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1. Marcus Mariota, QB, Oregon
Last Week: 353 total yards (114 rushing) & 4 touchdowns (1 rushing) in win at No. 17 Utah
Outlook: Utah hung around for about three quarters, but Mariota proved to be too good in the end. He's now putting together a historically great season. He has 37 total touchdowns, which puts him within striking distance of the Pac-12 record of 41. He’s also beginning to run the ball well. He averaged just 43 yards per game on the ground over in his first five games of the season. Over his last four games, his rushing average has jumped to 61.8. The victory clinched the Pac-12 North for the Ducks, guaranteeing Mariota one extra game to impress Heisman voters.
2. Dak Prescott, QB, Mississippi State
Last Week: 260 total yards & 3 touchdowns (1 rushing) in win vs. Tennessee-Martin
Outlook: Saturday’s win over Tennessee-Martin gave Prescott the opportunity to work on his game ahead of next weekend’s big tilt with Alabama. He played well, not throwing an interception for the first time since October 4. A big performance in Tuscaloosa next Saturday may allow him to reclaim the top spot from Mariota.
3. Trevone Boykin, QB, TCU
Last Week: 342 total yards (123 rushing) and 4 touchdowns (3 rushing) in win vs. No. 7 Kansas State
Outlook: All eyes were on Boykin following his rocky performance against West Virginia. He responded in a big way, rushing for a career-high 123 yards as the Horned Frogs blew out the Wildcats in front of a home crowd. TCU now finds itself in a three-way tie with Baylor and Kansas State atop the Big 12 standings. However, the playoff committee seems to favor the Horned Frogs over their fellow Big 12 brethren, so that puts them in excellent position to snag the No. 4 playoff spot if they’re able to win their remaining games. Given the favorable outlook for their schedule (no more games against ranked opponents), that seems like a very real possibility.
4. Melvin Gordon, RB, Wisconsin
Last Week: 249 total yards (44 receiving) & 2 touchdowns (1 receiving) in win at Purdue
Outlook: After weeks of lingering, Gordon finally burst through the bubble to make his debut in the top five. He has been nothing short of outstanding for Wisconsin, who finds itself in the thick of the Big Ten race. He has one five-touchdown performance, one four-touchdown performance, and he has eclipsed 200 rushing yards three times this season. The stakes will be high next Saturday when Nebraska arrives in Madison. Nebraska running back Ameer Abdullah is also a Heisman contender, so an invite to New York, and possibly the Doak Walker Award is on the line. Additionally, the winner of this game will most likely play Ohio State for the Big Ten championship on December 6.
5. Amari Cooper, WR, Alabama
Last Week: 8 receptions, 83 receiving yards, & 1 touchdown in win at No. 16 LSU
Outlook: Cooper might be one of the two best players in the country, but he isn’t immune from having a bad game. Despite breaking Alabama's single-season record for catches with 79, as well as the career and single-season mark for receiving yardage, he had two crucial fourth-quarter drops that would be a bigger deal today had Alabama fallen in defeat. Perhaps the most frustrating aspect of Cooper’s night was how little involved he was in Alabama’s final two drives, one of which was beautifully orchestrated to tie the game with three seconds remaining. In other words, Cooper had zero catches in perhaps the most defining drive of Alabama’s season. He has an excellent opportunity to redeem himself next week with the Crimson Tide hosting No. 1 Mississippi State.
On the Bubble
Ameer Abdullah, RB, Nebraska
Rakeem Cato, QB, Marshall
Everett Golson, QB, Notre Dame
Duke Johnson, RB, Miami (FL)
Jameis Winston, QB, Florida State