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Heisman Watch: Amari Cooper takes Jameis Winston's place

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Mike Huguenin has spent more than 30 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.

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HEISMAN WATCH 2014: Week 1 | Week 2 | Week 3

A storyline headed into the season was whether Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston could buck the odds and join former Ohio State tailback Archie Griffin as the only players to win back-to-back Heismans.

Right now, Griffin's place in history looks safe. Extremely safe.

As anyone who even barely follows college football knows, Winston was suspended for FSU's win over Clemson on Saturday night. As a result, he also is "suspended" from this list for the week. And truthfully, unless Winston plays the rest of this season at as high a level as he did last season, he has zero shot at winning another Heisman. Reaching that level is going to be difficult because FSU's wide receiving corps isn't nearly as deep as it was last season and its rushing attack is struggling. There's also the matter of FSU's remaining schedule.

Clemson was one of the best opponents on FSU's schedule, and putting up big numbers against the Tigers would have carried vastly more cachet than putting up big numbers against the likes of North Carolina State, Wake Forest, Syracuse and Virginia. There is a game left against Notre Dame, but that might be the only real chance for Winston to put up big numbers against a truly marquee opponent this season.

In addition, his off-field issues are going to be an issue with voters; the question is how many Heisman voters have tired of Winston, no matter how good he is on the field.

Here are the top 10 contenders, from 10th to first, this week, as this Heisman voter sees them. Remember that 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.

10. QB Brett Hundley, UCLA

Season stats: 57-of-81 passing, 70.4 completion percentage, 686 yards, 3 TDs, 1 interception, 74 rushing yards, 1 TD
Saturday's stats: UCLA was off over the weekend.
The skinny: Hundley left in the first quarter of UCLA's most recent game, a Sept. 13 win over Texas, with an injury to his left (non-throwing) elbow. He is expected to start Thursday night (although Jim Mora won't say as much) when the Bruins play at Arizona State in one of the biggest Pac-12 games of the season. The national TV appearance will give him a chance to showcase his skills -- and to move up (or fall off) this list.

9. TB Melvin Gordon, Wisconsin

Season stats: 431 rushing yards, 6 TDs, 5 receptions, 27 yards, 1 TD
Saturday's stats: 253 rushing yards, 5 TDs in 68-17 win over Bowling Green.
The skinny: Gordon played well in a season-opening loss to LSU, then basically was non-existent in Game 2, a win over FCS foe Western Illinois. He returned to the national spotlight with a vengeance Saturday, rampaging through Bowling Green's overmatched defense. His 253 yards came on just 13 carries -- a staggering 19.5 yards per attempt. He should put up good numbers again this week against USF.

8. QB Bryce Petty, Baylor

Season stats: 36-of-57 passing, 63.2 completion percentage, 577 passing yards, 6 TDs, 0 interceptions, 1 rushing TD.
Saturday's stats: Baylor was off over the weekend.
The skinny: Petty has played just six quarters of football, as a back injury caused him to miss half the opener and all of Game 2. While he has relatively gaudy numbers for such little playing time, you can't take him truly seriously as a Heisman candidate until he does something against an opponent with a pulse. Iowa State is the opponent this week, and there are upcoming games against Texas, TCU and West Virginia. Petty has thrown a TD pass in 15 consecutive games in which he has played.

7. QB Everett Golson, Notre Dame

Season stats: 62-of-96 passing, 64.6 completion percentage, 780 yards, 7 TDs, 0 interceptions, 4 rushing TDs.
Saturday's stats: Notre Dame was off over the weekend.
The skinny: Golson is playing at a high level and looks extremely comfortable in coach Brian Kelly's offense. The Irish play Syracuse in East Rutherford, N.J., this weekend, then get Stanford on Oct. 4 and Florida State on Oct. 18. Those games will determine Notre Dame's "suitability" for the four-team College Football Playoff -- and serve as a referendum of sorts on whether Golson has a chance to go to New York as a Heisman finalist.

6. QB Taysom Hill, BYU

Season stats: 80-of-121 passing, 66.1 completion percentage, 876 yards, 6 TDs, 3 interceptions, 428 rushing yards, 7 TDs.
Saturday's stats: 13-of-23, 56.5 completion percentage, 187 yards, 2 TDs, 0 interceptions, 72 rushing yards, 1 TD in 41-33 win over Virginia.
The skinny: Hill accounted for three TDs as BYU rallied from a halftime deficit to beat Virginia. The Cavaliers outgained the Cougars 519-332 and owned a 2-to-1 advantage in time of possession. But a kickoff-return TD and solid play by Hill in the second half boosted BYU, which -- truth be told -- didn't look all that impressive, especially defensively. For Hill to become a truly viable Heisman contender, he must continue to put up big numbers and BYU has to continue to win.

5. TB Ameer Abdullah, Nebraska

Season stats: 625 rushing yards, 5 TDs, 5 receptions, 108 yards, 2 TDs.
Saturday's stats: 229 rushing yards, 2 TDs, 1 receiving TD in 41-31 win over Miami (Fla.).
The skinny: Abdullah led the way as the Huskers beat Miami (Fla.). He moved into third place on the school's career rushing list and became the Huskers' career leader in all-purpose yards -- passing former Heisman winner Johnny Rodgers -- with his big performance against the Hurricanes. It was his second 200-yard game of the season, and he had a career-high 35 carries (it was the third time in his career he had more than 25 attempts). He should put up big numbers against Illinois' porous defense this weekend.

4. WR Amari Cooper, Alabama

Season stats: 43 receptions, 655 yards, 15.2 yards per catch, 5 touchdowns.
Saturday's stats: 10 receptions, 201 yards, 20.1 yards per catch, 3 TDs in 42-21 win over Florida.
The skinny: Cooper leads the nation in receptions per game -- and raise your hand if you ever thought a Nick Saban-coached wide receiver would do that. (There should not be any hands raised, by the way.) Cooper torched Florida on Saturday, but Alabama's next opponent, on Oct. 4, is Ole Miss, which has allowed just 453 passing yards and one TD (against eight picks) in three games this season. It's difficult for a wide receiver to win the Heisman, especially if he doesn't return kicks, but Cooper is putting up receiving numbers that are hard to ignore. Saturday's outing was his sixth in a row (dating to last season) with at least 120 receiving yards.

3. QB Kenny Hill, Texas A&M

Season stats: 97-of-139 passing, 69.8 completion percentage, 1,359 yards, 13 TDs, 1 interception, 106 rushing yards.
Saturday's stats: 16-of-22, 72.7 completion percentage, 265 yards, 1 TDs, 1 interception, 57 rushing yards in 58-6 win over SMU.
The skinny: Hill played only a half in the Aggies' demolition of SMU and, not surprisingly, he put up good numbers before taking a seat. A&M's next four opponents are a combined 14-1, so his Heisman "campaign" bears especially close watching in the next month. Hill is third in the nation in TD passes and ninth in passing yards per game (339.8).

Check out the alternate college football uniforms worn during the 2014 season.

2. TB Todd Gurley, Georgia

Season stats: 402 rushing yards, 4 TDs, 1 kickoff-return TD.
Saturday's stats: 6 carries, 73 yards in 66-0 win over Troy.
The skinny: Gurley wasn't needed as the Bulldogs toyed with Troy, but he still averaged 12.2 yards per carry in scant time. Chances are he'll be heavily used this week, when the Bulldogs play host to Tennessee in an important SEC East game. Gurley moved into fourth place on Georgia's career rushing list, with 2,776 yards, passing Knowshon Moreno. He should finish as the school's No. 2 rusher; Lars Tate (3,017) is third and Garrison Hearst (3,232) is second. But Gurley isn't going to catch Herschel Walker (5,259).

1. QB Marcus Mariota, Oregon

Season stats: 71-of-96 passing, 74.0 completion percentage, 1,135 yards, 11 TDs, 0 interceptions, 214 rushing yards, 3 TDs.
Saturday's stats: 21-of-25, 84.0 completion percentage, 329 yards, 5 TDs, 58 rushing yards in 38-31 win over Washington State.
The skinny: Mariota frequently was under siege from a strong Cougars pass rush, but when he got time, he dissected Washington State's secondary in a game that was much closer than expected. In the past two games (wins over Wyoming and Washington State), he was 40-of-48 (83.3 completion percentage) with seven TDs. There are 26 quarterbacks who have thrown for 1,000 yards this season, and Mariota is the only one who has not thrown an interception. His career TD-to-interception ratio is an incredible 76-to-10. The Ducks are off this weekend, then play host to Arizona on Oct. 2; the Wildcats thrashed the Ducks last season.

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

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