December 15, 2014 - by
Heisman vs. Heisman: Winston, Mariota in spotlight at Rose Bowl

By Tim Linafelt Senior Writer
@Tim_Linafelt on Twitter 

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — What had previously been assumed is now a reality.

Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota ran away with the Heisman Trophy on Saturday night, securing a whopping 90.9 percent of the first-place votes to become the Ducks’ first winner of college football’s most famous award.

Which means that when No. 3 FSU takes on No. 2 Oregon at the Rose Bowl on Jan. 1, the two most recent Heisman winners will share the field for just the third time in history.

“That kid is a great kid,” Fisher said about Mariota. “He’s very deserving. He had a tremendous year and the team had a tremendous year.”

Incidentally, current Heisman winners are 1-1 against the previous year’s. Matt Leinert and Southern California whipped Oklahoma and 2003 winner Jason White, 55-19, in the 2005 Orange Bowl.

Then in 2009, Tim Tebow and Florida slipped past recently-crowned Sam Bradford and the Sooners, 24-14, in the BCS National Championship Game.

Florida State, of course, is hoping that the more-recent history holds true.

Winston finished sixth in the Heisman vote after throwing 3,559 yards, 24 touchdowns and 17 interceptions.

His numbers are down from his historic freshman season, when he threw for an astonishing 40 touchdowns (and added four more on the ground) against just 10 interceptions.

But Fisher has often hinted that Winston has been even better this season, as he’s had to guide an offense that lost several significant pieces from last year’s team.

And besides, Winston enters the Rose Bowl coming off perhaps his best performance of the season, a 21-30, 309-yard outburst against Georgia Tech in the ACC Championship Game.

He threw for three first-half touchdowns as the Seminoles secured their place in the College Football Playoff with a 37-35 win.

”[Winston] is elite,” Fisher said. ”He’s special. He’s different than anybody I’ve ever been around.”

Mariota, meanwhile, grabbed virtually every major award after lighting up the stat sheets this season. In addition to the Heisman, Mariota took home the Davey O’Brien, Walter Camp and Maxwell Awards.

Winston won all but the Maxwell last year.

“Everything starts with [Mariota] at Oregon,” Fisher said. “He’s a tremendous player and he can affect you in so many ways.

“Not just with the arm and the feet, but with his mind and intangibles.”

Since 1990, only six Heisman winners have also won a national title in their Heisman season: FSU’s Charlie Ward (1993), Florida’s Danny Wuerffel (1996), Michigan’s Charles Woodson (1997), USC’s Matt Leinart (2004), Alabama’s Mark Ingram (2009), Auburn’s Cam Newton (2010) and Winston (2013).

Unlike those previous winners, Winston and Mariota now have an extra step to take before they can realize their championship aspirations.

FSU coach Jimbo Fisher and Oregon coach Mark Helfrich each cautioned against placing too much stock in the quarterback matchup and reminded that both teams are built the strength of much more than their quarterbacks.

But they also allowed that the quarterback matchup – and the sheer talent shared by each – could make the Rose Bowl one for the history books.

“You have two of the greatest of all time at their position, and great teams,” Oregon coach Mark Helfrich said.

“It’s what college football is all about,” Fisher added. “You’ve got two of the greatest players in college football right now.

“That makes for great TV, it makes for great competition and that’s what it’s about: getting the best against the best.”

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