THE HEISMAN Trophy finalists would make one heck of an offense.

Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota, Alabama receiver Amari Cooper and record-breaking Wisconsin running back Melvin Gordon are set to make the trip to New York for the Heisman presentation after the finalists were announced yesterday.

Mariota is considered the clear the front-runner to win the 80th Heisman on Saturday night in New York. He would become the first Oregon player to earn college football's most famous player of the year trophy.

Mariota and the second-seeded Ducks will face Florida State and last year's Heisman winner, Jameis Winston, at the Rose Bowl in the College Football Playoff semifinals on Jan. 1.

Cooper helped Alabama earn the top seed in the playoff. The Crimson Tide plays Ohio State at the Sugar Bowl in New Orleans.

Finalists are determined by percentage of votes received from 929 media members and former winners.

In other award news, Arizona linebacker Scooby Wright won the Bronko Nagurski award, given to the nation's top college defensive player. Also, East Carolina senior wide receiver Justin Hardy has won the Burlsworth Trophy, given to the nation's most outstanding player who began his career as a walk-on.


* An independent athletic trainer stationed in the video replay booth will be on the lookout for players who show visible signs of a concussion during Big Ten football games.

The athletic trainer will have his or her own video monitor and have the ability to directly contact officials on the field. The independent athletic trainer will be in addition to the continued presence of on-field doctors and athletic trainers from each school.

* The University of Houston fired coach Tony Levine after 3 years and a 21-17 overall record.

The university said defensive coordinator David Gibbs has been named interim coach as the Cougars prepare for a Jan. 2 matchup against Pittsburgh in the Lockheed Martin Armed Forces Bowl in Fort Worth, Texas.