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Heisman Watch: Marcus Mariota moves back atop list

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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.

HEISMAN WATCH 2014: Week 1 | Week 2 | Week 3 | Week 4 | Week 5 | Week 6 | Week 7

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

Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota moved back atop this Heisman watch list after a big performance Saturday against Pac-12 North foe Washington.

Mariota was No. 2 last week, behind Mississippi State's Dak Prescott, and he moved into the top spot thanks to Mississippi State not playing this week.

Both players will have the opportunities to put up big numbers next week. Mariota and the Ducks are playing at California on Friday; the Bears are 124th nationally in total defense. Prescott and the Bulldogs play at Kentucky next Saturday; while UK is 40th nationally in total defense, that ranking is deceptive because the Wildcats surrendered at least 500 yards to Florida (seriously, 539 to the offensively challenged Gators) and South Carolina.

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.


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» Photos: Best of Week 8 | Cheerleaders | Alt unis

10. WR Kevin White, West Virginia

Season stats: 69 receptions, 1,020 yards, 14.8 yards per catch, 7 TDs.
Saturday's stats: 8 receptions, 132 yards, 16.5 yards per catch, 2 TDs in 41-27 win over Baylor.
The skinny: White leads the nation in receiving yards per game (145.7) and is No. 2 in receptions. He also is the only receiver nationally with 1,000 receiving yards. White, a senior, has had 100 yards in receptions in each of WVU's seven games, including a 216-yard outing against Maryland. He has caught at least one TD pass in five consecutive games and in six of WVU's seven games (all but the rout of FCS member Towson). In WVU's three games against ranked teams (Alabama, Baylor and Oklahoma), White has averaged nine receptions for 149.3 yards and a TD.

» Can't-miss Moments: See White's impressive TD catch

9. QB Bo Wallace, Ole Miss

Season stats: 137-of-209 passing, 65.6 completion percentage, 1,899 yards, 17 TDs, 6 interceptions, 122 rushing yards, 2 TDs.
Saturday's stats: 13-of-28, 46.4 completion percentage, 199 yards, 2 TDs, 0 interceptions, 33 rushing yards in 34-3 win over Tennessee.
The skinny: Wallace doesn't have eye-popping stats, but he has played steady, mistake-free football of late for one of the nation's best teams. This season, that gets you in the Heisman race. He is averaging 288.7 yards of total offense per game.

8. QB Shane Carden, East Carolina

Season stats: 166-of-252 passing, 65.9 completion percentage, 2,129 yards, 16 TDs, 4 interceptions, 73 rushing yards, 3 TDs.
Saturday's stats: ECU was off Saturday.
The skinny: East Carolina could be the Cinderella team among the non-Power Five conferences this season, and -- as with Fresno State's Derek Carr and Northern Illinois' Jordan Lynch last season -- Carden could be the quarterback who benefits from the attention. In three games this season against Power Five opponents (North Carolina, South Carolina and Virginia Tech), Carden threw for 1,186 yards, eight TDs and three interceptions. Carden, who is fifth nationally in passing yards per game (354.8), should put up big numbers the next few weeks against overmatched AAC opponents.

7. RB Tevin Coleman, Indiana

Season stats: 135 carries, 1,192 rushing yards, 11 TDs, 17 receptions, 140 yards.
Saturday's stats: 15 carries, 132 yards, 0 TDs in 56-17 loss to Indiana.
The skinny: Coleman is not going to win the Heisman and it's an extreme long shot that he even becomes a finalist. But his numbers are hard to ignore. He leads the nation in rushing yards and is second in yards per game (170.3); he is tied for fifth with 11 rushing TDs. He also is averaging an amazing 8.8 yards per carry; 63 players have had at least 100 rushing attempts this season, and Coleman's per-carry average is the best among those players by a half-yard. cfbstats.com shows that he has 13 carries of at least 30 yards (national leader), 10 of at least 40 (national leader) and five of at least 60 (national leader). Coleman has had nine consecutive 100-yard games dating to last season, the longest such streak in the nation; his streak of 15 consecutive games with a rushing TD, which had been the longest such streak in the nation, was snapped in the loss to Michigan State. His 11 TDs this season have covered an average of 36 yards.

6. QB Everett Golson, Notre Dame

Season stats: 166-of-268 passing, 61.9 completion percentage, 1,996 yards, 19 TDs, 6 interceptions, 242 rushing yards, 4 rushing TDs.
Saturday's stats: 31-of-52, 59.6 completion percentage, 313 yards, 3 TDs, 2 interceptions, 33 rushing yards in 31-27 loss to Florida State.
The skinny: Golson had the fourth 300-yard day of his career in the narrow loss at FSU. He also committed two turnovers, giving him 11 in the past four games. The 52 attempts were a career high, and the 31 completions were one off his career high, set earlier this season against Syracuse. Golson has accounted for 25 TDs this season, five more than he did in all of 2012, when he led the Irish to the BCS national championship game. Golson is 16th nationally in total offense, at 319.7 yards per game, and his importance to the offense is evidenced by the fact that he ranks seventh nationally in plays (pass attempts and runs) with 337.

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5. QB Jameis Winston, Florida State

Season stats: 149-of-211 passing, 70.6 completion percentage, 1,878 passing yards, 13 TDs, 6 interceptions, 2 rushing TDs.
Saturday's stats: 23-of-31, 74.2 completion percentage, 273 yards, 2 TDs, 1 interception in 31-27 win over Notre Dame.
The skinny: Winston once again showed almost a preternatural ability to shrug off distractions. After an uneven first half Saturday night, he was laser-sharp in the second half, going 15-of-16 for 181 yards and a TD as the Seminoles rallied from a 17-10 halftime deficit. Winston guided FSU to three second-half TDs, and each of those scoring drives covered at least 70 yards. He improved to 20-0 as a starter with Saturday's win. He is 53-of-67 (79.1 percent) for 590 yards, five touchdowns and one interception the past two weeks. While last week's win was over a bad Syracuse team, those two-week numbers are extraordinary considering the intense media attention focused on him the past 10 days. If voters can overlook his off-field issues, his play definitely deserves Heisman consideration. That seems to be a big "if" at this point.

» Jeremiah: Winston impresses on biggest stage

4. TB Ameer Abdullah, Nebraska

Season stats: 161 carries, 1,024 rushing yards, 14 TDs, 11 receptions, 143 yards, 2 TDs.
Saturday's stats: 23 carries, 146 yards, 4 TDs, 4 receptions, 13 yards in 38-17 win over Northwestern.
The skinny: He is third nationally in both total rushing yards and rushing yards per game (146.3). His 14 rushing TDs are second-most nationally -- and five more than he had all of last season. As for durability, he is seventh in the nation in rushing attempts per game (23.0), and his 23 attempts against Northwestern marked the fifth time this season and 18th time in his career he has carried at least 20 times in a game. He is averaging 6.4 yards per carry, and of the 73 players nationally averaging at least 6.0 per carry, he is the leader in attempts (by 11).

3. TB Melvin Gordon, Wisconsin

Season stats: 132 carries, 1,046 rushing yards, 13 TDs, 6 receptions, 27 yards, 1 TD.
Saturday's stats: Wisconsin was off Saturday.
The skinny: Gordon reached the 1,000-yard plateau faster than any back in school history (six games). He has had two four-TD days this season and is riding a streak of four consecutive games with at least 175 yards. In the past three games, he has 86 attempts, 615 yards and seven TDs. For the season, Gordon is averaging 7.9 yards per carry, which is third nationally among the 63 players with at least 100 attempts.

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

2. QB Dak Prescott, Mississippi State

Season stats: 96-of-156 passing, 61.5 completion percentage, 1,478 yards, 14 TDs, 4 interceptions, 576 rushing yards, 8 TDs.
Saturday's stats: Mississippi State was off Saturday.
The skinny: He has had four 100-yard rushing days this season. He has accounted for at least three TDs in five of the Bulldogs' six games and for four in three of the six. Prescott is ninth nationally in total offense (342.3 yards per game), and his per-play average of 7.84 yards is third-highest nationally among the 48 players with at least 260 plays. He is tied for the national lead in rushing TDs by a quarterback.

1. QB Marcus Mariota, Oregon

Season stats: 132-of-188 passing, 70.2 completion percentage, 1,957 yards, 19 TDs, 0 interceptions, 289 rushing yards, 5 TDs.
Saturday's stats: 24-of-33 passing, 72.7 completion percentage, 336 yards, 2 TDs, minus-1 rushing yard in 45-20 win over UCLA.
The skinny: Mariota has thrown at least two TD passes in every game this season, and he is the only one of the 100 quarterbacks nationally with at least 147 passing attempts not to have thrown an interception. He is second nationally in yards per attempt (10.4) and leads the nation in quarterback rating; in addition, his 19 TD passes are tied for seventh-most nationally. He is averaging 9.20 yards per play, the highest in the nation for any player who has been involved in at least 50 plays (he has been involved in 244). His career TD-to-interception ratio is an incredible 83-to-10.

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

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