After a late night of consulting with my usual divinatory sources — mainly some recently legalized tea leaves from neighboring states — I feel confident telling you Oregon Ducks quarterback Marcus Mariota will win the Heisman next season. If gambling wasn’t such a sin, I’d say you should bet on it. Hell, even if Hell scares you, bet on it anyway. Your soul only weighs 21 grams –science, y’all! — and the amount of money you’d potentially be raking in from Vegas would allow you to buy 21 grams of just about anything you could possibly want: white chocolate encrusted with platinum, Jennifer Lawrence’s dandruff, recently shed snakeskin from the world’s rarest snake, cumin, or high-grade narcotics.
However, I recognize some of you don’t put a lot of stock in information divined from the spirit realm, especially when the medium through which that information passes is yours truly. You probably want “supporting evidence” and “good reasons” and whatnot (which is crap, by the way, since it’s illogical to expect conjecture-based talking points made in April to hold true for an entire football season. Really, you’re better off just trusting my psychic powers). So to please all of you grumbling readers who desire justifications for an ironclad claim — he will, not “could,” win the Heisman — that can in no way actually be justified at this point, here are three solid reasons why Mariota will be hoisting college football’s most prestigious award come December.
1) (Perceived) lack of a supporting cast
Hey, it’s kinda a paradox, so you know it must be true! With Josh Huff and De’Anthony Thomas departed to the NFL and Bralon Addison having suffered an ACL tear earlier this month, Mariota will be lacking some of his biggest go-to weapons — yay for sports-as-war metaphors! — from 2013 when he takes the field this fall. Heisman voters love a good overcoming-the-odds story, and Mariota’s first season of college ball without having the likes of Thomas and Huff at his side is the exact type of “adversity” voters drool over. Of course, it’s not exactly like the rest of the Ducks are talentless hacks — only people who write about the Ducks are talentless hacks. And bandwagoners. And probably hipsters — but Oregon’s lack of fellow “big-name” players with whom ESPN talking heads are already familiar should create a situation in which the Mariota narrative is spun in such a way as to make him appear analogous to a solitary wrecking ball able to excel despite being surrounded by less-famous, less-gifted wrecking balls. (Okay, as bad as sports-as-war metaphors are, sports-as-construction-equipment metaphors are probably worse.) Speaking of ESPN and their narrative machine…
2) Michigan State. September 6. Autzen Stadium.
As we all know, football pundits on the East Coast are usually too drowsy to stay up late watching Pac-12 games. (I don’t get why they just don’t try insomnia. It always works for me.) This leads to exceptional Pac-12 performances being disproportionately ignored by the national media, which is totally a real thing that happens and isn’t just something I’m saying as a manifestation of a paranoid inferiority complex. However, Oregon’s date with defending Rose Bowl champion Michigan State on Sept. 6 will be the focus of the entire college football nation, and not just because of the timeless “could 500 ducks defeat a well-trained Spartan?” question philosophers have been wrestling with for millennia. A Heisman winner needs to have a big game when the spotlight is brightest, and Mariota sure as shootin’ won’t be the center of attention when the Ducks play the Washington State Cougars in some godforsaken night game. The Spartans had one of the best defenses in college football last season — like, numbers back it up and everything — and their old-school, smash-mouth, real-men-don’t-need-gimmicks style of football will provide pundits with bountiful opportunities to amplify the importance of the game, turning it from merely an exciting contest between two top-tier opponents into an ideological battle for football purity. Such hype, however asinine and reductive, will elevate the stakes, and a strong showing from Mariota in such a highly anticipated contest would go a long way towards securing his Heisman victory.
3) Size matters, as does health
Unless you were living under a rock last season, you probably know about Mariota’s 2013 knee injury. After tweaking his left knee against the UCLA Bruins, Mariota looked gimpy the following week against the Stanford Cardinal. Stripped of his ability to run at his usual gazelle-after-two-Red-Bulls speed, Mariota unfortunately wasn’t his normal, dangerous self in Oregon’s biggest game of the year, and the Ducks subsequently lost 26-20. Because most people who talk about football on national TV for a living are idiots, questions began to arise regarding Mariota’s toughness (you know, because a MANLY MAN wouldn’t let a sprained knee slow him down. Modern medicine has show only pansies are hampered by knee problems). While he recovered enough to put together an amazing performance in the Civil War — the best since Ben Horne, I’d say — and a great game against the Texas Longhorns in the Corporate Sponsor Bowl, he still clearly wasn’t 100 percent, and questions about his health have been frequent this spring. To increase his durability, Mariota has bulked up, and he plans on playing at 220 pounds this fall. Despite what the consolatory voice inside your head tells you every disappointing Friday night, size really does matter, and a beefier (and finally healthy) Mariota should be wreak havoc on Pac-12 defenses — cue SEC fans: “LOL what defenses?” — in 2014.