After an impressive first game against Arkansas State, Oregon freshman quarterback Marcus Mariota’s name – however it may be pronounced – has been tossed into the ring of Heisman Trophy candidates.
One game, one bad opponent, one man mentioned as a potential winner of what is supposed to be college football’s most prestigious individual award.
Does this make sense? At all?
That there even exists a conversation about Heisman candidates after one week of football is ludicrous.
The Heisman Trophy, by definition, “annually recognizes the outstanding college football player whose performance best exhibits the pursuit of excellence with integrity. Winners epitomize great ability combined with diligence, perseverance, and hard work.”
Annually. Not weekly.
Instead of identifying and discarding a potential Heisman winner weekly, let’s leave that to the various player of the week awards already in existence. The formula for creating Heisman hype should follow the same formula as the... Gulp… BCS.
No player should be mentioned as a potential stiff-arm trophy winner until the eighth week of the season. That way a player can be judged on a complete body of work instead of one or two games.
Using this criterion will also help establish candidates who are the best players in the game – not just the best players on the best teams.
Let’s compare Mariota to another Duck quarterback: Dennis Dixon.
Dixon established himself as a Heisman frontrunner in 2007. But he didn’t do it with just one or two spectacular games.
He had a breakout game in Week Two against Michigan, during which he threw for 292 yards and three TDs, ran for 76 yards and a TD and led the Ducks to a 39-7 road win. Then he followed that with seven more excellent games before injuring his knee against Arizona.
The game against Michigan no doubt put him on the map, but nobody was ready to send him to New York after that one game. And nobody should have. Had he followed that with a series of duds, it wouldn’t have mattered.
Instead, he followed his coming-of-age game with passer ratings higher than 115 in seven straight games.
Had Dixon done so this year, he easily would have dominated Heisman talk, which demonstrates yet another flaw in the Heisman system. Because Oregon had not established itself as a perennial contender before Dixon’s 2007 campaign, he was left out of the conversation for a lot longer.
Now, in 2012, because the Ducks have been to three straight BCS bowls, they have not one but two – and maybe three – players in the Heisman conversation.
De’Anthony Thomas entered the season as a Heisman candidate. Mariota’s game against Arkansas State put him in the running. And Kenjon Barner’s impressive career as a backup has made him a dark horse candidate.
Yet any one of these players can completely flop in 2012. It’s entirely too premature to discuss who will win the 2012 Heisman Trophy.
Let’s wait to have the Heisman discussion until we have enough plays, enough statistics, and enough games to put together a reasonable conversation.
Until then, can’t we just go back to describing players as “being good” or even “exceptional playmakers”? Do we really have to dress it up with superlatives and anoint them as possibly being the best player in the country after one week?