By Kevin McGuire
There is a quarterback playing college football in the state of Oregon who is currently leading the nation in passing yards, touchdowns and passing yards per game. He also leads the Pac 12 in pass completion percentage, and he is not the player you may be thinking of.
QB Sean Mannion, Oregon State
The Pac 12 has a few quarterbacks being talked about when discussing the Heisman Trophy this season. While Oregon’s Marcus Mariota may be emerging as the Heisman favorite at this point in the season, Oregon State’s Sean Mannion has been doing more than enough to stay in the running, and may be the ultimate sleeper pick this season.
One reason Mannion has been piling up the passing stats this season is because Oregon State likes to pass the football. The Beavers run the ball less than any team in the Pac 12 except for Washington State. Oregon State averages just 27.86 rushing attempts per game, which is at least seven fewer than every other Pac 12 school beside Washington State. But the Beavers feel comfortable passing the football with Mannion behind center, as well they should.
Mannion has the second-highest passer rating in the Pac 12 on third downs, second-highest completion percentage between the 40-yard lines and 23 red-zone touchdowns thrown out of 46 trips inside the opponent’s 20-yard line.
Oregon State’s second half of the season will provide some opportunities to open some eyes to the profile Mannion has been building this season. This weekend, Mannion leads Oregon State at home against No. 6 Stanford. Next week, Oregon State hosts USC in a nationally televised game on a Friday night. Games against Arizona State and Washington will all build up to The Civil War, the annual regular season finale with rival Oregon.
Mannion is going to have his chances coming up to prove he is worthy of belonging in the Heisman conversation. How he capitalizes on those moments will be the key to sending him across country for the Heisman ceremony in New York. He may not become the favorite for the Heisman, but a trip to New York is certainly within reason.
Heisman Match-Up of the Week
Alabama vs. Tennessee: With all of the talk about players like Marcus Mariota and Jameis Winston, we have sort of bypassed just how valuable Alabama’s quarterback can be. AJ McCarron has often been thriving in the background to guys like Johnny Manziel and Aaron Murray, but all McCarron has done since being named the starting quarterback at Alabama two seasons ago is win football games. The Heisman is not a career achievement award, but McCarron is worthy of being considered for a trip to New York based on this season’s success. McCarron is second in the SEC in completion percentage and third in passer ratings. More importantly, he plays on a team that is winning and appears to be on track for another national championship run. Those will be factors to some voters. This week, McCarron looks to help Alabama remain undefeated against a Tennessee team coming into Tuscaloosa after upsetting South Carolina.