|John Miller/Associated Press|
|UCLA QB Brett Hundley will get a chance to impress Heisman voters with three big games early in the season.|
UCLA coach Jim Mora knows he has a legitimate Heisman candidate at quarterback, and Sunday night he let everybody know that he knows.
Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston will go into the 2014 season as the Heisman front-runner, but no player has won back-to-back Heismans since Ohio State running back Archie Griffin in 1974-75.
Hundley, who will be a junior in the fall, should be one of Winston's top five Heisman challengers. He threw for 3,071 yards and 24 touchdowns and also rushed for 748 yards and 11 TDs this season. But he threw nine interceptions, and that is a number that Mora and offensive coordinator Noel Mazzone would like to see reduced. Overall, UCLA coaches will be looking for more consistency as a passer, but a third year working with Mazzone means a 30-TD season through the air is a legitimate goal.
Hundley also has a chance to make a lot of national noise early in the season with three big games. UCLA, which has had one Heisman winner (Gary Beban in 1967), opens the season at Virginia on Aug. 30, and it never hurts when a West Coast player gets an opportunity to show off in a game on the East Coast. There's also a huge non-conference game with Texas at AT&T Stadium (home of the Dallas Cowboys) on Sept. 13 and an early Pac-12 South showdown with defending division champ Arizona State in Tempe on Sept. 25, a Thursday night.
But Hundley isn't the top Heisman candidate in the Pac-12; that would be Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota. And Ohio State's Braxton Miller, Baylor's Bryce Petty and Auburn's Nick Marshall are three other quarterbacks who figure to get a lot of preseason Heisman buzz. The same goes for running backs Todd Gurley of Georgia and Melvin Gordon of Wisconsin.
Mike Huguenin can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. You also can follow him on Twitter @MikeHuguenin.