Mahalo: TCU, Ohio State, Baylor in ESPN’s Top 5 for 2015; Mariota Declares for NFL Draft

NOTE: Oregon Ducks quarterback Marcus Mariota has officially declared for the NFL Draft, reports the school’s GoDucks.com. The 2014 Heisman Trophywinner will leave college without a national championship, after Oregon’s 42-20 loss to the Ohio State Buckeyes in Monday’s playoff finale.

Even ESPN admits, this is sort of crazy…

The network – actually, maybe the news world’s most-everywhere network, when you consider its presence on television and its slew of Internet properties, from its homepage to Grantland and beyond – has already released its pre-preseason college football rankings, tabbing TCU as America’s No. 1 team eight months before the action starts.

The Horned Frogs topped ESPN’s ‘Way-Too-Early Top 25’ for 2015, published on Tuesday by Mark Schlabach.

“Did you watch the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl? TCU’s high-flying offense shredded Ole Miss’ top-rated defense in a 42-3 rout on New Year’s Eve,” writes Schlabach. “Quarterback Trevone Boykin and nine other starters are expected back on offense, after the Horned Frogs scored a school-record 562 regular-season points” in 2014.

The Horned Frogs finished with a 12-1 record in 2014, narrowly missing out on the championship playoff with fellow Big 12 team Baylor, and then beat Ole Miss 42-3 in the aforementioned Chick-Fil-A Bowl.

The Baylor Bears are ranked third – with only the second half of winter, a spring, and a summer to go – even with the loss of star quarterback Bryce Petty. (Petty is expected to go early in next summer’s NFL Draft, along with quarterbacks Mariota and Jameis Winston.)

This year’s national champions, the Ohio State Buckeyes, are ranked second. The runner-up Oregon Ducks are ranked fifth, just behind PAC-12 rival USC.

Oregon will of course lose Mariota – officially, they know that now – to the Draft, along with defensive end Arik Armstead and cornerback Ifo Ekpre-Olomu, among others.

Backup pivots Jeff Lockie, Morgan Mahalak, and Ty Griffin could replace Mariota – but there’s a chance the Ducks could look elsewhere, maybe even to one of Ohio State’s three proven stars, for help via transfer.

“Another option might be Braxton Miller, if he decides to transfer for his senior season,” acknowledges Schlabach. Miller was Ohio State’s entrenched starter to begin 2014, but injuries forced him out and J.T. Barrett in.

When Barrett went down, Cardale Jones came in and led Ohio State to three season-ending wins, the last in the national championship. But Ohio State can’t keep all three… and why would any one of that trio want to be a back-up?

“There has been no contact between Oregon and either Miller or anyone acting on his behalf,” writes Oregon Live‘s Andrew Greif, although he admits it’s a spicy rumour.

“It’s certainly an intriguing possibility given the 6-foot-2, 215-pounder’s mix of run and pass and familiarity with a wide-open offense – skills that would make any spread-option team in college football consider him for one season.”

“… if Miller is getting the feeling he’ll be the odd-man out for the Buckeyes next season, he hasn’t tested the waters in Eugene and Oregon isn’t involved right now in bringing him in.