Handicapping the Maxwell Award: Mississippi State's Dak Prescott
Dak Prescott just completed the greatest individual season in the history of Mississippi State football, and that won’t change no matter what he does in this year’s Orange Bowl.
The junior set school records for passing yards and rushing yards by a quarterback, and became the Mississippi State’s first All-SEC first-team quarterback in 28 years.
Prescott was left off the final Heisman ballot this season, but was still named a finalist for a number of other prestigious awards, including the Maxwell Award, given annually to the Collegiate Player of the Year. That award and others will be presented at The Home Depot College Football Awards Show in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. on Thursday, Dec. 11.
An SEC quarterback has won five of the last 11 Maxwell Awards, including last year’s winner, Alabama quarterback A.J. McCarron. Previous winners from the SEC include Cam Newton, Tim Tebow (twice) and Eli Manning.
Prescott began to emerge as a star in Mississippi State’s offense as a redshirt sophomore in 2013, starting seven games and coming off the bench in the season finale to lead MSU to a win over Ole Miss in the Egg Bowl. His stellar season in 2014 helped Mississippi State earn its first Orange Bowl bid since 1941.
MEET THE FINALISTS
DAK PRESCOTT, MISSISSIPPI STATE, JR. — Prescott showed flashes of excellence in 2013, but he also spent much of the season battling injuries (not to mention the tragic passing of his mother in the middle of the season). Many wondered how he’d respond as the full-time starter in 2014, and he answered that question in convincing fashion by posting some of the best numbers of any player in the SEC. He came just four yards passing and 61 yards rushing shy of becoming the second quarterback in SEC history to go for 3,000-1,000 in the same season, and his 38 total touchdowns were more than any other player in the conference in 2014. The question entering this offseason now shifts from Is he good enough to start in the SEC? to Will he leave early for the NFL?
MARCUS MARIOTA, OREGON, JR. — Mariota is the frontrunner to win this year’s Heisman, and it’s not difficult to see why. He threw for more than 3,700 yards on the year, and his 38 touchdowns through the air match Dak Prescott’s total for the season, which includes passing, rushing and receiving touchdowns. He only threw two interceptions compared to those 38 touchdown passes, and his 14 rushing touchdowns were second in the nation among quarterbacks. Mariota’s Oregon offense was the third-best in the nation, and his Ducks are currently the No. 2 seed in the inaugural College Football Playoff following a 12-1 regular season and a Pac 12 title. Mariota is a near-lock to be a top 5 pick in next year’s NFL Draft.
MELVIN GORDON, WISCONSIN, JR. — Gordon emerged as the premier tailback in college football this season, and had his coming out party on Nov. 15 by setting a new NCAA record with 408 rushing yards in a win over Nebraska. Granted, that record stood for just one week before Oklahoma’s Samaje Perine topped it, but at the time Gordon broke the previous record of 406 yards in a game set by TCU’s Ladanian Tomlinson more than a decade earlier. Gordon closed the year with 2,336 yards on the ground and 26 touchdowns, and he’s 292 yards shy of setting the new NCAA record for rushing yards in a season. He ran for at least 100 yards in 11 of 13 games this season, and ran for at least 200 yards on five different occasions, helping lead Wisconsin to a Big Ten West Division title.