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Heisman Watch: Todd Gurley atop the first rankings list

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AP Photo/David Goldman
Georgia running back Todd Gurley's monster game has increased his Heisman hype.

The first week of the season isn't even over and we're already going to start talking about the Heisman.

While Heisman mentions on Sept. 1 might make even hard-core fans grit their teeth and bite their tongue, they also realize Heisman conversation never ends, which makes sense because it is arguably the most prestigious individual award in sports.

Here are the top 10 contenders, from 10th to first, this week, as this Heisman voter sees them. Each of the past four and 12 of the past 14 winners have been quarterbacks; the only non-quarterbacks were running backs Mark Ingram of Alabama in 2009 and Reggie Bush of USC in 2005. (Yes, we know Bush's win was "vacated." We also know he had the most votes that year, so ...).

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

10. QB Taysom Hill, BYU

Season stats: 97 rushing yards, 2 TDs, 308 passing yards, 3 TDs, 0 interceptions
The skinny: Hill was 10th nationally in total offense last season, and though one game is hardly a representative body of work, he looks miles better as a passer this season, as he torched UConn's secondary in an easy road win Friday night. Also impressive: Hill completed 77.8 percent of his passes, a figure that had to bring a smile to the face of coach Bronco Mendenhall because Hill's completion percentage was just 53.9 last season. But his stay on this list could be brief: He and the Cougars play at Texas next week. Hill needs a huge game -- sort of like the one he had last season, when BYU crushed the Longhorns -- to remain a legit candidate.

9. QB Nick Marshall, Auburn

Season stats: 19 rushing yards, 1 TD, 50 passing yards, 0 TDs, 0 interceptions
The skinny: Marshall was suspended for the first half of the Tigers' win over Arkansas on Saturday, though he did provide an early second-half spark when he scored on a TD run. Frankly, he's on here for what he did last season, when he guided Auburn to the national title game. He should be able to put up Heisman-worthy numbers when the Tigers play host to San Jose State next Saturday.

8. QB Brett Hundley, UCLA

Season stats: 39 rushing yards, 1 TD, 242 passing yards, 0 TDs, 0 interceptions
The skinny: Hundley and the Bruins won their opener at Virginia, but the offense didn't do much. Yes, UCLA scored 28 points, but the Bruins had three defensive TDs. There's no question Hundley is one of the most talented quarterbacks nationally, but his receiving corps lacks playmakers and Hundley also might be the best pure runner on his team. The Bruins meet Memphis next Saturday; will Hundley and the offense do anything?

7. TB Ameer Abdullah, Nebraska

Season stats: 232 rushing yards, 1 TD, 1 reception, 9 yards
The skinny: Just call him "Mr. Overlooked." He was the nation's leading returning rusher, yet remains in the background. He had a huge opener against Florida Atlantic, but his production could drop next week because he likely won't see much time when the Huskers meet FCS foe McNeese State. Also impressive about Abdullah: Saturday was his seventh consecutive game and ninth time in 10 outings with at least 20 carries.

6. TB Melvin Gordon, Wisconsin

Season stats: 147 rushing yards, 1 TD
The skinny: Gordon looked good, as he always does, when he carried the ball in Saturday's loss to LSU. He looked so good, in fact, that you wonder why he had just 16 carries; he had only four carries in the second half. He had nine carries for 64 yards in the first quarter, repeatedly gashing LSU's revamped front four. But for some reason, Badgers coaches lessened his workload from there. He should pile up big numbers on relatively few carries next week against FCS foe Western Illinois.

5. QB Kenny Hill, Texas A&M

Season stats: 511 passing yards, 3 TDs
The skinny: Come on, admit it: When you were watching A&M eviscerate South Carolina on Thursday night, there had to be a point where you thought to yourself, "Man, this dude looks better than Johnny Football." Of course, one game does not a career make, but there's no doubt Hill's starting debut was an eye-opener. While he's not the runner Johnny Manziel was, Hill's passing total was a single-game school record (Manziel held the old mark). He looked like a fifth-year senior in the way he stood in the pocket and carved up the Gamecocks' defense. He and the Aggies play against FCS foe Lamar next Saturday; chances are Hill won't even play in the second half.


14 for '14 series:
CFB 24/7 counts down the 14 college football players or coaches to watch in varying categories in 2014.

» Top small-school prospects
» Impact freshmen in college football
» Top rivalries in college football
» Top personalities in college football
» Best uniforms in college football
» Best stadiums in college football
» Biggest hitters in college football
» Hot coordinators in college football
» Best recruiters in college football
» Hot-seat coaches in college football
» Best coaches in college football
» Best names in college football
» Heaviest players in college football
» Smallest players in college football
» Top celebrity college football fans
» Top Heisman Trophy candidates
» Most explosive athletes in college football
» Most versatile players in college football
» Most freakish athletes in college football
» Scariest players in college football
» Fastest players in college football
» Toughest players in college football
» Smartest players in college football
» Most physical players in college football
» College football players with best intangibles

4. QB Bryce Petty, Baylor

Season stats: 161 passing yards, 2 TDs, 1 rushing TD
The skinny: Petty played only the first half of Sunday night's rout of SMU; he took a hit in the lower back in the first half and moved gingerly at times, and there was no reason to risk further injury given that the Bears led 31-0 at halftime. He extended his streak of consecutive games with a touchdown pass to 14, which is a school record; he had been tied with former Heisman winner Robert Griffin III, who was in attendance Sunday. Petty and the Bears play FCS foe Northwestern State (La.) this week, and it will be interesting to see whether coach Art Briles feels the need to play Petty.

3. QB Jameis Winston, Florida State

Season stats: 370 passing yards, 1 TD, 2 interceptions, 1 rushing TD
The skinny: Winston had the eighth 300-yard game of his young career in Saturday night's win over Oklahoma State, but he also struggled at times. He threw two interceptions in the second quarter, matching his single-game high from last season, and had one more sure pick dropped. But he scored on a nifty 28-yard run and also sealed the victory with a 50-yard TD pass to Rashad Greene. At first glance, it appears Winston is going to have to do more with less this season: FSU's running game was unimpressive against a rebuilt Cowboys defense, and while Greene is a star, FSU doesn't appear to have a true No. 2 receiver. (Last season, Kelvin Benjamin and Kenny Shaw combined for 21 TDs while sharing that role.). Look for a relatively quick outing next Saturday against The Citadel; it would be a surprise if Winston is needed at all in the second half (or maybe even the second quarter).

2. QB Marcus Mariota, Oregon

Season stats: 267 passing yards, 3 TDs, 43 rushing yards, 1 TD
The skinny: Mariota looked sharp in the opener; then again, it was against FCS opponent South Dakota. He piled up all his stats in the first half and sat out the second; he also tied for the school career lead in TD passes with 66. He obviously will be tasked with doing more next week when the Ducks welcome in Michigan State in what is shaping up to be the nation's most important non-conference game of the season.

1. TB Todd Gurley, Georgia

Season stats: 198 rushing yards, 3 TDs, 1 kickoff-return TD
The skinny: He looked like a man among boys against Clemson's defense, which -- despite its appearance Saturday -- is expected to be one of the toughest in the nation. He is an athletic and punishing inside runner, and he proved it against the Tigers, alternately running over and running away from defenders. And his kickoff return showed his speed, too. Usually, he is an excellent receiver, but that facet of his game wasn't needed Saturday. His 198 rushing yards came on just 15 attempts -- 13.2 yards per carry. One issue to watch going forward is that because Georgia has perhaps the best tailback depth in the nation, Gurley seems unlikely to have many (any?) 20-carry games. Then again, if he's averaging 13.2 yards per carry, it shouldn't matter.

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

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