston, the flair of Manziel, world class athleticism of Griffin, and forecast of Newton, he'd still be the best college player this year.
Instead he's a down to earth guy from a solid family, according to Helfrich, and understands what makes football players do what they do. He's got the sort of pressure to win that the greats shoulder with ease.
After an early season loss to Arizona it was the end of the world for the Oregon Ducks, the season a shamble, their dreams crushed. Except the next day, instead of showing up and moping, the Ducks hit the field early in a Fix-It mode.
They've fixed every team since with a loss. Mariota has all the tools needed to keep fixing opponents. He'll fix the Heisman, too.
David Gillaspie is an active researcher, skills he honed during twenty years with the Oregon Historical Society. His education wavered between English major/Fiction writer at the University of Oregon where he met Ken Kesey, to a BS in History from Portland State with news writing. Married, with two millennial sons, he connects sports and fitness to the realities of baby boomer life, with no mention ever of skydiving or base-jumping. David covers a wide variety of fascinating topics on his boomer-centric blog, Boomer PDX. Check it out -- you'll be glad you did.