Heading into Week 4, one Pac-12 player stands alone atop the Heisman ballots of the ESPN writers. Not surprisingly, it’s Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota, who received votes from 15 of the 16 voters. However, Clemson’s Tajh Boyd and Texas A&M’s Johnny Manziel have received more first place votes.
Marcus Mariota, QB, Oregon
Last time out: Completed 23 of 33 passes for 456 yards with four touchdowns and zero interceptions in a 59-14 win over Tennessee. He also rushed for 27 yards on six carries with a touchdown.
Season stats: He’s completing 59.8 percent of his passes (49 of 82) for 889 yards with seven touchdowns and no interceptions. He’s rushed for 262 yards on 15 carries (17.5 yards per rush) with four touchdowns.
Why he could win: He’s going to put up fantastic dual-threat numbers and he’s doing it for a team that will be in the hunt for a national championship. That means high-profile games and plenty of time on SportsCenter. He’s second nationally in the QBR rating, less than a point behind Baylor’s Bryce Petty. He won't have a chance for a signature win until at least October, but winning at Stanford Nov. 7 would help as well.
Any questions: He’s going to have to do two things: Prove he’s better than the reigning Heisman champ in the eyes of the voters and prove he’s the best quarterback in the conference. Most people tend to think he is, but others are putting up some huge numbers as well. The offense he commands should provide plenty of “Heisman moments” for those that look at that sort of thing.
Brett Hundley, QB, UCLA
Last time out: Completed 16 of 24 passes for 294 yards with three touchdowns and an interception in the win at Nebraska. He also rushed 19 times for 61 yards.
Season stats: He’s completing 66.7 percent of his passes (38 of 57) for 568 yards with five touchdowns to one interception. He’s also rushed 26 times for 124 yards with two touchdowns.
Why he could win: Like Mariota, he’s going to put up fantastic dual-threat numbers because of the offense he operates. He has one quality win under his belt with the road victory at Nebraska, but will be tested with the back-to-back road games at Stanford and Oregon.
Any questions: Hundley’s a winner, but through two games (I know, it’s early) he’s not at the top of any of the quarterback rankings. He’s 15th in efficiency and 13th in QBR. Keep an eye out, also, for sacks and fumbles. He’s fumbled twice (though is yet to lose one) and he’s been sacked three times. The Stanford-Oregon stretch will likely define his candidacy.
De'Anthony Thomas, RB, Oregon
Last time out: Carried 13 times for 56 yards and a touchdown in the win over Tennessee. Caught one ball for 28 yards.
Season stats: Has 42 carries for 338 yards (an average of 8 yards per attempt) with six touchdowns. Has three catches for 58 yards with no touchdowns. He’s also averaging 22.25 yards per kick return.
Why he could win: We’re finally getting to see what Thomas can do as an (almost) every down back. And so far, he’s been fantastic, as evidenced by his 8 yards per carry. The most dynamic back in the country is getting more touches. He had 147 in his career coming into this season -- so look for him to surpass that total in the next few weeks. If he can keep up this pace, he’ll get the attention he deserves. And if his receptions and special teams production take off, look out.
Any questions: Going to be tough with Mariota stealing a lot of the hype. We also need to see what the increased production does to him throughout the course of the season. Can he continue to carry the ball 15-20 times per game without wearing down?
Those were three who received votes in the ESPN.com poll, but there are others to keep an eye on:
Sean Mannion, QB, Oregon State: Once locked in an offseason quarterback competition, Mannion is now tied for the national lead with 12 touchdowns. He’s posted a raw QBR of at least 91 in two of Oregon State’s three games and he’s second nationally in passing yards and completions.
Ka'Deem Carey, RB, Arizona: He’s averaging 7 yards per carry and has rushed for 299 yards and four touchdowns in two games. He has the name value after leading the nation in rushing last year. But missing that first game -- which could have been a real stat-booster -- could hurt in the long run.
Bishop Sankey, RB, Washington: He’s averaging 6.1 yards per carry, but leads the country in rushing yards per game with 184.5. He has four rushing touchdowns and is proving to be a reliable out of the backfield. He’s been targeted four times and has four receptions for 75 yards.