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1. Marcus Mariota, QB, Oregon
Last Week: 387 total yards (58 rushing) & 5 touchdowns in win at Washington State
Outlook: Mariota was masterful against Washington State late Saturday night. He was clutch, efficient, and explosive the entire game. In fact, this is what a legitimate contender for the Heisman trophy does. He answers everything his opponent throws at him. Every time Washington State scored, Mariota led Oregon down the field for an answer. That is exactly what you’d expect from the Heisman frontrunner.
2. Kenny Hill, QB, Texas A&M
Last Week: 322 total yards (57 rushing), 2 touchdowns, & 1 interception in win at SMU
Outlook: Last week, Hill became the first player in Texas A&M history to throw for 1,000-plus yards in his first three games. This week, he led the team to its first 4-0 start since 2006. Those are lofty accolades considering that Johnny Manziel is only a year removed from college football.
3. Ameer Abdullah, RB, Nebraska
Last Week: 229 rushing yards & 2 touchdowns in win vs. Miami (FL)
Outlook: Head coach Bo Pelini, who is on the hot seat this season, can thank Abdullah for Nebraska’s 4-0 start. Through the first four games, the Nebraska running back has 625 rushing yards and 7 total touchdowns. The Cornhuskers host Illinois next week in their conference opener before traveling to East Lansing for a showdown against Michigan State.
4. Todd Gurley, RB, Georgia
Last Week: 73 rushing yards in win vs. Troy
Outlook: Georgia didn’t need too much help from Gurley this week, as the Bulldogs led Troy 45-0 at halftime. Gurley actually carried the ball just six times in this game, while backup Sony Michael ran for 155 yards and three touchdowns on 10 carries. Georgia starts a seven-game run of SEC play next week. Look for them to ride Gurley more often during this particularly stretch.
5. Amari Cooper, WR, Alabama
Last Week: 10 receptions, 201 receiving yards, & 3 touchdowns in win vs. Florida
Outlook: Nobody ever thought a freshman would win the Heisman trophy. Then Manziel wowed us all in 2012 and James Winston followed a year later. We also forget that a sophomore hadn’t won the Heisman until Tim Tebow did it in ‘07. Many expect the next barrier to break is a defensive player, as Charles Woodson (1997) is the only defensive player in history to win the award. However, I believe a wide receiver is next in the line. The last receiver to win the Heisman was Desmond Howard in 1991. That’s more than 20 years ago. We’re due. Cooper, who is on pace for 129 receptions, 1,965 yards, and 15 touchdowns, possesses tremendous upside as a Heisman candidate. His numbers are outstanding, many regard him as a future top 10 NFL draft pick, and he plays for one of the most prestigious programs in the country. His arrow is pointing upward.
6. Bryce Petty, QB, Baylor
Last Week: Idle
Outlook: If Petty positions himself well over the next month, he’ll have an excellent opportunity to make a move in the Heisman race come November. His final four games are against Kansas State, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, and Texas Tech.
7. Rakeem Cato, QB, Marshall
Last Week: 233 total yards (23 rushing), 3 touchdowns (2 rushing), & 1 interception in win at Akron
Outlook: Going forward, Cato will need to play better than he did against Akron if he’s going to develop a Heisman buzz. Nevertheless, the Marshall quarterback has the offense humming. The Thundering Herd is averaging about 597 yards per game. Additionally, they’ve scored 40-plus points in each game this season.
8. Everett Golson, QB, Notre Dame
Last Week: Idle
Outlook: Large media organizations (namely ESPN) will be quick to jump on Golson’s bandwagon because he plays for Notre Dame. Simply put, it’s good for college football that Notre Dame is relevant. They feature a proud tradition, a loyal fan base, and their games consistently draw ratings. With all that said, the Fighting Irish haven’t played anybody good this season. Their biggest victory so far came against Michigan, who is just 2-2. I need to see more of Golson in marquee games before elevating him into the top five.
9. Jameis Winston, QB, Florida State
Last Week: Did not play (suspended) in win vs. No. 22 Clemson
Outlook: News broke late Friday night that Florida State was upgrading Winston’s suspension from a half to a full game. Prior to that news, I was critical of Florida State’s handling of Winston. Now I must give Florida State head coach Jimbo Fisher a ton of credit for finding the guts to sit Winston in a marquee game. It’s becoming apparent that the reigning Heisman Trophy winner simply lacks the maturity to carry himself in a professional manner off the field. Yes, he’s just 20-years-old, but his current behavior (particularly toward women) is disturbing even when factoring in his age. Suspending him was best for the program and for Winston. Now let’s see if he received the message.
10. Taysom Hill, QB, BYU
Last Week: 259 total yards (72 rushing) & 3 touchdowns (1 rushing) in win vs. Virginia
Outlook: Down 16-13 at halftime, Hill rallied the Cougars to two third-quarter scores, giving them a 27-16 lead going into the fourth quarter. A 50-yard touchdown pass from Hill to wide receiver Mitchell Juergens and a 99-yard kickoff return by Adam Hine sealed the victory for BYU, who remains unbeaten (4-0) on the season. Hill will remain relevant in the Heisman race so long as BYU remains alive for a New Year’s Six bowl.
On the Bubble
Brett Hundley, QB, UCLA
Melvin Gordon, RB, Wisconsin
Cody Kessler, QB, USC
Dak Prescott, QB, Mississippi State
Bo Wallace, QB, Ole Miss