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Heisman Watch: Ameer Abdullah among top contenders

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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 | Week 8

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

Despite throwing his first interception of the season, Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota remains atop the Heisman watch list after a big performance Friday against California.

Mississippi State quarterback Dak Prescott stayed at No. 2, and Nebraska tailback Ameer Abdullah moved up one spot, to third, after his fourth 200-yard game of the season.

Abdullah should put up more big numbers next week when the Huskers play Purdue. But Prescott (vs. Arkansas) and especially Mariota (vs. Stanford) face much tougher defenses.

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 Trevone Boykin, TCU

Season stats: 168-of-286 passing, 58.7 completion percentage, 2,306 yards, 21 TDs, 3 interceptions, 374 rushing yards, 3 TDs.
Saturday's stats: 22-of-39, 56.4 completion percentage, 433 yards, 7 TDs, 0 interceptions, 28 rushing yards in 82-27 win over Texas Tech.
The skinny: Boykin still has some accuracy issues -- Saturday was his fourth outing this season with a completion percentage of less than 59 percent -- but he also is an exciting player who makes great use of the varied skill-position talent around him. He absolutely torched Texas Tech on Saturday for his second consecutive 400-yard game; that outing was also his third this season with at least three TD passes. He is third nationally in total offense at 382.9 yards per game.

» Boykin, TCU put up 80-burger on Texas Tech

9. WR Amari Cooper, Alabama

Season stats: 71 receptions, 1,132 yards, 15.9 yards per catch, 9 TDs.
Saturday's stats: 9 receptions, 224 yards, 24.9 yards per catch, 2 TDs in 34-20 win over Tennessee.
The skinny: Cooper is No. 2 nationally in receiving yards and third in receptions. He has had six 100-yard games and two 200-yard games this season; in addition, his performance Saturday was his third game with at least two TD receptions and his seventh with at least eight catches. He set a school record with the 224 receiving yards Saturday and is just 56 yards away from breaking D.J. Hall's school career record of 2,923 receiving yards.

» Cooper breaks Julio Jones' school record

8. QB Shane Carden, East Carolina

Season stats: 204-of-316 passing, 64.6 completion percentage, 2,574 yards, 16 TDs, 5 interceptions, 105 rushing yards, 3 TDs.
Thursday's stats: 38-of-64, 59.4 completion percentage, 445 yards, 2 TDs, 1 interception, 32 rushing yards in 31-21 win over Connecticut.
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. The 445 yards against UConn were a season-high for Carden; the attempts were a career-high, while his completions total was the fourth-highest of his career. It was his fourth 400-yard game of the season and the seventh of his career. 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. He is eighth nationally in passing yards, third in passing yards per game (367.7) and fourth nationally in total offense (382.7 per game).

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

7. RB Tevin Coleman, Indiana

Season stats: 135 carries, 1,192 rushing yards, 11 TDs, 17 receptions, 140 yards.
Saturday's stats: Indiana was off over the weekend.
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 is third nationally in rushing yards and leads in yards per game (170.3); he is tied for 10th with 11 rushing TDs. He also is averaging 8.8 yards per carry; 42 players have had at least 125 rushing attempts this season, and Coleman's per-carry average is the best among those players. 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 (tied for the national lead). Coleman has had nine consecutive 100-yard games dating to last season, the longest such streak in the nation. 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: Notre Dame was off over the weekend.
The skinny: 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 12th nationally in total offense, at 319.7 yards per game. He has had three 300-yard games. Golson has thrown at least two TD passes in each of the Irish's seven games and thrown at least three TD passes in four games.

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: FSU was off over the weekend.
The skinny: Winston, who is 20-0 as a starter in his career, is 53-of-67 (79.1 percent) for 590 yards, five touchdowns and one interception in his past two games. Those two-week numbers are extraordinary considering the intense media attention focused on him. He is 11th in the nation at 8.9 yards per attempt, but he is the only quarterback in the top 15 in that category nationally averaging as many as 35 attempts per game. If voters can overlook his off-field issues, his play definitely deserves Heisman consideration. That seems to be a big "if."

4. TB Melvin Gordon, Wisconsin

Season stats: 154 carries, 1,168 rushing yards, 16 TDs, 8 receptions, 39 yards, 1 TD.
Saturday's stats: 22 carries, 122 yards, 3 TDs, 2 receptions, 12 yards in 52-7 win over Maryland.
The skinny: His streak of four consecutive games with at least 175 yards ended against Maryland, but he still had his sixth 100-yard outing of the season. In addition, it was his third game with at least three rushing touchdowns. He is fourth nationally in rushing yards and second in yards per game (166.9). Gordon is averaging 7.6 yards per carry, which is fourth nationally among the 87 players with at least 100 attempts.

3. TB Ameer Abdullah, Nebraska

Season stats: 180 carries, 1,249 rushing yards, 17 TDs, 13 receptions, 169 yards, 2 TDs.
Saturday's stats: 19 carries, 225 yards, 3 TDs, 2 receptions, 26 yards in 42-24 win over Rutgers.
The skinny: He leads the nation in rushing yards and is third in rushing yards per game (156.1). Saturday's outing was his fourth 200-yard game of the season, which leads the nation, and his sixth game with at least 100 yards. His 17 rushing TDs are second-most nationally -- and eight more than he had all of last season. As for durability, he is eighth in the nation in rushing attempts per game (22.5). He is averaging 6.9 yards per carry, and of the 66 players nationally averaging at least 6.0 per carry, he is by far the leader in attempts (by 26).

» Abdullah sets all-purpose yardage record

2. QB Dak Prescott, Mississippi State

Season stats: 114-of-189 passing, 60.3 completion percentage, 1,694 yards, 15 TDs, 5 interceptions, 664 rushing yards, 10 TDs.
Saturday's stats: 18-of-33, 54.5 completion percentage, 216 yards, 1 TD, 1 interception, 88 rushing yards, 2 TDs in 45-31 win over Kentucky.
The skinny: Prescott has accounted for at least three TDs in six of the Bulldogs' seven games. He is eighth nationally in total offense (336.9 yards per game). He has had four 100-yard rushing days this season and is tied for second nationally in rushing TDs by a quarterback. Prescott has accounted for at least 300 yards of total offense in each game, and is the offensive focal point of one of just three unbeaten teams remaining.

1. QB Marcus Mariota, Oregon

Season stats: 150-of-218 passing, 68.8 completion percentage, 2,283 yards, 24 TDs, 1 interceptions, 325 rushing yards, 5 TDs, 1 receiving TD.
Friday's stats: 18-of-30 passing, 60.0 completion percentage, 326 yards, 5 TDs, 1 interception, 36 rushing yards in 59-41 win over California.
The skinny: Mariota has thrown at least two TD passes in every game this season, and while he tossed his first pick of the season against Cal, it also marked his fourth 300-yard game of the season. He is tied for third nationally in TD passes, and each of other four quarterbacks with at least 24 TD passes have at least 113 more attempts than Mariota. He leads the nation in quarterback rating and is 10th in total offense at 326.0 yards per game. He is one of 24 players averaging at least 300 yards of total offense per game, and his per-play average of 9.31 is a staggering 1.2 yards more than any of the others. His career TD-to-interception ratio is an incredible 88-to-11.

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

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