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Heisman Watch: Melvin Gordon sprints toward top of race

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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 | Week 9 | Week 10 | Week 11

Check out the top images from the 12th weekend of college football play.

Wisconsin tailback Melvin Gordon had a game for the ages Saturday, and as a result, he became one of the top two contenders for the Heisman Trophy.

Gordon ran for 408 yards against Nebraska to set the FBS single-game record. What made the total even more staggering is that he accumulated it in three quarters; he sat out the fourth period of the Badgers' easy win.

Meanwhile, Mississippi State quarterback Dak Prescott dropped to third in the Heisman chase, and barring a monster performance against Ole Miss in the regular-season finale, he looks to be out of the running for the award.

Oregon's Marcus Mariota remained in first place; the Ducks were off over the weekend. He and Gordon are far and away the top two candidates right now.

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. RB Duke Johnson, Miami (Fla.)

Season stats: 185 carries, 1,343 yards, 10 TDs, 25 receptions, 310 yards, 2 TDs.
Saturday's stats: 27 carries, 130 yards, 1 TD, 4 receptions, 37 yards in 30-26 loss to Florida State.
The skinny: Johnson has a string of six consecutive 100-yard games and he has rushed for at least 90 yards in all 10 of UM's contests this season. He is eighth nationally in rushing yards per game (134.3) and is averaging 7.3 yards per carry. Johnson's six 100-yard games this season give him 13 for his career; that is tied for third in Miami history, trailing Clinton Portis (14) and Edgerrin James (14) and tied with Ottis Anderson (13).

9. QB Cody Kessler, USC

Season stats: 238-of-339 passing, 70.2 completion percentage, 2,919 passing yards, 29 TDs, 3 interceptions, 2 rushing TDs.
Thursday's stats: 31-of-42, 73.8 completion percentage, 371 yards, 4 TDs, 1 interception in 38-30 win over California.
The skinny: He is 12th in the nation in passing yards, 14th in yards per game (291.9) and tied for fourth in TD passes. He also is fourth in completion percentage. His performance against Cal was his fifth 300-yard game of the season and also the fifth time he has thrown at least four TD passes in a game.

8. QB Jameis Winston, Florida State

Season stats: 221-of-336 passing, 65.8 completion percentage, 2,844 passing yards, 18 TDs, 12 interceptions, 3 rushing TDs.
Saturday's stats: 25-of-42, 59.5 completion percentage, 304 yards, 1 TD, 1 interception in 30-26 win over Miami (Fla.).
The skinny: He already has thrown more interceptions in nine games than he did in 14 last season and his TD rate is down, too. Still, when he is on, there is no better quarterback in the nation. He also has proven to be clutch: You can ding him and the Seminoles for sputtering at the beginning of games, but they have gotten it done when it matters in the second half. Saturday's win at Miami was the third time this season FSU rallied when it was down by at least 16 points. He is eighth nationally in passing yards per game, at 316.0; he finished 13th last season (289.8). He is 16th in the nation at 8.5 yards per attempt, but he is the only quarterback in the top 18 in that category nationally averaging as many as 37 attempts per game.

» Winston helps FSU rally past Miami

7. RB Tevin Coleman, Indiana

Season stats: 214 carries, 1,678 rushing yards, 12 TDs, 21 receptions, 132 yards.
Saturday's stats: 32 carries, 307 yards, 1 TD in 45-23 loss to Rutgers.
The skinny: He is second nationally in rushing yards and in rushing yards per game (167.8); he is tied for 17th with 12 rushing TDs. Most impressive might be that he is averaging 7.8 yards per carry on a team that has no passing game because it is down to its third-string quarterback. Cfbstats.com shows that he has 14 carries of at least 30 yards (tied for second nationally), 11 of at least 40 (second), eight of at least 50 (second) and seven of at least 60 (national leader). His 12 TDs this season have covered an average of 39 yards.

6. QB J.T. Barrett, Ohio State

Season stats: 165-of-258 passing, 64.0 completion percentage, 2,356 passing yards, 29 TDs, 8 interceptions, 771 rushing yards, 9 TDs.
Saturday's stats: 15-of-25, 60.0 completion percentage, 200 yards, 3 TDs, 1 interception, 189 rushing yards, 1 TD in 31-24 win over Minnesota.
The skinny: Barrett's 389 yards of total offense against Minnesota was his second-highest total of the season, behind the 409 he had against Cincinnati. It also was the sixth time this season he has thrown at least three TD passes in a game. On Saturday, Barrett broke Braxton Miller's single-game school record for rushing yards by a quarterback -- including a TD run of 86 yards that was the third-longest scoring run in school history -- and now has accounted for 38 touchdowns this season, which is a single-season school record; the record had been 36, set by Miller last season. Barrett's 29 TD passes are one shy of the single-season school record set by Troy Smith in 2006, the season he won the Heisman.

5. WR Amari Cooper, Alabama

Season stats: 87 receptions, 1,303 yards, 14.98 yards per catch, 11 TDs.
Saturday's stats: 8 receptions, 88 yards, 1 TD in 25-20 win over Mississippi State.
The skinny: Cooper leads the nation in receiving yards and is No. 3 nationally in receptions. He has had six 100-yard games and two 200-yard games this season; he also has had three games with at least two TD receptions and nine with at least eight catches. He has six TD catches in the past four games

4. QB Trevone Boykin, TCU

Season stats: 229-of-386 passing, 59.3 completion percentage, 3,021 yards, 24 TDs, 5 interceptions, 548 rushing yards, 7 TDs.
Saturday's stats: 26-of-36, 72.2 completion percentage, 330 yards, 1 TD, 1 interception, 2 rushing yards in 34-30 win over Kansas.
The skinny: Boykin set a season-high for completion percentage as the Horned Frogs rallied to beat Kansas. It was his fifth 300-yard game of the season. His rushing total was a season-low, though, as the Jayhawks concentrated on keeping him from hurting them with his legs. He has thrown just three TD passes in the past three games. Still, he is third nationally in total offense at 356.9 yards per game and has TCU in the playoff hunt.

3. QB Dak Prescott, Mississippi State

Season stats: 173-of-287 passing, 60.3 completion percentage, 2,521 yards, 20 TDs, 10 interceptions, 861 rushing yards, 11 TDs.
Saturday's stats: 27-of-48, 56.3 completion percentage, 290 yards, 2 TDs, 3 interceptions, 82 rushing yards in 25-20 loss to Alabama.
The skinny: Saturday's passing total was his second-highest of the season and the passing attempts were a career-high. But that wasn't necessarily a good thing as the Bulldogs struggled to run and thus had to throw. He is sixth nationally in total offense (338.2 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 thrown eight picks (and just seven TD passes) in the past five games.

» Jeremiah: 'Bama stars step up, Prescott steps back

2. TB Melvin Gordon, Wisconsin

Season stats: 223 carries, 1,909 rushing yards, 23 TDs, 11 receptions, 83 yards, 2 TDs.
Saturday's stats: 25 carries, 408 yards, 4 TDs in 59-24 win over Nebraska.
The skinny: Saturday's outing was his fourth 200-yard game of the season; it also was his ninth with 100 yards, including his eighth in a row. It was his fifth game in a row with at least two touchdowns and the seventh such game this season; in addition, Saturday's outing was his third with at least four rushing touchdowns. Gordon leads the nation in rushing yards, in rushing yards per game (190.9) and in rushing touchdowns. Gordon is averaging 8.6 yards per carry, which is first nationally among the 45 players with at least 160 attempts. Cfbstats.com shows that he leads the nation with 48 runs of at least 10 yards, 27 runs of at least 20 yards, 19 of at least 30 and 15 of at least 40. He has run for more yards by himself than 83 FBS teams.

1. QB Marcus Mariota, Oregon

Season stats: 186-of-277 passing, 67.1 completion percentage, 2,780 yards, 29 TDs, 2 interceptions, 524 rushing yards, 8 TDs.
Saturday's stats: Oregon was idle over the weekend.
The skinny: Mariota has accounted for at least four TDs in seven games this season (he did that three times last season) and has thrown at least two TD passes in every contest. Three times he has thrown at least three TD passes in a game. He is tied for fourth nationally in TD passes, leads the nation in quarterback rating and is ninth in total offense at 330.4 yards per game. He also is tied for 11th among quarterbacks in rushing touchdowns. Mariota is one of 20 players averaging at least 300 yards of total offense per game, and his per-play average of 9.03 is a staggering 1.09 yards more than any of the others. Mariota has had seven games with at least 300 yards of total offense and four contests with at least 350 yards. His career TD-to-interception ratio is an incredible 92-to-12.

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

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