Marcus Mariota has a chance to break 4 Heisman Trophy voting records Saturday night
Here are how many votes the Oregon quarterback will need in order to be one of the most definitive Heisman winners ever.
Marcus Mariota is going to win the Heisman Trophy.
I’ve been writing that for a couple of months now. Mariota’s odds haven’t been worse than even money at Bovada since October 21. Bill Connelly, while writing about how Melvin Gordon and Amari Cooper have profiles identical to past Heisman winners, notes that “When it comes to the Heisman, tie goes to the quarterback.”
The drama is not whether Mariota will win, but, as should be familiar to Oregon fans, margin of victory. There are four standard-bearers Mariota is chasing, two of them USC running backs, and they hold eight records between them. These four are in play Saturday night:
1. Reggie Bush, who received 91.7 percent of possible points in 2005, holds that record. That’s essentially the best measure of unanimity. Mariota can top this by earning 2,558 of this year’s 2,787 points available.
2. Bush also holds the record for being named on the largest percentage of ballots, 95.7. Mariota needs to appear on 891 of the 929 voters’ ballots to top that.
3. Ohio State quarterback Troy Smith holds the record for largest percentage of first-place votes, having earned 86.7 percent in 2006. Mariota needs 807 first place votes to top that.
4. O.J. Simpson holds the record for most total first-place votes, with 855 in 1968. Simpson got his from 1,200 voters, almost 300 more than will submit ballots this year.
Mariota’s got a good shot at the first three. He’s been the runaway leader for months now, his best competition isn’t as stiff as Bush’s was in 2005 (two undefeated quarterbacks, one a former winner), and there can’t be more than a few dozen voters who would leave him off. If he misses, it won’t be by much.
But the other four records? They’re not falling.
5. Simpson holds the record for raw margin of victory. He also earned a record (6.) 2,853 points, dusting the field by 1,750 points in 1968. The Heisman voter roll typically swells each year by one member, the guy who wins the trophy, and the Heisman Trust seems to have settled on a freeze of new voters, so Simpson’s voter pool might not be matched until 2285.
7. “Margin of victory,” in terms of distance between winner and runner-up, is probably best represented by the stat ESPN uses here, since the number of voters has not remained constant:
How close will the Heisman race be? In the last 30 seasons, these are the biggest margins of victory in the voting. pic.twitter.com/B661h15zaQ
— ESPN CollegeFootball (@ESPNCFB) December 13, 2014
But Howard’s “margin of victory” was only the largest in the last 30 years. The largest belongs to Larry Kelley of Yale, whose 213 points in 1936 were 353 percent more than the 47 Sam Francis of Nebraska received. That was the second year the Heisman was awarded. Kelley’s record is likely to last forever.
8. And if you define margin of victory as the difference between first and second in percentage of points received, Smith holds that laurel, garnering 91.6 percent of the total to Darren McFadden’s 31.7 percent. For this one to fall, the second-place finisher would have to earn fewer than 1,114 points if Mariota earns all 2,787.
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I suspect this year’s voting will be similar to 2005, when Bush, Vince Young, and Matt Leinart finished 1-2-3, setting records for points by finishers at all three places. 2005′s fourth-place finisher, Brady Quinn, was on just 156 ballots; this season, I would have to throw a dart to pick the player that might be fourth (J.T. Barrett? Trevone Boykin? Jameis Winston?), and I doubt players other than Mariota, Gordon, and Cooper will show up on that many ballots.
At the bottom line, I have a hard time thinking Mariota will be left off more than a handful of ballots, so I’d bet on Bush’s percentage of ballots record falling. But I think there’s just enough regional appreciation for Gordon and Cooper to steal enough votes to keep this from being a record runaway.
If that happens, Mariota would become the most definitive top-three player in any season in the history of college football, but maybe not the most agreed-on Heisman Trophy winner ever.