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Heisman Watch: Marcus Mariota takes drama out 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 | Week 12 | Week 13

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It's becoming increasingly apparent that Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota is going to win the Heisman Trophy. The biggest question now is how many players are invited to New York for the ceremony.

Mariota piled up 406 total yards, his highest total of the season, as the Ducks swamped archrival Oregon State, and his lead in the Heisman chase became larger. Wisconsin's Melvin Gordon rushed for 151 yards and has the fourth-highest rushing total in FBS history, and he looks to be the only other for-sure finalist. Both get one more chance to impress the voters in next weekend's league championship games; Mariota and the Ducks meet Arizona in the Pac-12 title game, while Gordon and the Badgers play Ohio State in the Big Ten finale.

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 James Conner, Pitt

Season stats: 277 carries, 1,675 rushing yards, 24 TDs, 5 receptions, 70 yards.
Saturday's stats: 16 carries, 75 yards, 2 TDs in 35-23 win over Miami (Fla.).
The skinny: Conner leads the ACC in rushing and on Saturday he set a school record for rushing TDs in a season; the mark had been 22, set by Tony Dorsett in 1976. Conner is fourth nationally in rushing yards and sixth in rushing yards per game (139.6). He is tied for second nationally in rushing TDs. Saturday's outing was the seventh time this season he had rushed for at least two TDs in a game, and he has had seven 100-yard and three 200-yard games this season. He also has proven to be durable, with four games of at least 30 carries and three others with at least 20.

9. RB Jay Ajayi, Boise State

Season stats: 303 carries, 1,619 yards, 24 TDs, 45 receptions, 536 yards, 4 TDs.
Saturday's stats: 27 carries, 229 yards, 5 TDs in 50-19 win over Utah State.
The skinny: Saturday's game was for the Mountain West Mountain Division title, and Ajayi responded with the best performance of his career. It was his second 200-yard game of the season -- the other came in a big win over Colorado State -- and the ninth time he had exceeded 100 yards. It was his seventh consecutive 100-yard game and the seventh time in a row he had rushed for multiple TDs in a game. He has nine such games this season. He is fifth nationally in rushing yards and seventh in rushing yards per game (134.9). He is tied for second nationally in rushing TDs, and his 303 carries also are second-most nationally. Ajayi is tied for sixth nationally for receptions by a running back.

8. QB Trevone Boykin, TCU

Season stats: 249-of-420 passing, 59.3 completion percentage, 3,254 yards, 26 TDs, 6 interceptions, 598 rushing yards, 8 TDs.
Thursday's stats: 20-of-34, 58.5 completion percentage, 233 yards, 2 TDs, 1 interception, 50 rushing yards, 1 TD in 48-10 win over Texas.
The skinny: Boykin is fourth nationally in total offense at 350.2 yards per game. He has had five 300-yard passing games, including two of at least 400 yards. He also has accounted for at least three touchdowns in six games and at least six in two games.

7. QB Cody Kessler, USC

Season stats: 292-of-413 passing, 70.7 completion percentage, 3,505 passing yards, 36 TDs, 4 interceptions, 2 rushing TDs.
Saturday's stats: 32-of-40, 80.0 completion percentage, 372 yards, 6 TDs in 49-14 win over Notre Dame.
The skinny: Kessler became the first quarterback ever to throw six TD passes against Notre Dame in the Trojans' rout Saturday. He is sixth in the nation in passing yards, 10th in yards per game (292.1) and tied for second in TD passes. He also is second in completion percentage. He has had six 300-yard games and six four-TD games this season; he also has had three five-TD games and two six-TD outings.


» Winners and losers from Week 14's CFB games


6. QB J.T. Barrett, Ohio State

Season stats: 203-of-314 passing, 64.6 completion percentage, 2,834 passing yards, 34 TDs, 10 interceptions, 938 rushing yards, 11 TDs.
Saturday's stats: 13-of-21, 61.9 completion percentage, 176 yards, 1 TD, 89 rushing yards, 2 TDs in 42-28 win over Michigan.
The skinny: Barrett suffered a broken ankle in the fourth quarter of Saturday's win and is lost for the season. He is ninth nationally in total offense (314.3 yards per game) and accounted for a Big Ten-record 45 touchdowns this season. His 34 TD passes are the most in a season in school history. He would've become the first 3,000-yard passer/1,000-yard rusher in Big Ten history.

5. QB Dak Prescott, Mississippi State

Season stats: 211-of-345 passing, 61.2 completion percentage, 2,996 yards, 24 TDs, 10 interceptions, 939 rushing yards, 13 TDs.
Saturday's stats: 22-of-37, 59.5 completion percentage, 282 yards, 1 TD, 0 interceptions, 48 rushing yards, 1 TD in 31-17 loss to Ole Miss.
The skinny: Prescott is sixth nationally in total offense (327.9 yards per game), and Saturday's game was the 10th time this season he hit the 300-yard mark. Prescott should become the first Mississippi State quarterback in history to throw for 3,000 yards in a season in the Bulldogs' bowl game; in addition, he should become just the seventh quarterback in FBS history to pass for 3,000 yards and rush for 1,000 in the same season (Barrett obviously had a great shot at that particular double-double, too). Prescott has had four 100-yard rushing days this season and is fifth nationally among quarterbacks in rushing yards; he also is tied for second nationally in rushing TDs by a quarterback.

4. WR Amari Cooper, Alabama

Season stats: 103 receptions, 1,573 yards, 15.3 yards per catch, 14 TDs.
Saturday's stats: 13 receptions, 224 yards, 3 TDs in 55-44 win over Auburn.
The skinny: Cooper torched Auburn's mediocre secondary in Saturday's game, tying his school record for receiving yards in a game set earlier this season against Tennessee. Cooper, who is from Miami, is second in the nation in receiving yards and third in the nation in receptions. He has had seven 100-yard games and three 200-yard games this season; he also has had four games with at least two TD receptions (including two with three) and 10 with at least eight catches. In addition, Cooper has had four games with at least 10 catches.


» Things to know from Week 14 in college football


3. RB Tevin Coleman, Indiana

Season stats: 270 carries, 2,036 rushing yards, 15 TDs, 25 receptions, 141 yards.
Saturday's stats: 29 carries, 130 yards in 23-16 win over Purdue.
The skinny: On Saturday, Coleman became the 18th player in FBS history to rush for 2,000 yards in a season. He is second nationally in rushing yards and in rushing yards per game (169.7); he also is tied for 17th in rushing TDs. Coleman has had four 200-yard games on the season and three three-TD outings. Most impressive might be that he is averaging 7.5 yards per carry on a team that has no passing game because it is down to its third-string quarterback. Unlike the other guys on this list, Coleman receives little help; in essence, he is a one-man offense. Cfbstats.com shows that he has 16 carries of at least 30 yards (second nationally), 13 of at least 40 (second), nine of at least 50 (tied for national lead), eight of at least 60 (national leader) and four of at least 70 (national leader). His 15 TDs this season have covered an average of 41 yards, including a 90-yarder that was the longest run allowed by Ohio State since 1960.

2. TB Melvin Gordon, Wisconsin

Season stats: 283 carries, 2,260 rushing yards, 26 TDs, 17 receptions, 151 yards, 3 TDs.
Saturday's stats: 29 carries, 151 yards, 1 TD, 2 receptions, 4 yards, 1 TD in 34-24 win over Minnesota.
The skinny: Gordon has two games left, and his rushing total already is fourth-best in FBS single-season history. Saturday's outing was his 11th this season with 100 yards, including his 10th in a row. It was his seventh consecutive game with at least two touchdowns and his ninth such game this season; he has had three games with at least four rushing touchdowns. Gordon leads the nation in rushing yards, in rushing yards per game (188.3) and in rushing touchdowns. Gordon is averaging 7.99 yards per carry, which is first nationally among the 43 players with at least 188 attempts. Cfbstats.com shows that he leads the nation with 52 runs of at least 10 yards, 31 of at least 20 yards (12 more than anyone else), 20 of at least 30 and 16 of at least 40; he also is tied for the lead with nine runs of at least 50 yards. He has run for more yards by himself than 84 FBS teams, and he has more rushing TDs than 85 FBS teams. (As an aside, he has one more rushing TD than Florida State does as a team.)

1. QB Marcus Mariota, Oregon

Season stats: 229-of-334 passing, 68.6 completion percentage, 3,470 yards, 36 TDs, 2 interceptions, 636 rushing yards, 11 TDs.
Saturday's stats: 19-of-25, 76.0 completion percentage, 367 yards, 4 TDs, 39 rushing yards, 2 TDs in 47-19 win over Oregon State.
The skinny: Mariota has accounted for at least four TDs in nine games this season (he did that three times last season) and at least five three times. He also has thrown at least two TD passes in every contest, at least three seven times and at least four three times. He is tied for second nationally in TD passes, leads the nation in quarterback rating and is fifth in total offense at 342.2 yards per game. Mariota is one of 21 players averaging at least 300 yards of total offense per game, and rates second in per-play average at 9.31 yards. Mariota has had nine games with at least 300 yards of total offense; Saturday's total of 406 yards was his highest of the season and the sixth time this season with at least 350 yards. His career TD-to-interception ratio is an incredible 99-to-12.

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

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