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Johnny Manziel remains favorite to win second Heisman

David Butler II / USA TODAY Sports
Jordan Lynch's dual-threat skills and NIU's unbeaten record puts the QB into the Heisman conversation.

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 12 | Week 11 | Week 10 | Week 9 | Week 8 | Week 7
Week 6 | Week 5 | Week 4 | Week 3 | Week 2 | Week 1

Week 12: Things we learned
From Auburn's miraculous victory over Georgia to Jordan Matthews' continued assault on SEC defenses, here are the lessons we learned in Week 12 of college football. More ...

There are just three weeks left in the regular season, and there are just three legitimate candidates for the Heisman Trophy: Texas A&M's Johnny Manziel, Oregon's Marcus Mariota and Florida State's Jameis Winston.

Manziel and A&M were idle this weekend, and Mariota and Winston didn't have to do all that much in their teams' easy wins. Both threw for fewer than 300 yards, but they also combined to throw five TD passes with no interceptions. Still, Manziel remains No. 1 in our Heisman watch.

There is an off-field element to the Heisman race now. Winston is part of an investigation into a sexual assault case from December 2012, and officials in Tallahassee, Fla., say it could be another week or two before their investigation concludes.

While Winston likely won't play in the second half when FSU plays host to a horrible Idaho team Saturday, Manziel and Mariota have tough opponents. Manziel will be going against LSU, and a big game against the Tigers would be a big boost to his Heisman "candidacy." Mariota will be facing Arizona on the road, and Oregon now controls its own destiny in the Pac-12 North race because of Stanford's upset loss to USC.

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

Michigan State cheerleaders perform during the first quarter of an NCAA college football game against Western Michigan, Friday, Aug. 30, 2013, in East Lansing, Mich. Michigan State won 26-13. (AP Photo/Al Goldis)
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10. QB Teddy Bridgewater, Louisville

2013 stats: 304.8 passing yards per game, 24 TDs, 3 interceptions, 70.9 completion percentage.
Saturday's stats: 19 of 29 for 203 yards, 0 TDs, 0 interceptions in win over Houston.
The skinny: Bridgewater's streak of games with at least one TD pass ended at 21 in the win over Houston. Bridgewater, a junior, might be the most pro-ready quarterback in the nation, but he doesn't have the stats to truly be in the Heisman discussion.

9. QB Tajh Boyd, Clemson

2013 stats: 296.0 passing yards per game, 24 TDs, 7 interceptions, 66.7 completion percentage, 8 rushing TDs.
Thursday's stats: 20 of 26 for 240 yards, 4 TDs, 1 interception, 43 rushing yards, 1 TD in win over Georgia Tech.
The skinny: Boyd, a senior, has six 300-yard games this season and also has thrown at least three TD passes six times. He played poorly in Clemson's loss to Florida State, which ended his Heisman hopes. But his play remains a major reason Clemson is in the top 10 and still in the running for a BCS berth. He leads the Tigers in rushing TDs and became the ACC's career leader in TD passes (passing Philip Rivers) in the win over Georgia Tech.

Week 12: Top RB performances
Boston College's Andre Williams racked up 339 yards Saturday, but it wasn't enough to earn the top spot on our list of the top 10 RB performances of the weekend. More ...

8. TB Andre Williams, Boston College

2013 stats: 181.0 rushing yards per game, 14 rushing TDs.
Saturday's stats: 42 carries, 339 yards, 2 TDs in win over North Carolina State.
The skinny: Williams, a senior, is the nation's leading rusher, and he is bidding to become the first 2,000-yard rusher in the FBS ranks since UConn's Donald Brown in 2008. Williams' performance against NC State was his second game in a row with at least 295 yards and the most yardage by a FBS back this season. He has had four 200-yard games this season and eight 100-yard performances, including 149 against Florida State. As for handling a heavy workload, Williams has had at least 23 carries in nine of BC's 10 games; he leads the nation with 288 carries.

7. RB Bishop Sankey, Washington

2013 stats: 139.6 rushing yards per game, 14 rushing TDs, 24 receptions, 1 receiving TD.
Friday's stats: 27 carries, 91 yards, 1 touchdown in loss to UCLA.
The skinny: Sankey, a junior, has seven 100-yard games this season, and he has scored at least one rushing TD in each of the Huskies' 10 contests. He is tied for sixth in the nation in rushing TDs and is second in rushing attempts (249). Sankey is a workhorse who has been extremely productive against a tough schedule (four opponents are in the current top 20).

Fresno State Bulldogs quarterback Derek Carr (4) calls a play behind the line against the UNLV Rebels during the fourth quarter at Bulldog Stadium. The Fresno State Bulldogs defeated the UNLV Rebels 38-14. (Kelvin Kuo/USA TODAY Sports)
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Alternate college football uniforms

Check out special college football uniforms worn during the 2013 season.

6. QB Derek Carr, Fresno State

2013 stats: 380.1 passing yards per game, 32 TDs, 4 interceptions, 69.5 completion percentage.
Saturday's stats: Fresno State was idle.
The skinny: Carr, a senior, is second in the nation in touchdown passes and passing yards per game. He has had seven 300-yard games and six games with at least four TD passes. Fresno is unbeaten and in line for a BCS bid, which raises Carr's profile. Still, it would be a miracle if he were to be invited to New York.

5. QB Bryce Petty, Baylor

2013 stats: 332.4 passing yards per game, 24 TDs, 1 interception, 65.2 completion percentage, 10 rushing TDs.
Saturday's stats: 17 of 31 for 335 yards, 3 TDs, 0 interceptions, 2 rushing TDs in win over Texas Tech.
The skinny: Petty, a junior, has eight 300-yard games and five games with at least three TD passes this season. Petty is one of 10 quarterbacks averaging 300 passing yards per game, but he has the fewest attempts (by 76) and the fewest completions (by 67) among those 10. He averages 12.8 yards per attempt, by far the highest figure in the nation. But his completion percentage has dropped in each of the past three weeks as the schedule has toughened.

4. QB Jordan Lynch, Northern Illinois

2013 stats: 221.6 passing yards per game, 21 TDs, 5 interceptions, 65.5 completion percentage, 127.3 rushing yards per game, 14 rushing TDs, 1 receiving TD.
Wednesday's stats: 26 of 32 for 345 yards, 2 TDs, 0 interceptions, 123 rushing yards, 2 TDs in win over Ball State.
The skinny: Lynch, a senior, has started 24 games in the past two seasons, and NIU is 22-2 overall and 10-0 this season. He showed off his dual-threat skills on national TV Wednesday night when NIU beat Ball State in a key Mid-American Conference game. Lynch is fifth nationally in total offense per game and 10th nationally in rushing. He also has NIU in the hunt for a second consecutive BCS bowl bid.

Oregon running back DeAnthony Thomas, left, celebrates his touchdown catch with quarterback Marcus Mariota (8) and other teammates during the first half of an NCAA college football game against Utah in Eugene, Ore., Saturday, Nov. 16, 2013. (AP Photo/Don Ryan)
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Best of Week 12

Check out the top images from the 12th weekend of college football play.

3. QB Marcus Mariota, Oregon

2013 stats: 281.9 passing yards per game, 25 TDs, 0 interceptions, 64.2 completion percentage, 47.7 rushing yards per game, 9 TDs.
Saturday's stats: 19 of 26 for 288 yards, 3 touchdowns, 0 interceptions, minus-18 rushing yards in win over Utah.
The skinny: Mariota, a third-year sophomore, has thrown at least one TD pass in all 23 games of his career and hasn't thrown an interception in 10 games this season. His rushing total is minus-16 yards in the past three weeks. He needs some help in terms of bad performances by others to get back into the top two.

2. QB Jameis Winston, Florida State

2013 stats: 293.8 passing yards per game, 28 TDs, 7 interceptions, 70.9 completion percentage, 3 rushing TDs.
Saturday's stats: 19 of 21 for 277 yards, 2 touchdowns, 0 interceptions in win over Syracuse.
The skinny: Winston is bidding to become the second consecutive redshirt freshman to win the Heisman. He played a half in the Seminoles' rout of Syracuse and completed at least 90 percent of his passes for the second time this season (he also did it in the opener against Pitt). He was extremely sharp against the Orange despite being involved in a sexual assault investigation. He is tied for fifth nationally in TD passes, and his yards-per-attempt average (11.3) is second among those who qualify.

1. QB Johnny Manziel, Texas A&M

2013 stats: 331.3 passing yards per game, 31 TDs, 11 interceptions, 73.0 completion percentage, 61.1 rushing yards per game, 8 TDs.
Saturday's stats: Texas A&M was idle.
The skinny: Manziel, a third-year sophomore, leads the nation in completion percentage among quarterbacks who qualify and is third in TD passes. He has thrown four TD passes in four consecutive games and in five games overall this season. Manziel also is second nationally in total offense (392.4 yards per game). While he already has five more touchdown passes than he threw last season, he also has thrown two more interceptions; in addition, he ran for 21 touchdowns last season and hasn't been near as effective on the ground this fall.

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

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