Marcus Mariota remains Heisman favorite, others trying to keep pace

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Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota is the runaway favorite to win this year’s Heisman Trophy.

Mariota is considered a 1/10 favorite to win the award, according to odds makers in Las Vegas. And he should be.

The junior signal-caller leads college football with a 190.2 quarterback rating and an average of 10.4 yards per passing attempt. His 36-to-2 touchdown-to-interception ratio is by far the best of any starting quarterback at the FBS level. As the country’s best dual-threat quarterback, Mariota also ran for 636 yards and 11 touchdowns.

Over his career, Mariota is the NCAA’s leader is average yards gained per play at 8.70. And he surpassed USC’s Matt Barkley as the Pac-12’s all-time leader in touchdowns responsible for with 126.

Mariota’s resume is as good as any top-level quarterback that college football has seen over the last 25 years:

Of the Top 10 on that list, eight of them are former Heisman Trophy winners. Peyton Manning is the lone exception (excluding Mariota), and there are college football fans and analysts that will still argue to this day that the former Volunteer should have won the Heisman Trophy in 1997 over Michigan’s Charles Woodson.

The bottom line: Mariota is nearly a lock to win college football’s most coveted award.

However, the Oregon quarterback won’t be the only player invited to New York City for the Heisman Trophy presentation. There are three other players likely to be invited, and they still have an outside chance of taking home the hardware:

Melvin Gordon, RB Wisconsin

With 2,260 rushing yards, the junior running back is in the midst of a very special season. Gordon has the best chance to dethrone Mariota, but he may have to do something extraordinary to become the Heisman favorite.

Gordon’s rise as a candidate truly began when he broke LaDanian Tomlinson‘s record for most rushing yards in a single game with 408 yards against the Nebraska Cornhuskers. Unfortunately, that special feat was minimized when Oklahoma’s Samaje Perine broke Gordon’s record a week later.

But the Wisconsin running back still has an outside chance to break Barry Sanders‘ single-season rushing mark. Gordon needs to amass 591 yards in the Big Ten Championship game and whatever bowl game Wisconsin eventually plays in to surpass Sanders.

It’s a daunting task and time isn’t on Gordon’s side.

The Heisman Trophy presentation will be held on Dec. 15. Wisconsin’s bowl game will be played at a later date. Thus, Gordon better be within striking distance of Sanders to make a legitimate case for the Heisman Trophy.

Amari Cooper, WR Alabama

Cooper’s case is similar to a few previous Heisman Trophy resumes. He’s the best player on the best team in the country.

Alabama’s talented wide receiver presents strong statistics across the board. Cooper is second in the nation in receptions (103), receiving yardage (1,573) and tied for second with 14 touchdown receptions. All three of those statistics are new records for Alabama football.

Cooper made sure to save his best for his last Iron Bowl with 224 receiving yards and three touchdowns against the Auburn Tigers to leave a lasting impression with Heisman voters.

The last wide receiver to win the Heisman Trophy was Desmond Howard in 1991. Over the following 23 years, Cooper made as good of a case as any other player at his position to win the award.

J.T. Barrett, QB Ohio State

Injuries aside, Barrett proved to be the best quarterback in the Big Ten Conference this season, and the redshirt junior was a revelation for the Buckeyes.

While Barrett wasn’t nearly as efficient as Mariota, he was almost as productive with 45 total touchdowns, which was a new Big Ten Conference record. The underclassman also accounted for 3,772 total yards.

Unfortunately, a devastating ankle injury may cost Barrett a legitimate shot to win the Heisman and the Buckeyes’ inclusion into the College Football Playoff.

But Barrett still has three more years of eligibility. Time is on his side to become the seventh Buckeye to win a Heisman Trophy.

And the winner is…

While each of the names listed are very talented and deserve Heisman-caliber recognition, Mariota would have to completely bottom out in Friday’s Pac-12 Championship Game to close the gap between the potential invitees.

It’s possible, too.

Mariota’s worst game of the season came against the Arizona Wildcats during the Ducks only loss of the season. If Mariota repeats his two-turnover effort in the rematch, this conversation becomes much more interesting.

Until then, this is Mariota’s race to lose. After all, the Ducks quarterback struck the pose and everything:

USC makes hiring of Virginia’s Vic So’oto official

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The massive renovation of Clay Helton’s USC football coaching staff has taken another official step.

Last week, it was reported that USC was expected to poach Vic So’oto from Virginia.  As Clint Sintim‘s hiring as So’oto’s replacement was announced a few days later, the latter’s move to the Trojans was a mere formality.

Tuesday, USC football confirmed So’oto’s addition to Clay Helton’s staff.  As he did with the ‘Hoos, So’oto will serve as the Trojans’ defensive line coach.

The 32-year-old So’oto was the line coach at Virginia for the past three seasons.  Prior to that, he was a defensive graduate assistant at the ACC program.

So’oto played his college football at BYU, ending his four-year career in 2010.  After his NFL career ended, So’oto began his collegiate coaching career as a football intern at his alma mater.

For those unaware, So’oto is the second cousin of USC football legend Junior Seau.

LSU confirms hiring of Scott Linehan as new passing-game coordinator

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LSU football has officially replaced one of the hottest young coaches in the sport.

Not long after LSU football claimed the 2019 national championship, Joe Brady left to take over as the offensive coordinator for the NFL’s Carolina Panthers. Earlier this month, it was reported that Scott Linehan was expected to be hired as Brady’s successor.

Tuesday, LSU confirmed that Linehan has indeed been named by Ed Orgeron as the Tigers’ new passing-game coordinator. The 56-year-old Linehan has spent the past 17 seasons he’s been a coach at the NFL level.

Linehan was out of coaching this past season.

“Scott brings a wealth of knowledge to our offense,” the LSU football head coach said in a statement. “We wanted to bring in someone who will expand our passing game and with Scott’s experience as an NFL head coach and offensive coordinator we feel this is the best move for our offense. After talking to numerous people with NFL experience and interviewing Scott we knew he was the right fit for the LSU Tigers.”

In 13 of those seasons in the NFL, Linehan served as an offensive coordinator.

  • Dallas Cowboys, 2015-18
  • Detroit Lions, 2009-13
  • Miami Dolphins, 2005
  • Minnesota Vikings, 2002-04

In the other four NFL seasons in which he wasn’t a coordinator, Linehan was the head coach of the St. Louis Rams (2006-08) and passing-game coordinator for the Cowboys (2014).

Linehan’s last job at the collegiate level came as the offensive coordinator and wide receivers coach at Louisville (1999-2001). From 1996-98, he was the coordinator at Washington.

American announces 2020 schedule

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The American Athletic Conference will again play football in 2020, the conference confirmed on Tuesday.

The American revealed its 2020 conference schedule, a 44-game slate that completes the 88 total games AAC teams will play in 2020. As a reminder, UConn is no longer an American member, meaning the conference will have 11 football-playing members for the foreseeable future. All 11 teams will still play an 8-game league schedule, and the conference will still hold a title game.

The 2020 season will also be the conference’s first under the new rights agreement it struck with ESPN in March. As such, at least 40 American home games will be shown on the ESPN family of networks, and at least half of those will be on ABC, ESPN or ESPN2. The conference will play a total of 12 games on Thursday or Friday nights.

“We are excited to announce our 2020 schedule as we enter the next phase of our longstanding relationship with ESPN,” said commissioner Mike Aresco. “With the continued success our schools have had, I have no doubt that we will once again provide our fans, and ESPN, with compelling matchups throughout the season in both conference and nonconference play. We look forward to another outstanding season of American Athletic Conference football.”

The season will begin on Saturday, Aug. 29 when Navy “hosts” Notre Dame at Aviva Stadium in Dublin, Ireland. That game will be shown on ESPN with College GameDay in tow as part of the network’s season kick-off effort. While the full schedule can be viewed here, highlights include:

  • North Carolina at UCF, Sept. 4 (Friday)
  • South Florida at Texas, Sept. 5
  • Temple at Miami, Sept. 5
  • Houston at Washington State, Sept. 12
  • Cincinnati at Nebraska, Sept. 26
  • TCU at SMU, Sept. 26
  • Memphis at SMU, Oct. 1 (Thursday)
  • UCF at Memphis, Oct. 16 (Friday)
  • Memphis at Cincinnati, Oct. 31
  • Memphis at Navy, Nov. 14
  • Cincinnati at UCF, Nov. 21
  • UCF at South Florida, Nov. 27 (Friday)

The 2020 American season will conclude with the sixth annual American Championship on Saturday, Dec. 5.

Ohio State CB Sevyn Banks to wear No. 7

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George Costanza was never much of a college football fan. He was a New Yorker, after all. But he was a fan of the No. 7, and so he would have a new favorite college football player in 2020.

A product of Orlando’s Jones High School, Sevyn Banks has been a member of Ohio State’s defensive backfield since 2018. The former 4-star recruit has received limited playing time in the Buckeyes’ loaded defensive backfield, but figures to compete for a starting spot in 2020.

And now he’ll do so in his namesake number.

Banks announced Monday he will switch from No. 12 to No. 7 for the upcoming season.

The No. 7 had been claimed by linebacker Teradja Mitchell, who is now switching to No. 3, opening No. 7 for, well, Sevyn.

Banks appeared in all 14 games for Ohio State last season, collecting 11 tackles and one interception.

He’ll hope to get more burn in 2020, with some support from a fictional New Yorker.