Heisman Forecast: Oregon's Mariota wins Halfway Heisman

Published Oct. 16, 2013 11:10 a.m. ET

There's no pomp, no circumstance and no intrinsic value to it. But none
of that can dissuade the Heisman Forecaster.

reached the season's midpoint, meaning it's time to name the Halfway
Heisman and the choice would seem to be clear: Oregon's Marcus

The redshirt sophomore quarterback closed
out his first half in resounding fashion, throwing for 366 yards and
three touchdowns and running for 88 yards and another score in the
Ducks' rout of then-No. 16 Washington.

On the season,
Mariota has 25 touchdowns (17 passing and eight rushing) and has yet to
turn the ball over. He's second in the nation in points responsible for
with 150, fifth in pass efficiency (182.4) and sixth in total offense
(358.3 yards per game), making him one of only two players to rank in
the top 10 in all three categories (the other is reigning winner Johnny

The stats are there and the schedule also
sets up well for Mariota, with back-to-back games against No. 9 UCLA
(Oct. 26) and No. 13 Stanford (Nov. 7), plus a likely spot in the
conference title game against.

All that being said,
halfway isn't all the way, as Denard Robinson in 2009 and '10 and Geno
Smith last season can attest. But at this point, Mariota appears well on
his way to becoming the Ducks' first winner and the first for a Pac-12
player who doesn't play for USC since Stanford's Jim Plunkett 43 years

Before we break down the players who are rising
and those who are falling in the race, here's a look at how the ballot
would likely stack up after Week 7, with the previously fawned over
Mariota at the top.

We'll have the first of
the second half of the season's trophy elimination games as Boyd's
third-ranked Tigers and Winston and the No. 5 Seminoles meet in Death
Valley. If Boyd has a monster game he could challenge Mariota for the
top spot when you consider that he would own two wins over top 5 teams
-- having already beaten then-No. 5 Georgia -- and Winston would rise up
the standings by virtue of the biggest win of any contender based on
opponents' rankings. Regardless of who wins, the ACC figures to have a
legitimate candidate to at the very least get to New York, something it
hasn't done since Chris Weinke's win in 2000. You know somewhere
commissioner John Swofford is smiling just thinking about

It's been discussed
in this space before,
but the odds of Manziel
winning a second trophy are extremely long for a variety of reasons.
That doesn't mean he's not going to make it interesting, reaching the
7,000-yard plateau in his 19th game last Saturday at Ole Miss, making
him the fastest player in FBS history to hit that mark. This week he'll
get his second crack at a ranked opponent vs. No. 24 Auburn, whose
defense already struggled against one running QB in Mississippi State's
Dak Prescott (213 yards passing; 133 and two TDs rushing). A near-lock
for a return trip to the ceremony as the defending winner, Manziel is on
pace for 4,546 yards of offense, which would be the 32nd highest total
ever or 16 spots and 219 yards higher on the all-time list than Cam
Newton in his winning season of 2010.

Named after Tupac Shakur's
character in 'Juice' -- his Twitter feed is a perfect @_GotTheJuiceNow
-- Sankey is making statement after statement in the Pac-12. One week
after becoming the first back to hit 100 yards against Stanford, he did
the same to Oregon, running for 167 yards. That's the most yards the
Ducks have allowed since the Cardinal's Toby Gerhart burned them for 223
on Nov. 7, 2009, a season in which he was the Heisman runner-up.
Already the nation's leader in rushing yards (899) and yards per game
(149.8), Sankey could see those numbers expand as the next three games
include Arizona State (76th vs. the rush), Cal (99th) and Colorado

Here's the flip side
of the Boyd-Winston debate. With a massive game with BCS title
implications, the loser is, for all intents and purposes, not going to
win the trophy; there's just no getting around it. Boyd would still have
No. 11 South Carolina in the regular-season finale and Winston has two
top-flight games ahead with No. 10 Miami on Nov. 2 and No. 22 Florida on
Nov. 30, but a win seems out of the question without claiming this
top-5 clash. That doesn't mean the loser couldn't still be a finalist,
but in order to win this award, you need to take advantage of the
spotlight and chances are that spotlight won't burn any brighter than it
will in Memorial Stadium.

That Murray has been
playing without his biggest weapons around him and still led clutch
drives against South Carolina, LSU and Tennessee will help. So too will
his being the SEC's all-time passing yards king, with the total offense
and TD throws records to follow. But Murray's hopes ultimately hinge on
an SEC title and now even emerging from the convoluted East isn't a
certainty after his two-interception and
fumble-that-was-returned-for-a-TD day in the Bulldogs' loss to Missouri.
He'll have chances to impress with No. 22 Florida and No. 24 Auburn
still on the schedule, but Murray won't be able to do much to help his
chances this week against 3-3 Vanderbilt.

Without a marquee opponent
on the schedule it was going to take complete domination each and every
week to keep Bridgewater near the top of this race, and ahead of a game
that could be the Cardinal's toughest of the season, he looked shaky.
The junior threw an end zone interception and fumbled in the fourth
quarter as Louisville edged Rutgers. He can climb back into contention
with a big night Friday against UCF -- which is 3-0 on the road, beat
Penn State and hung with No. 11 South Carolina before losing by three --
but Bridgewater can't afford another setback in a candidacy that is
already being marginalized due to things out of his control.