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Heisman Watch: Separation Thursday
By Matt Horkman

1. Marcus Mariota, QB, Oregon
Last Week: Idle

Outlook: Last Saturday night, Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston threw the first punch by leading the Seminoles to a 41-14 victory over Miami (FL). This Thursday night, it’s Mariota’s turn to counter. Winston wasn’t by any means dominate over the Hurricanes, so the door’s opened for Mariota to put a little ground between himself and the freshman redshirt.

Stock: Up

2. Jameis Winston, QB, Florida State
Last Week: 352 total yards (27 rushing), 1 touchdown, & 2 interceptions in win vs. No. 7 Miami (FL)

Outlook: In a six-day span, both Florida State and Oregon will have played primetime games against top 10 opponents. After the Seminoles’ victory over Miami (FL), Heisman voters (and poll voters) now turn their attention to Oregon. This six-day span is the first of two significant weeks for both programs. The other comes in December, as the team’s play for their respective conference titles.

Stock: Steady

3. Johnny Manziel, QB, Texas A&M
Last Week: 340 total yards (67 rushing) & 6 touchdowns (2 rushing) in win vs. UTEP

Outlook: There’s a theory that Manziel’s off-field antics will cost him the Heisman. I don‘t agree. Manziel is must-watch television, even against lowly opponents. Frankly, his highlights alone trump some games. But last season heJohnny Manziel did not have to contend with candidates on the level of Mariota and Winston. Their standing is a referendum on their play, and not anything Manziel did off the field. In recent years, it’s become a criterion for Heisman contenders to play for teams in the national title conversation. There are exceptions. Last year was one, and Tim Tebow’s ‘07 Heisman-winning season was another. For Manziel to walk away with his second consecutive Heisman, the Seminoles and Ducks both need to lose, opening the door for Alabama and Ohio State to play for the national title. That takes away the argument that either Winston or Mariota led their teams to the national title. In other words, it evens the playing field. And on even terms, Manziel’s second to nobody.

Stock: Steady

4. Tajh Boyd, QB, Clemson
Last Week: 377 passing yards, 4 touchdowns (1 rushing), & 1 interception in win at Virginia

Outlook: The effects lingering from losing to Florida State are beginning to go away. The media punishes any player who performs poorly in a big game, so many have forgotten how good Boyd is. He reminded his critics on Saturday with a gem against Virginia. Boyd should secure a top five finish, if he performs well in his final three regular-season games.

Stock: Up

5. Bryce Petty, QB, Baylor
Last Week: Idle

Outlook: You can’t punish Bridgewater for a soft schedule and ignore Baylor’s soft schedule. The Bears host Oklahoma on Thursday, so we’re about to find out whether they’re a great team or simply a good team that dominates bad ones.

Stock: Steady

6. Teddy Bridgewater, QB, Louisville
Last Week: Idle

Outlook: Missteps from Baylor and Clemson could open the door for Bridgewater to finish No. 4 in the Heisman race. That’s assuming Louisville takes care of business in their final four regular-season games.

Stock: Down

7. Lache Seastrunk, RB, Baylor
Last Week: Idle

Outlook: This Thursday’s meeting between Baylor and Oklahoma will provide clarity to which Bear is more deserving of Heisman recognition. If the Bears rely on their running game, then Seastrunk has a good case for the No. 4 spot. If it’s the passing game leading the way, then Petty elevates to No. 4. Alternatively, Oklahoma could beat Baylor, sending both players back a couple notches.

Stock: Steady

8. A.J. McCarron, QB, Alabama
Last Week: Idle

Outlook: McCarron and Alabama play in Saturday’s best game. The Crimson Tide host LSU in the first of two guaranteed games that’ll feature ranked opponents looking to spoil Alabama’s season. Auburn’s also lingering in the standings, so McCarron’s candidacy is about to get interesting. 

Stock: Steady

On the Bubble
Mike Evans, WR, Texas A&M
Melvin Gordon III, RB, Wisconsin
Jordan Lynch, QB, Northern Illinois
Zach Mettenberger, QB, LSU
Sammy Watkins, WR, Clemson

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