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Oregon's Marcus Mariota heads list of Heisman finalists

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Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota has been joined as a Heisman finalist by Wisconsin tailback Melvin Gordon and Alabama wide receiver Amari Cooper.


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The trophy will be handed out Saturday night, and Mariota is considered a lock to win -- such a lock that it's possible he receives the highest percentage of first-place votes in history. Ohio State quarterback Troy Smith holds the record with 86 percent of the first-place votes, in 2006.

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Monday was the final day of voting for the award, and the announcement of who was being invited to the ceremony came Monday night. All three finalists are juniors; Smith is the most recent senior to win the award.

There were six finalists last season, when Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston won the award. There were three finalists in 2012, five in 2011 and four in 2010. Mariota would be the fifth consecutive quarterback to win the award. As it stands, 12 of the past 14 winners have been quarterbacks; the only non-quarterbacks in that stretch were running backs Mark Ingram of Alabama in 2009 and Reggie Bush of USC in 2005.

Mariota has had a monster season in leading the Ducks to the playoff. He has thrown for 3,773 yards and 38 TDs with just two interceptions, and also has rushed for 669 yards and 14 scores. He accounted for at least four TDs in 10 games this season and at least five TDs four times. He also has thrown at least two TD passes in every contest, at least three TD passes seven times, and at least four TD passes three times. He is second nationally in TD passes and is fifth in total offense at 341.7 yards per game. Mariota is the first quarterback in FBS history to throw at least 30 TD passes as a freshman, sophomore and junior, and his career TD-to-interception ratio is 99-to-12.

Gordon looks as if he will finish second. He leads the nation with 2,336 rushing yards and 26 rushing TDs; the yardage total is the fourth-highest in FBS history. He has had 11 100-yard games and five 200-yard outings this season. He has run for more yards by himself than 86 teams.

Cooper has 115 receptions for 1,665 yards and 14 touchdowns; he leads the nation in receptions (the total is an SEC single-season record) and receiving yardage, and is arguably playoff-bound Alabama's most important player. He has had seven 100-yard games and three 200-yard games this season; he also has had 11 games with at least eight catches and five with at least 10 receptions.

Oregon never has had a Heisman winner. The other finalists are from schools with at least one Heisman winner.

Mike Huguenin can be reached at mike.huguenin@nfl.com. You also can follow him on Twitter @MikeHuguenin.

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