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Heisman Watch: Oregon's Marcus Mariota now sits at No. 1

Mike Huguenin has spent more than 29 years in sports journalism, many of them closely associated with college football. As a longtime Heisman Trophy voter and one who will cast his ballot again at the end of this season, Huguenin takes a weekly look at the Heisman race.

HEISMAN WATCH 2013: Week 8 | Week 7 | Week 6 | Week 5 | Week 4 | Week 3 | Week 2 | Week 1

There's a change atop the Heisman watch list, with Oregon's Marcus Mariota taking over the top spot from Texas A&M's Johnny Manziel.

Oregon remains unbeaten, while A&M lost for the second time Saturday, and that plays a role in Heisman voting.

Florida State embarrassed host Clemson in a game that had a huge bearing on the national title picture and the Heisman race. FSU put itself in position to finish unbeaten and possibly play in the final BCS national championship game. In addition, Florida State redshirt freshman quarterback Jameis Winston took a huge step toward at least getting to New York for the Heisman presentation.

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Conversely, Clemson fell out of the national title hunt (though the Tigers definitely are in the picture for an at-large BCS bid) and Tigers senior quarterback Tajh Boyd played so badly that it's hard to see him getting back in the Heisman discussion.

UCLA sophomore quarterback Brett Hundley also has dropped out of the Heisman conversation, at least for this week, after the Bruins played poorly offensively and fell at Stanford. Hundley can get back into the mix if he plays well when UCLA plays at Oregon in one of the bigger games of the weekend.

Here are this week's top 10 contenders, from 10th to first, as this Heisman voter sees them:

10. QB Jordan Lynch, Northern Illinois

2013 stats: 212.6 passing yards per game, 14 TDs, 5 interceptions, 61.3 completion percentage, 133.1 rushing yards per game, 7 rushing TDs.
Last week: 20 for 30 passing for 155 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT; 32 carries for 316 yards rushing with 3 TDs in 38-17 win over Central Michigan.
The skinny: Lynch has started 21 games in the past two seasons, and NIU is 19-2 overall in those games and 7-0 this season. He rushed for 316 yards and three TDs in Saturday's win over Central Michigan; that's a single-game rushing record for a quarterback in a FBS game. He should continue to put up solid numbers against the MAC teams left on NIU's schedule. Lynch isn't going to win the Heisman or even finish in the top five (nor should he), but he put up 7 more yards of total offense against Iowa than Ohio State's Braxton Miller -- and with far less help.

Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel (2) is consoled by running back Ben Malena (1) after he was sacked on their final play in the fourth quarter against Auburn in an NCAA college football game Saturday, Oct. 19, 2013, in College Station, Texas. Auburn won 45-41. (AP Photo/Bob Levey)
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9. RB Lache Seastrunk, Baylor

2013 stats: 126.7 rushing yards per game, 10 rushing TDs.
Last week: 18 carries for 112 yards rushing and 2 TDs in 71-7 win over Iowa State.
The skinny: A week after being held to 59 yards by a 2-4 Kansas State team, Seastrunk bounced back with a 112-yard, two-TD performance against 1-5 Iowa State. Seastrunk has just 83 carries in six games and is averaging 9.2 yards per carry. Baylor goes against a bad Kansas team next, but the closing schedule is much tougher than what the Bears have encountered thus far: Oklahoma, Texas Tech, Oklahoma State, TCU and Texas. For Seastrunk to be a truly viable Heisman guy, he needs to increase his stats against those teams.

8. QB Derek Carr, Fresno State

2013 stats: 379.3 passing yards per game, 23 TDs, 4 interceptions, 70.4 completion percentage.
Last week: 33 for 48 passing for 412 yards and 4 TDs; 1 rush for 16 yards in 38-14 win over UNLV.
The skinny: Carr threw for 412 yards and four TDs as the Bulldogs cruised past UNLV. Alas, therein lies the problem for Carr: The schedule is weak, and big numbers are expected each week. He has four 400-yard games this season and four games with at least four TD passes; he is second nationally in TD passes.

7. TB Melvin Gordon, Wisconsin

2013 stats: 144.6 rushing yards per game, 11 rushing TDs.
Last week: 17 carries for 142 yards and 3 TDs rushing in 56-32 win over Illinois.
The skinny: Gordon is No. 2 in the nation in total rushing yards (1,012) and No. 3 in rushing yards per game. He also is tied for second in rushing TDs. Gordon is averaging 9.5 yards per carry and had his sixth 100-yard game of the season Saturday in a rout of Illinois.

6. RB Bishop Sankey, Washington

2013 stats: 131.6 rushing yards per game, 10 rushing TDs, 1 receiving TD.
Last week: 13 carries for 22 yards rushing and 1 TD; 1 reception for 26 yards in 53-24 loss to Arizona State.
The skinny: After rushing for a combined 292 yards and four TDs in back-to-back losses to Stanford and Oregon, Sankey (and the Huskies) ran out of gas in a loss to Arizona State. Sankey gained just 22 yards and scored once as the Huskies were held to 212 total yards. Expect a return to form by Sankey and the Huskies this weekend when they go against a horrible California defense.

5. QB Teddy Bridgewater, Louisville

2013 stats: 316.1 passing yards per game, 20 TDs, 2 interception, 72.0 completion percentage.
Last week: 29 for 38 passing for 341 yards and 2 TDs; 3 carries for minus-5 yards rushing in 38-35 loss to Central Florida.
The skinny: Bridgewater and the Cardinals lost to visiting UCF on Friday night, which means Louisville's long-shot national title hopes are gone and Bridgewater's Heisman campaign is on life support. He might be the most pro-ready quarterback in the nation, but given the weakness of Louisville's schedule, he will be lucky if he makes it to New York as a Heisman finalist. He is third in the nation in TD passes and quarterback rating percentage.

4. QB Sean Mannion, Oregon State

2013 stats: 427.4 passing yards per game, 29 TDs, 3 interceptions, 68.6 completion percentage.
Last week: 35 for 45 passing for 481 yards and 4 TDs; 2 rushes for minus-19 yards in 49-17 win over California.
The skinny: Mannion, a junior, leads the nation in passing yards per game by a hefty margin -- by almost 48 yards per game. He also has six more TD passes than anyone else. Mannion has passed for at least 400 yards five times in seven games and has reached the 300-yard plateau in every game. The Beavers' schedule has been easy and starts to toughen considerably next Saturday. Oregon State played one likely bowl team in its first seven games. There are five all-but-certain bowl teams to close the season: Stanford, USC, at Arizona State, Washington and at Oregon. If Mannion maintains his pace against that closing stretch, he will deserve the Heisman.

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Jameis Winston through the years

Check out Florida State's new quarterback, "Famous" Jameis Winston, as he emerges as one of college football's new stars.

3. QB Jameis Winston, Florida State

2013 stats: 314.2 passing yards per game, 20 TDs, 3 interceptions, 71.3 completion percentage, 3 rushing TDs.
Last week: 22 for 34 passing for 444 yards, 3 TDs and 1 INT; 7 carries for 2 yards and 1 TD in 51-14 win over Clemson.
The skinny: Making just his sixth college start, Winston had a huge game as Florida State overwhelmed host Clemson in a matchup of top five teams. He threw for a career-high 444 yards (94 came on a pass to TE Nick O'Leary with a bit less than eight minutes left in the game and FSU leading 48-7) and three TDs and also rushed for a score. Winston has been so razor sharp this season that his 64.7 completion percentage against the Tigers was his second lowest of the season. He is No. 2 in the nation in quarterback rating percentage and tied for third in TD passes. He goes against North Carolina State's shaky secondary next Saturday.

2. QB Johnny Manziel, Texas A&M

2013 stats: 327.0 passing yards per game, 18 TDs, 7 interceptions, 73.3 completion percentage, 69.4 rushing yards per game, 6 TDs.
Last week: 28 for 38 passing for 454 yards, 4 TDs and 2 INTs; 18 carries for 48 yards rushing and 1 TD in 45-41 loss to Auburn.
The skinny: Manziel's magic, along with the clock, ran out in a home loss to Auburn. A&M's defense -- mockingly called "the Reeking Crew" (a takeoff on A&M's old "Wrecking Crew" units) by some -- is such that Manziel has to produce huge numbers each week if the Aggies are to win. He had huge numbers Saturday (454 passing yards, four TDs, a rushing TD but also two picks), but the Aggies' defense couldn't hold a late lead. Just think if Manziel played on a team with a defense as good as, say, Florida State's or Oregon's. Sometimes, even electrifying offensive players can't overcome horrible defenses. His completion percentage, by the way, is second nationally among quarterbacks who qualify.

1. QB Marcus Mariota, Oregon

2013 stats: 293.0 passing yards per game, 19 TDs, 0 interceptions, 62.4 completion percentage, 70.4 rushing yards per game, 9 TDs.
Last week: 23 for 32 passing for 327 yards and 2 TDs; 8 carries for 67 yards rushing and 1 TD in 62-38 win over Washington State.
The skinny: Mariota threw for 327 yards and two TDs and ran for 67 and another score as unbeaten Oregon hammered Washington State. He has thrown at least one TD pass in all 20 games of his career and has thrown and run for a score in nine consecutive games. He is averaging 28.1 passing attempts per game through seven contests and has yet to throw a pick. He is the most important player on what might be the nation's best team.

Mike Huguenin can be reached at mike.huguenin@nfl.com. You also can follow him on Twitter @MikeHuguenin.

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