The Heisman finalists were announced this past Monday evening. The players making the trip to New York City this year will be Alabama wide receiver Amari Cooper, Wisconsin running back Melvin Gordon, and Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota. It's a small group with not much mystery around who will win the award.
The award will be given out this Sunday and before that happens I wanted to pick my top 17 players who had the best resumes for the national MVP. I'm using 17 players for no other reason than that's the number I randomly came up with before putting together the list.
17. Senquez Golson, Corner, Ole Miss
STATS: 41 tackles, 3 TFL, 9 INT, 8 PBU
The 5-9, 176 pound corner was a big reason why the Rebels defense was so fearsome, especially earlier in the season before injuries took some playmakers off the field. Golson was named first team All-SEC at his position and finished second nationally in interceptions to go with a healthy 8 pass break-ups.
16. Dak Prescott, Quarterback, Miss State
STATS: 2,996 passing yards, 61.2%, 24 TD, 10 INT, 939 rushing yards, 13 rushing TD
Does this seem far too low? My reasoning is that after moving near the top of the Heisman race early in the season Prescott basically faded away from late October on as the Bulldogs saw their perfect season ruined.
He got off to a very hot start with 19 total touchdowns and 2 picks through 5 games but finished with 18 total touchdowns and 8 picks over his last 7 games. In his two toughest games (Alabama & Ole Miss) Prescott finished with 572 passing yards on 57.6% accuracy, 3 passing scores, 3 picks, and 130 rushing yards at just 2.8 yards per carry.
15. Gerod Holliman, Safety, Louisville
STATS: 37 tackles, 3 TFL, 14 INT, 3 PBU
I stumbled across this article on Holliman prior to the Cardinals playing at Notre Dame and thought it was interesting. I definitely noticed a couple instances where Holliman didn't appear to exactly be in love with contact against the Irish, and just 37 tackles is a pretty low number for a starting safety who played in all 12 games anyway. Nevertheless, when you tie the record for most interceptions in a season--even if you're basically playing rover--you deserve some recognition for that feat.
14. Buck Allen, Running Back, Southern California
STATS: 1,337 rushing yards, 5.3 YPC, 442 receiving yards, 10 total TD
You might think teammates Cody Kessler or Nelson Agholor would make this list before Allen but I thought the Trojan running back was more steady and consistent within their offense this year. Had USC not put backups in against Notre Dame for the 4th quarter, Allen would have easily notched his 9th game of the season with at least 100 rushing yards. His only really poor game (31 yards) was in a loss against Boston College whereas his teammates disappeared more in a couple other games. Overall, Allen finished 4th nationally among all major conference players in yards from scrimmage.
13. Shane Ray, Defensive End, Missouri
STATS: 61 tackles, 21 TFL, 12.5 sacks, 2 forced fumbles
The AP Defensive Player of the Year in the SEC continues the tradition of Missouri pumping out quality edge rushers.
Ray finished 6th nationally in sacks, and third in tackles for loss, with an impressive 4.6 tackles per game from a defensive lineman. That's an even better follow up to former teammate Michael Sam in 2013 who won Co-Defensive Player of the Year in the SEC.
12. James Conner, Running Back, Pittsburgh
STATS: 1,675 rushing yards, 6.0 YPC, 24 rushing TD
Conner quietly beat several school and ACC records this year. While his rushing yardage finished 5th nationally it broke LeSean McCoy's sophomore record at Pitt and Montel Harris' ACC record for a sophomore. His 24 touchdowns also broke Tony Dorsett's school record and set the mark for the most ever by an ACC player.
11. Duke Johnson, Running Back, Miami
STATS: 1,520 rushing yards, 6.9 YPC, 370 receiving yards, 13 total TD
Johnson finally exploded in his junior year finishing 5th nationally in yards from scrimmage and 3rd in the country among major conference players. That's pretty impressive considering the Canes were playing a true freshman at quarterback. Perhaps the biggest feat he managed was becoming Miami's all-time career rushing leader this season. That's a nice record to keep in your back pocket.
10. Hau'oli Kikaha, Linebacker, Washington
STATS: 67 tackles, 18 sacks, 24 TFL
The nation's top sack leader starts off the top ten. Kikaha put together a fine season that saw him pick up a at least one sack in Washington's first 10 games--and that mark last 14 games going back to the end of 2013. He also finished second nationally in tackles for loss.
9. Ameer Abdullah, Running Back, Nebraska
STATS: 1,523 rushing yards, 6.43 YPC, 208 receiving yards, 21 total TD
In late September it looked like Adbullah had a great shot to be a Heisman finalist but he just couldn't maintain enough consistency to keep up the high level productivity.
He finished 2014 rushing for at least 200 yards in 4 separate games but hurt his knee against Purdue (1 yards on 6 carries) and ran for less than 70 yards against McNeese State, Michigan State, and Wisconsin. A fine season indeed, but just short of elite of elite.
8. J.T. Barrett, Quarterback, Ohio State
STATS: 2,834 passing yards, 64.6%, 34 TD, 10 INT, 938 rushing yards, 11 rushing TD
Barrett could have been a finalist but his injury and subsequent performance by Cardale Jones dropped his ranking a little bit. Plus, he struggled in a loss to Virginia Tech and in a near loss to Penn State. Besides that though you can't complain about 45 total touchdowns, almost 1,000 yards on the ground to go with a healthy 9.0 yards per attempt combined with his completion percentage.
7. Tyler Lockett, Wide Receiver, Kansas State
STATS: 93 receptions, 1,351 receiving yards, 2,047 all-purpose yards, 11 total TD
Lockett is under-sized but might be one of the most versatile players in the country. I'll be interested to see what he can do in the NFL. He's got a little Golden Tate to him. Lockett finished 8th in receptions and 4th in receiving yardage, while being one of the nation's best punt returners. What's more, he finished the regular season in style with 14 catches, 158 yards, and 1 touchdown against Baylor.
6. Amari Cooper, Wide Receiver, Alabama
STATS: 115 receptions, 1,656 yards, 14 TD
The reasons I don't have Cooper a little higher are that he's one of a few stud weapons on Alabama's offense and he didn't make an impact in the run game or special teams.
He still shattered the Crimson Tide records books and sits atop nearly every major statistical category (single-season and career) for Alabama. Cooper finished second nationally in yards per game, first in receptions, first in yards, and tied with our own Will Fuller for second in touchdown receptions .
5. Trevone Boykin, Quarterback, TCU
STATS: 3,714 passing yards, 60.5%, 30 TD, 7 INT, 642 rushing yards, 8 rushing TD
Boykin was consistently playing at a high level this season which I put a lot of weight in if you hadn't noticed already. His game against West Virginia (12 for 30, 166 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT) was his biggest clunker but other than that he threw for over 200 yards in every game. You could also argue that despite the Horned Frogs scoring 58 points, Boykin could have done more than just 1 touchdown (and 332 total yards) in his team's only loss of the season. I do admit Boykin being this high is due to TCU's great season but he really was a big part of everything.
4. Melvin Gordon, Running Back, Wisconsin
STATS: 2,336 rushing yards, 7.5 YPC, 151 receiving yards, 29 total TD
The 4th most rushing yards in single season history lands Melvin Gordon in 4th place. If he and the Badgers hadn't of fallen flat on their face in the Big Ten Title Game he probably would have placed another spot or two higher. As it is, Gordon had at least 100 yards in 11 out of 13 games and 5 games of at least 200 yards, including his short-lived single game record of 408 yards against Nebraska.
3. Scooby Wright, Linebacker, Arizona
STATS: 153 tackles, 27 TFL, 14 sacks, 6 forced fumbles
Hands down the best defender in the country for 2014.
Now, Wright didn't have the game-changing interceptions like Manti Te'o in 2012 but for comparisons sake he had 40 more tackles, 21.5 more tackles for loss, and 12.5 more sacks. Ndamukong Suh in 2009 had what is considered the best defensive performance in recent times and Scooby Wright has nearly twice the tackles, 6.5 more tackles for loss, and 2 more sacks. Shouldn't Scooby be going to New York?
2. Tevin Coleman, Running Back, Indiana
STATS: 2,036 rushing yards, 7.5 YPC, 141 receiving yards, 15 TD
Who did more with less this season? Over 2,000 yards at Indiana? Are you kidding me? Coleman had at least 100 yards in all but one game and added 4 games of at least 200 yards. All of that with a true freshman quarterback playing the majority of the season and the Hoosiers barely able to throw the ball. In a more perfect world Coleman at least gets an invite to New York.
1. Marcus Mariota, Quarterback, Oregon
STATS: 3,783 passing yards, 68.3%, 38 TD, 2 INT, 669 rushing yards, 14 rushing TD
If Oregon can win a national title this might go down as one of the best seasons in college football season at the quarterback position.
Even in the Ducks lone loss Mariota put up 276 passing yards, no picks, and a pair of touchdowns. That's as bad as it got for him as the rest of the season was lights out, including a demolition in a rematch against Arizona last weekend. Only 2 picks on 372 passing attempts is just ridiculous and the lowest interception ratio in history. He clearly deserves the Heisman on Sunday.