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2014 preseason Pac-12 Heisman candidates: Mariota and Hundley lead the way for the Pac-12

Mariota and Hundley are the Pac-12 Heisman frontrunners, but not the only candidates.

Steven Bisig-USA TODAY Sports

Sports' most meaningless and frequently irrelevant award the Heisman is back! Get excited this year, because the Pac-12 has a handful of candidates who should be right in the thick of the incredibly-always-controversial race and here is my breakdown of the chances of the top Pac-12 Heisman candidates going into the 2014 season.

Major Candidates

Marcus Mariota QB Oregon

Going for him: Mariota is perfect for college football's perfect offense ran by a national title contender that everyone (except Washington and Oregon State fans) seems to love. That aforementioned team is the nation's best hype machine at highlighting his greatness and covering up any faults (see injury press release issued seconds after disappointing performance against Stanford last year in a day and age when no one says shit about injuries) and there aren't many to cover up anyway. He has a great stat line that media can repeat ad naseum with the ridiculous touchdown to interception ratio and you might have the nation's top candidate going into the season considering that he also isn't a potential rapist/confirmed crab thief/squirrel shooter.

Not going for him: Well, he plays for a West Coast team that isn't USC. He has yet to have a signature game against a big time opponent and has struggled mightily in Oregon's losses to Stanford. He isn't a very exciting story and seems like a pretty reserved guy that just does his job on the field.

Again, he plays in the Pac-12, and not for USC.

Past Heisman winner comparison - Robert Griffin III: Mariota is a prolific two-way threat who excels in an innovative offense with good size and loads of NFL potential who is known for his poise.

Brett Hundley QB UCLA

Going for him: Like Mariota, he is a dynamic, dual-threat QB for a national title contender who is already well-established as a star and loaded with NFL potential. His numbers are good (though not great), he regularly can pull off highlight reel plays and plays in the nation's second-biggest market.

Not going for him: Like Mariota, Hundley has struggled against Stanford and lacks a signature game against a big time opponent. He also hasn't quite lived up to his full athletic potential and still makes too many bad decisions as a passer.

Also, he plays in the Pac-12, and not for USC.

Past Heisman winner comparison - Robert Griffin III: Ditto the Mariota/Griffin III comparison.

Dark Horse Candidates

Taylor Kelly QB Arizona State

Going for him: Like Mariota and Hundley, a dual-threat dynamo prone to making exciting plays and putting up yardage and touchdowns through the air and on the ground. He also is a competitive senior leader who plays for a good team.

Not going for him: The Sun Devils aren't expected to compete for the Pac-12 North, let along the conference, championship and it is pretty hard to compete for a Heisman if your team only wins seven or eight games.

Also, he plays in the Pac-12, and not for USC.

Past Heisman winner comparison - Eric Crouch: A competitive dual-threat quarterback that doesn't have NFL intangibles but can just plain flat out play the game.

Sean Mannion QB Oregon State

Going for him: Mannion could easily lead the nation in passing yardage and touchdowns while having limited interceptions for a pretty good team. He was also a dark horse candidate because of this early in 2013, before the Beavers starting losing too many games.

Not going for him: The Beavers will almost assuredly not win enough games to keep him in contention as the season unfolds and he might struggle to find targets to throw to with Brandin Cooks off to the NFL.

Also, he plays in the Pac-12, and not for USC.

Past Heisman winner comparison - Ty Detmer: A quarterback from a program that isn't the best that can more than fill up the stat sheet as a passer.

Hey, weirder things have happened... okay, maybe they haven't, but still...

Lenard Williams DE USC

Going for him: Defensive players don't win the Heisman, I know, but defensive linemen that can take over games occasionally get consideration, and Williams fits that bill. The Trojans have the potential to be a national player and are pretty much the only Pac-12 program that can ever win a Heisman.

Not going for him: He plays defense.

Past Heisman winner comparison - Charles Woodson: He plays defense. Sorry, that's all I got.

Byron Marshall RB Oregon

Going for him: He is almost assuredly going to put up a ton of yards and touchdowns in the Duck offense for a national title contender. He also plays for a popular program and has the chance to play in a few marquee games this year.

Not going for him: He isn't as explosive as Duck backs like LaMichael James or DeAnthony Thomas, so he lacks that wow factor and Thomas Tyner might take away a lot of his touchdowns and highlight reel plays. Also, he has a guy named Mariota on his team that casts a large shadow.

Also, he plays in the Pac-12, and not for USC.

Past Heisman winner comparison - Rashaan Salaam: A big, steady, consistent back that can run through tackles that will rack up yards and touchdowns.

Ty Montgomery WR Stanford

Going for him: He is the best receiver in the conference for a potential national title contender that might also be the best returner in the nation.

Not going for him: He is battling an injury going into the season, which might limit his return ability and the Cardinal aren't expected by many to actually compete for the national championship this year.

Also, he plays in the Pac-12, and not for USC.

Past Heisman winner comparison - Tim Brown: Big strong receiver for a powerful program.

Myles Jack LB UCLA

Going for him: The hype around Jack is massive and it is exactly the kind of hype that awards voters love, his two-way stardom making him a fun and interesting vote. He is also a throwback and could be the most productive two-way player that college football has seen in quite a while if he can run for more than 10 touchdowns.

Not going for him: He plays defense and I have a feeling that he is going to play less offense next season.

Also, he plays in the Pac-12, and not for USC.

Past Heisman winner comparison - Charles Woodson: Yeah... defense.