Tweetbag: Can Amari Cooper win the Heisman?

Week 14 college football action is in the books, so we decided to fire up the Tweetbag to tackle the burning topics on your mind this season, from top pro prospects to the best teams in the sport.



Feel free to submit your questions to @BryanDFischer on Twitter each Monday or early Tuesday morning to get them answered every week. Without further ado, let the smorgasbord of questions commence.

First off, I'll disclose that I am a Heisman Trophy voter and will be casting my ballot Sunday like the majority of others who will have an eye on the Pac-12, SEC and Big Ten championship games this week. I look at the award as a season-long thing, so I won't be that influenced by a single contest, but the potential exists for me to move folks around on my ballot.

You're allowed to select only three players, and I'm fairly confident Oregon's Marcus Mariota, Wisconsin's Melvin Gordon and Alabama's Amari Cooper will be on my ballot. It's really a shame you can vote for only three, because I think Arizona's Scooby Wright III, Washington's Shaq Thompson, Ohio State's J.T. Barrett, Indiana's Tevin Coleman and others should wind up in New York City for the ceremony.

I'm firmly in the camp that believes the award is Mariota's to lose at this point, but huge performances by Cooper or Gordon in their conference title games could help them make a run and at least close the gap. Some voters will have a "what have you done for me lately" approach and bump the biggest performances up a spot or two on their ballots, and Mariota being on the West Coast will hurt him with some who submit their ballots early.

Mariota would have to be quite bad Friday in the Pac-12 title game (two or three interceptions and a fumble in a big loss) to really open the door. If that happens and Gordon runs for 300 with a couple of touchdowns to win the Big Ten, or if Cooper goes off for 200-plus yards receiving with three touchdowns, maybe they can close the gap and sneak out a close victory in the Heisman race. All three have truly been outstanding this season, however, and each has a great case to win, but I can't help but think Mariota will be holding the trophy up in the end.

Alabama will go into Atlanta as a heavy favorite to win the SEC title, and rightfully so, the way they've been playing. I'm not ruling out a Missouri upset, however, even if the odds are steep.

Keep in mind that the Tide are a vastly different team away from home. They suffered their only loss on the road and put up fewer points and yards on the road, by a considerable margin. The Tide playing badly and turning the ball over is the first thing that would have to happen for the Tigers to have a shot.



Secondly, the Mizzou offense needs to protect the ball and put up some long, effective drives. Limiting the number of possessions for each team will help, and if the Tigers can get touchdowns instead of field goals, there's a shot. Turning Markus Golden and Shane Ray loose off the edges to make life miserable for Alabama quarterback Blake Sims is a must.

I'm not ruling out an upset at all but it will take the best game Missouri has played all year to have even a chance.

Lane Kiffin has done a tremendous job in Tuscaloosa, and you can tell others are recognizing that fact when he was named a finalist for the Broyles Award as the nation's top assistant coach. He's getting the ball into the hands of his remarkably talented players and has done a great job developing Blake Sims into a high-level passer. A lot of his failings as a head coach came down to how he ran his program from the top down. Learning Nick Saban's "process" should do nothing but make him a better head coach when the time comes.

Whether that time is this offseason remains to be seen. I think Kiffin will serve at least one more season as offensive coordinator at Alabama before kicking the tires on another job. When that happens, I expect a much more polished head coach than what we saw when he was at Tennessee and USC. I doubt he gets a major job like that -- or Florida this year as some are suggesting -- but a nice Group of Five program should be in play for him.

What remains interesting to me is whether Kiffin gets a head-coaching job before his old friend Ed Orgeron, who stepped in as interim head coach at USC last year after Kiffin was fired.

It would be beyond surprising if Oregon offensive coordinator Scott Frost doesn't get at least an interview for the job. Part of that could be a nod to appeasing the fan base, but I can't help but think that won't be the direction athletic director Shawn Eichorst goes. If Frost does get the job, I would imagine he'd stay in Eugene through the end of the Ducks' season, with them in the playoffs either way.



As far as the Nebraska job itself, it wouldn't be surprising if Memphis coach Justin Fuente is the guy who winds up getting a look there. He's familiar with that part of the country and would be able to revive some of the Texas recruiting ties the program had. He's a good coach and bringing along defensive coordinator Barry Odom will be a big plus. Former Tampa Bay coach Greg Schiano, Wyoming's Craig Bohl and Mississippi State's Dan Mullen will likely get looks but I'm thinking the Cornhuskers go a bit off the radar but stick with somebody who is a current head coach in lieu of targeting assistants such as Michigan State defensive coordinator Pat Narduzzi.

At this point, I expect Clint Bowen's interim tag to be taken off, but athletic director Sheahon Zenger is known to make out-of-nowhere decisions, so nothing can be ruled out. If it's not Bowen, Texas A&M's David Beaty, Ohio State's Ed Warinner or Tom Herman, Nebraska's Tim Beck and even Ed Orgeron will be in the mix. I also wouldn't rule out Clemson defensive coordinator Brent Venables or 49ers assistant Jim Leavitt getting consideration.

Texas A&M is in the mix to land former Florida coach Will Muschamp as defensive coordinator and could be prepared to make him the highest-paid coordinator in the country. They have significant competition from Auburn, a place that also has an opening and is pursuing Muschamp, who used to work on the Plains.

If the Aggies miss out on Muschamp, I would expect them to target Wisconsin's terrific Dave Aranda, with Houston's David Gibbs as a fallback option. One report said Pat Narduzzi could wind up in College Station, but I think that might be a stretch. Either way, expect Kevin Sumlin to find a good fit and upgrade that side of the ball in a big way.

You can follow Bryan Fischer on Twitter at @BryanDFischer.

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