The Heisman Trophy is resting comfortably in Pac-12 country. After the conference went a decade without holding college football’s highest individual honor, Oregon’s Marcus Mariota was the runaway winner last season with 788 first-place votes. Melvin Gordon was second (37 first-place votes) followed by Amari Cooper (49 first-place votes).
On to the next one.
Clearly the conference is loaded with plenty of talent on both sides of the ball. We say that because deep down inside, the Pac-12 blog really wants to believe a defensive player will stiff-arm the stiff-arm-naysayers.
Across the ESPN blogosphere Thursday, each conference is looking at its five best Heisman hopefuls. Here’s what the Pac-12 offers in 2015.
Cody Kessler, QB, USC
With Heisman discussions, you have to start with quarterbacks. And Kessler had some impressive numbers last season. But he’s going to be measured by a different barometer than the other guys in the league. Not only is USC in the national spotlight as the preseason favorite to win the conference, but people want to see if Kessler can rise to the occasion when it counts in big games. If he does, he’ll get plenty of looks.
Jared Goff, QB, Cal
Unlike Kessler, Goff’s team isn’t going to be held to a higher standard -- at least nationally. And that’s too bad. Cal is going to have a pretty good offense this season, and if the defense comes around, the Bears could be in the seven-to-eight-win range. If Goff can show he’s the best quarterback in the conference -- and a lot of people think he is -- he’ll start getting the national attention he probably deserved last season.
Devontae Booker, RB, Utah
Over the final 10 games of last season -- when Booker became the Utes' primary back -- he rushed for more than 130 yards per game and scored eight touchdowns on the ground. In seven of those 10 games, he rushed for more than 100 yards. Spread out over an entire season -- and given the fact that the offense is likely going to run through him -- he should get close to the 2,000-yard mark this season. Once that happens, he’ll be on more radars.
Scooby Wright, LB, Arizona
The biggest thing going for Wright -- besides the junkyard full of metal he received last season -- is that he doesn’t just get tackles. He gets sacks and tackles for loss and he strips the ball and he’s always in on big, game-changing plays. If he can duplicate his totals from last season, he’ll get some consideration. Heck, he finished ninth in the voting ahead of Bryce Petty last year, so he’s already on someone’s radar.
Adoree' Jackson, CB, WR, KR, PR, CIA, FBI, POTUS, USC
Continuing a recent trend in the Pac-12 of do-it-all players, Jackson might be the best of the bunch. Productive on defense and explosive on offense and special teams, he’s one of the few players in the country who can truly make an impact in all three phases of the game. If he does that -- and if USC is in national contention -- expect his name to pop up on a few ballots.