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National spotlight on Ducks, Mariota at season midpoint
Release Date: 10/16/2013
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by Rob Moseley

After a resounding victory over then-No. 16 Washington on Saturday, with several national college football writers in attendance, the No. 2 Ducks and their quarterback are still in the national spotlight this week. (Follow that link for national coverage of the game.)

Sports Illustrated, which had writer Stewart Mandel in Seattle, has a midseason "Crystal Ball" projection in which all seven participating writers picked Oregon to face Alabama in the BCS National Championship game. Four of the seven  though not Mandel  picked the Ducks to win their first national championship.

"We'll learn a lot more about the Ducks over the next few weeks, but it's clear that no one has been able to stop them so far," Pete Thamel wrote. "We can look forward to five weeks of comparing Oregon speed to SEC speed."

Marcus Mariota is almost unanimously considered this season's all-American quarterback at this point. Midseason all-America teams assembled by Sports Illustrated, USA Today, CBS Sports, Phil Steele and ESPN all have Mariota at quarterback, and he received a plurality of votes from writers. George Schroeder of USA Today, Dennis Dodd of CBS Sports and Ted Miller of ESPN all covered the UO-UW game in person.

"Who didn't believe Oregon's offense would slip without coach Chip Kelly?" ESPN's Mark Schlabach wrote. "Mariota, a sophomore from Honolulu, has been even better under new coach Mark Helfrich, completing 60.6 percent of his passes for 1,724 yards with 17 touchdowns, while running for 426 yards with eight scores for the No. 2 Ducks.

"He leads FBS players with a 97.0 QBR rating. Even better: Mariota hasn't thrown an interception in 165 pass attempts and has been sacked only five times in six games."

Hroniss Grasu, Ifo Ekpre-Olomu, Bralon Addison, Tyler Johnstone and Tony Washington all appeared on one or more of those midseason all-America teams, as well.

Schlabach's kicker regarding Mariota: "The trigger man in the country's most explosive offense looks like the guy to beat in the Heisman Trophy race." Other analysis from around the country bears that out as well.

Currently, Mariota is the leading Heisman candidate according to Sports Illustrated, ESPN, USA Today, CBS Sports, Yahoo! Sports and the Heisman Pundit. Pat Forde of Yahoo! Sports was on hand in Seattle this past Saturday.

"National exposure plays a major role in the Heisman race, and Mariota simply hadn’t been on the field much in many of the Ducks’ blowout victories," SI wrote. "In fact, he had yet to play into the fourth quarter this season before Saturday.

"Against Washington, however, Mariota found himself in a tight contest heading into the final 15 minutes of the game, and the quarterback — as Heisman contenders are supposed to do — delivered."

In the Heisman Pundit's straw poll of actual voters, Mariota received seven of 10 first-place votes this week.

"Mariota responded flawlessly in Oregon's first true test of 2013, a trip to rowdy and raucous Husky Stadium, and cemented his grasp atop the Heisman hill as the season breaks through the midway point," USA Today wrote. "Better yet, Mariota has several additional opportunities to impress the masses down the stretch – UCLA, Stanford and Oregon State, for starters."

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