Brian Dohn, National Recruiting Analyst
My ballot, in order, was Marcus Mariota, Amari Cooper and Melvin Gordon. I though there were the top three players in the nation, and that was before I went and looked at their statistics. In choosing Mariota first, it was based on watching him play, and his ability to make the correct reads and throw the ball with tremendous accuracy while playing at a high level.Yes, he plays in a quarterback—friendly offense built to put up huge numbers, but he was amazing. His 38 touchdowns was one thing, but two interceptions in 372 attempts was more impressive. And that he was able to avenge Oregon’s only loss with a 313-yard, two-touchdown performance against Arizona in the Pac-12 title game fulfilled the missing piece on his resume.
Factor in Mariota ran for nearly 700 yards and 14 touchdowns, and his ability to elude the pass rush, and Mariota was not only the best player in college football, he was also the most impactful.
Chip Brown, Hornsdigest
I narrowed my list of potential Heisman finalists to Arizona LB Scooby Wright, Louisville S Gerod Holliman, Colorado State WR Rashard Higgins, Alabama WR Amari Cooper, Oregon QB Marcus Mariota, Ohio State QB J.T. Barrett, TCU QB Trevone Boykin, Wisconsin RB Melvin Gordon, Utah DE Nate Orchard and Washington OLB Hau'oli Kikaha.
And then I went about really breaking down those players' numbers in games that mattered most to their teams and I came away with three players in this order: 1) Marcus Mariota, QB, Oregon ... 2) Trevone Boykin, QB, TCU ... and 3) Amari Cooper, WR, Alabama.
I always hope the Heisman voters wait until the final games are played on Championship Weekend before sending in their votes. If they had, I think more votes would have gone to Boykin, who truly had a special year (30 TD passes, 7 INTs, 642 yards rushing and 8 TDs on the ground), in helping TCU go from a 4-8 season to 11-1 in a new offense.
Cooper (115 catches, 1,656 receiving yards and 14 TDs) came up big, time and time again, including 60 minutes of "Heisman moments" in a 55-44 win over Auburn with 13 catches for 224 yards and 3 TDs.
Ultimately, Mariota's 38 TD passes and 2 INTs as well as his 669 rushing yards (5.7 ypc) and 14 rushing TDs were simply overwhelming in helping Oregon become a championship-caliber team. And Mariota's selflessness embodies the Heisman Trophy's credo as the "outstanding college football player whose performance best exhibits the pursuit of excellence with integrity."
Mark Brennan, Fight on State
Melvin Gordon had a chance to make a run at my top spot with a huge game against Ohio State. When that didn’t happen, Marcus Mariota became the clear No. 1. His numbers are ridiculous, he smoked the one team that gave him trouble earlier in the year and he is the leader on what may be the best team in the nation. I went with Amari Cooper in the second spot. He was unstoppable in big games and posted great numbers in a balanced offense. It was between Gordon and Trevone Boykin for the final spot, and I gave Boykin the nod because he was better in big games, was better against their one common opponent (Minnesota) was a legit difference-maker for the Frogs. Take Boykin out of the TCU offense, and there is no way it is a one-loss playoff team. Take Gordon out of the Wisconsin offense, and the Badgers would have finished right where they finished.
Dudley Dawson, Hawgs Illustrated
I thought there were a lot of great candidates, but in the end I just think Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota embodied everything that the award is supposed to be about - great athletic achievement and character. That was proven true in his acceptance speech, which was less about himself and more about his teammates and the people around him who made him the person and the football player he has turned into. It certainly didn't hurt at all that he had 3,873 yards passing, completed nearly 70 percent of his attempts, had 38 touchdown passes to 2 interceptions, was his team's unquestioned leader and remain steadfast after the Arizona loss when he had to play behind a makeshift offensive line. The other two young men that were finalists also were fine representatives for the award, but in the end I just felt like the case Mariota put forth was the best.
Ryan Abraham, USCFootball
My Heisman Trophy ballot mimicked the actual results, with Mariota winning, Gordon in second and Cooper in third. Like the other voters I felt Mariota was the most dynamic player in college football this year, leading Oregon on their historic run. He was even more impressive after the home loss to Arizona, and while there wasn't a Tim Tebow-type speech that we know about, his play and results speak for themselves. Running backs are now underrepresented in the Heisman after dominating the award for many years. Gordon's numbers were historic and in my opinion he had to be on the ballot. Normally I am not one to put a receiver on the ballot, but his production was such a significant percentage of Alabama's dominant offense that Cooper earned his trip to New York.
Dean Legge, Dawgpost
My vote really wasn’t that difficult this season. The Heisman race, this season, had a way of clearing some things up along the way.
Jameis Winston played much worse than last season. That, and his never-ending scandals and sideline shenanigans have officially gotten old. Todd Gurley, who was on the way to winning the award, fell victim to selfishness, the NCAA’s perplexing bylaws and injury.
But the best player in the college football, which is what this award is about, is and has been Oregon’s Marcus Mariota. I watched him as often as I could this fall. I saw him play three full games - the 31-24 loss to Arizona, the 59-41 dismantling of Cal and the 51-13 blistering of Arizona in the Pac 12 Championship Game.
Mariota wasn’t himself against the Wildcats the first time. That performance, and Gurley’s romping in SEC play, seemed to knock Mariota out of the Heisman race. But I learned some time ago that you can’t win or lose the Heisman in early October. Mariota and his group are as good at getting into the end zone as anyone in the country. The Ducks’ offense is like their many uniform combinations - an endless combination of sparkle and splash. And no matter the uniform of the day, Mariota usually wears it well, and in the end zone.
Mariota and Oregon have defeated every team they’ve played this season - only their Rose Bowl opponents can make the same claim. The Ducks have been so successful because of their signal caller. The vote, for me, was an easy one. I voted for the best player in the country - Oregon’s Marcus Mariota.
Terry Hutchens, Allhoosiers
My first choice this year on my Heisman Trophy ballot was Marcus Mariota. I voted him No. 1 from a balance standpoint and the fact that he played on one of the best teams in the nation and was getting everyone's best shot every week. His 53 TD's really stand out as well as gaining nearly 350 yards of total offense per game. I just thought he was the one player who separated himself from the field and deserved the Heisman hands down. I went back and forth for No. 2 between Amari Cooper and Melvin Gordon but went with Cooper in the end. Again, when you have that many catches on another high level team that was the difference. Gordon did some amazing things this year but he also didn't face the best rushing defenses in the Big Ten. I actually almost put Indiana's Tevin Coleman as my No. 3 because I thought he faced better defenses en route to his 2,000 yard rushing performance.
Pete Fiutak, College Football News
Marcus Mariota was the easy and obvious choice after the final weekend, and Melvin Gordon was the easy and obvious second choice. I put Trevone Boykin of TCU third in an MVP sort of way. His numbers were Heisman-worthy, and it was his emergence that led the Horned Frogs to the brink of the playoffs. Had there been a fourth choice, it would've been Ohio State's J.T. Barrett after carrying the offense and the team to the Big Ten championship, but Boykin had the better overall year. Amari Cooper was obviously great, but Mariota, Gordon, Boykin and Barrett had more of an overall impact - there's no arguing over his greatness this year, though.