TUCSALOOSA – With the 2014 Heisman Trophy selection set for this Saturday, the consensus pick to win college football’s most prestigious award is Oregon Ducks quarterback Marcus Mariota.
Alabama Crimson Tide wideout Amari Cooper may have other ideas.
Cooper, the 6’1 210-pound play maker who single-handily destroyed every Alabama receiving record en route to leading college football in yards receiving (1,656) catches (115), and a new conference record for receptions in a single season (115), has a legitimate shot of possibly pulling off one of the most memorable upsets in Heisman Trophy history.
Cooper stealing the Heisman from the pre-ordained media darling in Mariota would be par with Charles Woodson beating Peyton Manning in 1997, Matt Leinhart over Adrian Peterson in 2004 and Reggie Bush over Vince Young in 2005.
While this is all conjecture until the official announcement is made in New York, the case for Cooper is that thanks to –perhaps the third most hated man in college football after Nick Saban and Urban Meyer—in new offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin, the Miami-born Cooper has transformed the traditionally conservative run-based, defensive-minded Crimson Tide into an explosive offensive juggernaut.
Consider some of the stats per the above, along with the recent statement of Alabama being a run-first, defense-minded program. Along with that, consider that despite having a NCAA-best 16 national titles, that the Tide only have one Heisman Trophy winner in their history in running back Mark Ingram.
It’s one thing to set the single-season mark for catches in the top college football conference in America, but to also set new records at such a pass-averse school as Alabama in career receptions (219), career receiving yards (3,392), career touchdowns (29) and single-game receiving yards (224 vs. Tennessee and Auburn) says something.
While this in no way disrespectful towards Mariota, but this writer sees him as more of a by-product of a gimmicky-spread offense in the most wide-open conference in college football in the PAC-12 that plays—very little—to no defense.
53 total touchdowns and the top passer rating (92.4) is nothing to sneeze in the case of Mariota, but if a team like Arizona and long-time nemesis Stanford can stifle him, you can’t help but wonder if Mariota would put up those type of video-game numbers against SEC teams.
What Cooper has done in the toughest conference in college football for a team and program such as Alabama cannot help but be ignored, and while Mariota may very well claim Oregon’s first-ever Heisman, if Cooper manages to do the impossible, he will join the likes of Desmond Howard (1991) and Tim Brown (1987), as the only wideouts to win the Heisman, and will make sure that the wunderkind Ducks signal-caller joins another—yet dubious—list entirely.
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