Marcus Mariota taking home this year’s Heisman Trophy was pretty much a foregone conclusion. Now, we get to see how this year’s top 10 finishers in the Heisman race fare in their bowl games (well, 8 of the top 10: 2000-yard rusher Tevin Coleman of Indiana didn’t make a bowl and while Ohio State is in the playoff, JT Barrett’s season ended against Michigan with a broken ankle).
Peach Bowl December 31: No. 9 Ole Miss vs No. 6 TCU (-3)
Trevone Boykin finished fourth in this year’s Heisman voting, just missing an invitation to New York as a finalist, similar to how TCU found themselves on the outside looking in for the inaugural College Football Playoff. An unfortunate circumstance on both accounts. We’ll get to see how Boykin and TCU’s high-scoring offense (46.8 Points per game, 2nd in FBS) fare against Ole Miss’s Landshark defense.
Fiesta Bowl December 31: No. 20 Boise St vs No. 10 Arizona (-3)
Scooby Wright (1st in FBS with 153 tackles, 2nd in FBS with 14 sacks), the lone defense player to finish in the top 10 in Heisman voting this year leads an Arizona team that game Oregon their only loss of the season. Wright, the Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year as well as the winner of the Nagurski, Bednarik, and Lombardi Awards this season, will look to slow down Boise State’s offense, which ranks 9th in FSB in scoring at 39.8 points per game.
Orange Bowl December 31: No. 7 Mississippi State (-7) vs No. 12 Georgia Tech
Dak Prescott found himself atop most Heisman polls for several weeks this season, as Mississippi State found themselves at #1 in the College Football Playoff Rankings for four weeks. Prescott’s Heisman aspirations took a hit as Mississippi State’s playoffs hopes were dashed following a loss to Alabama and a loss to Ole Miss in the Egg Bowl in the final regular season game. Georgia Tech had a strong showing, but came up 2 point short against last year’s Heisman winner Jameis Winston and Florida State in the ACC Championship game.
Outback Bowl January 1: Auburn (-6.5) vs Wisconsin
Melvin Gordon, is coming off of one of the most prolific rushing seasons in college football history. Led the nation in rushing yards (2336), rushing touchdowns (26), yards from scrimmage (2487) and total touchdowns (29), taking home the Doak Walker Award.
In the process, he broke LaDanian Tomlinson’s FBS single-game rushing yardage record with 408 yards only playing 3 quarters (only to have that record broken the following week by Oklahoma’s Semaje Perine) and Ron Dayne’s school and Big Ten records for rushing yards in a season. After an embarrassing 59-0 blowout by Ohio State in the Big Ten Championship game, Gordon and the Badgers look to rebound against Auburn. The Tigers had their own share of disappointment this season, lacking the good fortune they found last season in their run to the National Championship.
Cotton Bowl January 1: No. 8 Michigan State vs No. 5 Baylor (-2.5)
Bryce Petty and Baylor got the short end of the stick in the College Football Playoff rankings, finishing fifth and being the first team out. Coach Art Briles was quite outspoken regarding Baylor’s snub, and they will likely come out looking to make a statement against the Spartans. Baylor boasts the top scoring offense in FBS, putting up 48.8 points per game, while Michigan State is 6th in FBS in scoring at 43.1 points per game.
Rose Bowl January 1: No. 2 Oregon (-9) vs No. 3 Florida State
This College Football Playoff semifinal game features this year’s Heisman winner, Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota, against last year’s Heisman winner, Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston. This marks only the third time Heisman winning quarterbacks have met in a bowl game (2003 Heisman winner Jason White of Oklahoma vs 2004 Heisman winner Matt Leinart of USC in the 2005 Orange Bowl, won by USC; 2007 Heisman winner Tim Tebow of Florida vs 2008 Heisman winner Sam Bradford of Oklahoma in the 2009 National Championship, won by Florida).
Mariota lead’s an Oregon offense that is 3rd FBS in scoring (46.3 points per game) against Winston’s Seminoles who have won 29 straight games, including last season’s National Championship. If the Ducks win, Mariota will have a chance to be the fifth player since 2000 to win the Heisman and National Championship in the same season (Leinart in 2004, Ingram in 2009, Newton in 2010, Winston in 2013). If the Seminoles win, they’ll become the 5th team since 1950 to win 30 consecutive games and have a chance to win back-to-back National Championships with consecutive undefeated seasons, a feat the modern dynasties of Miami, USC, and Alabama were unable to accomplish.
Sugar Bowl January 1: No. 1 Alabama (-9) vs No. 4 Ohio State
If not for JT Barrett’s injury, we would see two top 10 Heisman finishers in this College Football Playoff semifinal game. Amari Cooper, the Biletnikoff Award winner and SEC Offensive Player of the Year, looks to continue his impressive season against Ohio State. Cooper was first in FBS with 115 receptions, second in FBS with 1656 receiving yards, and third in FBS with 14 receiving touchdowns. The Buckeye’s prolific offense (4th in FBS at 45.2 points per game) will battle the stingy Crimson Tide defense (giving up 16.6 points per game, 4th in FBS). The winner will face the winner of the Rose Bowl in the National Championship.
For what it’s worth, top 10 Heisman finishers are 68-67 in bowl games since 2000, with 19 head-to-head matchups.