While Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota is widely expected to win the Heisman Trophy on Saturday, the voters of SI.com's People's Heisman poll have chosen a different winner. Alabama's Amari Cooper won the vote by a narrow margin over Mariota and Wisconsin's Melvin Gordon.

By Zac Ellis
December 12, 2014

In recent years America has done a remarkable job of predicting the Heisman Trophy winner in SI.com’s annual People’s Heisman poll. SI’s voters accurately picked the last three Heisman honorees: Baylor’s Robert Griffin III, Texas A&M’s Johnny Manziel and Florida State’s Jameis Winston. That’s why the People’s Heisman poll has become a good barometer for the actual Heisman race.

Sorry, America. This time you got it wrong.

After almost 6,000 total votes tallied, Alabama wide receiver Amari Cooper shockingly emerged as the winner of the 2014 People’s Heisman, albeit by a very slim margin. Cooper, who won the Biletnikoff Award on Thursday as the nation’s top receiver, earned 12,423 total points. That beat out the season’s true overwhelming Heisman favorite, Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota, who hauled in 12,244 points, while Wisconsin running back Melvin Gordon finished third with 11,114 points.

• HAMILTON: Constant motion keeps Alabama's Cooper one step ahead

Player 1st-place votes 2nd-place votes 3rd-place votes total points
Amari Cooper 2,637 1,233 2,046 12,423
Marcus Mariota 2,560 1,159 2,246 12,244
Melvin Gordon 779 3,584 1,609 11,114

SI.com used the same voting process as the Heisman Trust, with three points for every first-place vote, two points for every second-place vote and one point per third-place vote. The total points are obviously a bit skewed, as the Heisman Trust issuesd only 929 ballots this year, but here are a couple of thoughts from the People’s Heisman vote:

  • This year’s vote showed one of two things: Either Oregon fans were asleep at the wheel, or Alabama fans know how to engineer votes -- or perhaps both. There’s no doubt Mariota will win the actual Heisman on Saturday. Meanwhile, Cooper is largely expected to finish third behind Gordon. But the Crimson Tide faithful seemingly did just enough legwork to get Cooper the win in the People’s Heisman poll. Perhaps Ducks fans drastically underestimated the power of a good “Roll Tide.”
  • While Mariota is expected to win handily in real life, Cooper’s victory was a close one. He earned only 2,637 first-place votes, or 44.1 percent of the 5,976 total votes. That was only 77 more first-place nods than Mariota (2,560). On Saturday Mariota is expected to contend for the largest winning margin in Heisman history.

• SCHNELL: How Oregon QB Mariota rose to stardom

  • The most unrealistic aspect of our People’s Heisman poll? Mariota earned the largest percentage (38.0) of third-place votes. In fact, Mariota and Cooper combined to garner the largest chunk of first-place and third-place votes. That implies two fan bases working against one another. Many fans voted Cooper first and Mariota third to give Alabama’s receiver the largest boost possible over his closest competitor in the poll, and vice-versa with Mariota voters. It’s an intriguing strategy that appears to have worked in Cooper’s favor.
  • America did mirror how the actual vote will likely go in one aspect: Gordon deserves the runner-up spot. Wisconsin’s running back earned the largest chunk of any of the three players at any spot in the voting with 59.9 percent of the second-place votes (3,584).

• HAMILTON: The Big Cheese: Wisconsin RB Gordon races toward history

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