Dak Prescott had been Marcus Mariota’s biggest Heisman Trophy challenger almost the entire season. The college football world would not necessarily have
been wrong to think that one loss for Prescott’s Mississippi State team would all but hand the stiff-armed statue to Mariota. Well, MSU did—in fact—lose
last Saturday. But thanks mostly to Wisconsin running back Melvin Gordon, the Heisman is still very much in play.
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Marcus Mariota, QB, Oregon (-700)
Off weeks can sometimes hurt contenders looking up at the top of the list who need to make a move. When you’re in the catbird seat, off weeks can never be
detrimental. Mariota and the Ducks had one after scraping past Utah 51-27 in a game that came dangerously close to featuring a much different outcome.
Oregon is now enjoying some recovery time and should be well-rested heading into its final two regular-season games against Colorado and Oregon State.
Victories in those two contests should be enough for Mariota to hold off the rest of the field. Combine an 11-1 team record with his statistics (2,780
yards, 29 touchdowns, two interceptions, eight rushing touchdowns), and the result is an incredibly impressive resume.
Melvin Gordon, RB, Wisconsin (+250)
Gordon’s season was already legendary; now it’s positively historic. The junior broke the all-time FBS single-game rushing record by erupting for 408 yards
in Wisconsin’s 59-24 rout of Nebraska last Saturday. He averaged an outrageous 16.8 yards per carry on 25 attempts while scoring four touchdowns. To heck
with one Heisman moment; that was more like 25 Heisman moments—basically every time he touched the ball. For the season, Gordon has rushed 223 times for
1,909 yards (8.6 average) and 23 scores. Losses to LSU and Northwestern hurt, but what if Gordon finishes with 2,000 yards (a certainty barring injury) and
30 touchdowns (suddenly a possibility)?
J.T. Barrett, QB, Ohio State (+1500)
Not surprisingly for a freshman, especially for one who was not even expected to see the field this year, Barrett has been getting better and better as the
2014 campaign has progressed. Thrown into the fire when Braxton Miller went down with a season-ending shoulder injury, Barrett threw five interceptions in
his first three games. He has been picked off only three times in his last seven. The Wichita Falls, Tex. native took his multi-dimensional talents to new
heights last weekend, passing for 200 yards and three touchdowns while racking up 189 yards and another score on 17 quarterback keepers. Barrett has led
the Buckeyes to eight straight wins since losing to Virginia Tech. If not for that one blemish, he would be at or near the top of the race.
Trevone Boykin, QB, TCU (+3500)
Boykin almost plunged out of the Heisman discussion as fast as he jumped into it (with seven passing touchdowns in an 82-27 win over Texas Tech on Oct.
25). TCU, in the hunt for a berth in the playoff, trailed Kansas 27-17 in the third quarter last week before recovering for a 34-30 victory. Boykin threw
just one touchdown pass and did nothing on the ground, but he at least completed 26 of 36 attempts for 330 yards. The junior from Dallas has 24 scores
compared to only five interceptions in 2014 and has not been picked off more than once in any game. He also has 548 rushing yards and seven additional
touchdowns for the 9-1 Horned Frogs.
Dak Prescott, QB, Mississippi State (+4000)
Last weekend’s showdown with Alabama was not necessarily the season for Mississippi State. With an Egg Bowl vs. Ole Miss and a possible SEC Championship
still to play, the Bulldogs would not have been an absolute lock for the College Football Playoff even with a win. Nor are they eliminated by their 25-20
loss, given that it’s their first setback of the season. The game may, however, have been the end-all be-all for Prescott’s Heisman campaign. His
touchdown-to-interception ratio (18-to-seven) going into it was such that he probably had to lead MSU to an undefeated season in order to steal votes from
Mariota. Now the ratio is 20-to-10 after Prescott was picked off three times by the Crimson Tide.
Amari Cooper, WR, Alabama (+5000)
Cooper turned in one more good performance by average players’ standards and a modest showing by his standards. After catching eight passes for 83 yards
and a score against LSU, the junior receiver posted almost identical numbers in Alabama’s huge win over then-No. 1 Mississippi State. He made another eight
receptions for 88 yards and one touchdown. For the season, Cooper has already set career-best totals in catches (87), yards (1,303), and touchdowns (tied
with 11). If the Tide can win out and Cooper goes wild against Auburn, he may have an outside shot if he also gets help from the current Heisman
Jameis Winston, QB, Florida State (+5000)
Off the field, Winston does a lot. On the field, all he does his win. Like him or not, there is something to be said for that. Florida State once again
holds the top spot in the rankings after staging yet another comeback. The Seminoles trailed Miami (FL) 16-0 and 23-7 in the second quarter, 23-10 at
halftime, and 26-20 in the fourth. Nonetheless, they came away from Sun Life Stadium with a 30-26 win, moving them to 10-0 on the season. Winston completed
25 of 42 passes for 304 yards with one touchdown and one interception. The controversial QB has 18 TDs and 12 INTs this year. In 2013 he had 40 and 10.
Those current totals are not going to cut it; not even without a sparkly clean off-the-field image.
Best Value Play: Gordon
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Read more articles by Ricky Dimon