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:

Big 12 to allow teams to play 1 non-conference football game

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Two people involved with the decision say the Big 12 will permit its teams to play one nonconference football game this year to go along with their nine league contests as plans for the pandemic-altered season continued to fall into place.

The people spoke Monday night to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because the conference was still preparing an official announcement.

The Big 12 university presidents signed off on the conference’s scheduling model, which gives schools the ability to play one nonconference game at home. The conference’s championship game is scheduled for Dec. 5, but one of the people told AP that the conference is leaving open the possibility of bumping it back a week or two.

The 10-team Big 12 already plays a nine-game, round-robin conference schedule. Unlike other Power Five conference that have switched to either exclusively (Big Ten, Pac-12 and SEC) or mostly (ACC) league games this season, the Big 12 could not add more conference games without teams playing each other more than once.

Several Big 12 teams have already started preseason practice, with Kansas and Oklahoma slated to play FCS teams on Aug. 29.

As conferences take steps toward a football season that seems to be in precarious shape, the NCAA is expected to weigh in Tuesday on fall sports other than major-college football.

The association’s Board of Governors is scheduled to meet and whether to cancel or postpone NCAA championship events in fall sports such as soccer, volleyball and lower-division football is expected to be a topic.

Only the Pac-12 has a full football schedule with matchups and dates in place among Power Five conferences. The Pac-12 will begin Sept. 26, along with the Southeastern Conference, which is still working on its new 10-game slate.

The Atlantic Coast Conference has opponents set for its 10-game conference schedule and will start the weekend of Sept. 12, but no specific game dates. The ACC has also said it will permit its teams to play one nonconference game.

The Big Ten, first to announce intentions to go conference-only this season, has yet to release a new schedule, but that could come later this week.

Now that the Power Five has declared its intentions the Group of Five conferences can start making plans and filling holes on their schedules.

American Athletic Conference Commissioner Mike Aresco has said the AAC could stick with its eight-game conference schedule and let its members plays as many of their four nonconference games as they can salvage or replace.

The Mountain West, Conference USA, Mid-American and Sun Belt conferences are likely to take similar approach.

Early Monday, Texas State from the Sun Belt announced it was moving a nonconference game against SMU up from Sept. 5 to Aug. 29.

Good morning and, in case I don’t see ya, good afternoon, good evening and good night! CFT, out…

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CFT is no more. At least, when it comes to NBC Sports.

The first of last month, I — this is John Taylor (pictured, catching the game-winning touchdown in Super Bowl XXIII) — began my 12th year with CFT and NBC Sports. This morning, I was informed that my position was being eliminated and I would not be completing that 12th year. Which, of course, meant I wouldn’t be eligible for the traditional 13th-anniversary gift of lace. Which really bummed me out. Because I really like lace.

The jarring phone call was both a slap in the face and a relief. Jarring because, well, it was completely unexpected. Out of the blue, even amidst the pandemic that is wreaking absolute and utter havoc across the country. A relief, on the other hand, because, every single day for the past four months, I woke up wondering if this would be the day I get that call.

Would this be the day? Would this be the day? A question played on an endless loop that just f***s with you mentally, emotionally, physically.

That’s no way to live.

Then again, being job-less is no way to live, either. But, here we are.

So many people I want to thank. First and foremost, Mike Florio and Larry Mazza. Thank you, thank you, thank you. Especially Mr. Mazza on the food front. Hopefully, lunch at Oliverio’s — best damn stuffed shells I have EVER had — can still be a thing, Larry.

And so many people that have worked for me. Not to single anyone out, but I’m going to single one out in Ben Kercheval. Ben, non-biological son of Hoppy, you were and continue to be the man. I appreciate you more than you know.  Rasheed Wallace may indeed be your biological father, but I will forever consider you my illegitimate Internet stepson.

Mike Miller is the best boss anyone could ever ask for.  Hire that man.  You can thank me later.

Kevin McGuire, Zach Barnett, Bryan Fischer, I will always treasure what we did, together, these last few years. Things were on the uptick, and it’s sad that we won’t be able to see it through. Together.  We should’ve — SHOULD’VE SHOULD’VE SHOULD’VE — been given that opportunity.  And it will forever piss me off that we weren’t.

Brent and Chris and JJ, much love to you all as well.

Shortly after I received the job call of death, I called my dad. Told him what was going on in his son’s life.  After I hung up the phone, he sent me a GIF in a text message a few minutes later.  I’ll link it here to end whatever this is, because it’s appropriate.  And old school.

And, well… bye.

via GIPHY

2018 FCS All-American RB commits to Virginia

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Virginia joined South Carolina over the weekend as Power Five football schools realizing a personnel benefit from a lower-level program’s loss.

Two weeks ago, the Colonial Athletic Association announced that it was canceling its 2020 college football season because of the coronavirus pandemic.  One member of that FCS conference is Towson.  Coincidentally or not, one standout member of the Tigers, Shane Simpson, took to Twitter last week to announce that he has entered his name into the NCAA transfer database.

On that same social media service Sunday, the running back confirmed that he has committed to the Virginia football team.  Simpson had his transfer to-do list down to Virginia and Texas.

As Simpson was a fifth-year senior in 2019, it appears he has been granted a sixth season of eligibility.  Or, is fairly confident he will receive one.

Simpson would likely be eligible for that sixth season as he missed all but four games of his true freshman season in 2015 because of injury, then missed all but the first three games last season because of a serious knee injury.

In 2018, Simpson earned first-team All-American honors.  He finished second in all of FCS with 171.5 all-purpose yards per game, totaling 2,058 yards on the season.  That same season, the Pennsylvania product was the CAA’s Special Teams Player of the Year and earned three different all-conference honors: first-team at running back, second-team as a kick returner and third-team as a punt returner.

Simpson would be eligible to play immediately in 2020 at the FBS level.

South Carolina pulls in transfer WR from Tarleton State

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South Carolina is the latest football program to benefit from a lower level of the sport opting out of football this fall.

In the middle of last month, the Western Athletic Conference — yes, the WAC — announced that it is delaying the start of fall sports, including football, because of the coronavirus pandemic.  Tarleton State was set to enter its first season in the FCS conference after moving up from Div. II.

One member of the Texans won’t get to realize that monumental move, though, as Jalen Brooks announced on Twitter over the weekend that he will be transferring into the South Carolina football program.

“God is undefeated,” Brooks wrote. “I would not be able to make this commitment without God, my family, my coaches, my teammates, the people I work out with, and the work that I put into everything.”

Interestingly, 247Sports.com wrote that “Brooks visited the campus in Columbia with his former high school coach, Jason Seidel, serving as his tour guide.” In late June, the NCAA once again extended its ban on in-person recruiting through the end of August.  It’s assumed that the South Carolina football program wasn’t involved in that on-campus visit.

At this point, it’s unclear if the wide receiver will be eligible to play for the Gamecocks this season. If he is, he’d have three years to use two seasons of eligibility.  If not, he’d use his redshirt in 2020, then have two years starting in 2021.

Brooks actually began his collegiate career at Div. II Wingate University in North Carolina.  In January of this year, the receiver transferred to Tarleton State.

In two seasons with the Bulldogs, Brooks totaled 998 yards and nine touchdowns on 50 receptions.