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Heisman Watch: How will race shake out after Marcus Mariota?

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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 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 | Week 14

Check out the top images from conference championship weekend in college football.

The Heisman Trophy will be handed out Saturday, and Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota is going to win it. The question is whether he gets the highest percentage of first-place votes in history.

Ohio State quarterback Troy Smith received a record 86 percent of the first-place votes when he won the award in 2006. Forget all the big numbers Mariota has piled up this season: That 86 percent total is the number to keep an eye on with Mariota now.

About the only other intrigue surrounding the award this year is who will finish third. Wisconsin's Melvin Gordon has the fourth-highest single-season rushing total in FBS history, and he looks like the clear-cut second-place finisher.

Here are the top 10 contenders, from 10th to first, 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.

College football: Week 15

10. RB Jay Ajayi, Boise State

Season stats: 325 carries, 1,689 yards, 25 TDs, 45 receptions, 536 yards, 4 TDs.
Saturday's stats: 22 carries, 70 yards, 1 TD in 28-14 win over Fresno State.
The skinny: Ajayi has had two 200-yard games and nine 100-yard outings this season. Saturday's performance in the Mountain West Championship Game snapped his streak of seven consecutive 100-yard games. Ajayi has scored at least two TDs in a game nine times this season. He is fourth nationally in rushing yards and ninth in rushing yards per game (129.9). He is second nationally in rushing TDs, and his 325 carries lead the nation. Ajayi also is tied for sixth nationally for receptions by a running back.

9. RB James Conner, Pittsburgh

Season stats: 277 carries, 1,675 rushing yards, 24 TDs, 5 receptions, 70 yards.
Saturday's stats: None, as Pitt's regular season had already concluded.
The skinny: Conner leads the ACC in rushing and was named the league's offensive player of the year. He set a school record for rushing TDs in a season; the mark had been 22, by Tony Dorsett in 1976. Conner is fifth nationally in rushing yards and fifth in rushing yards per game (139.6). He is third nationally in rushing TDs. He has had seven games this season with at least two TDs in a game, and he also has had seven 100-yard and three 200-yard games.

8. 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: None, as USC's regular season is over.
The skinny: Kessler is 10th in the nation in passing yards, 11th in yards per game (292.1) and fourth 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.


» Kessler to seek input from draft advisory board


7. 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: He didn't play in the Big Ten Championship Game, as a broken ankle ended his season a week prior.
The skinny: Barrett 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 had four games with at least 300 passing yards and two with at least 100 rushing yards. Barrett would've become the first 3,000-yard passer/1,000-yard rusher in Big Ten history.

6. 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: None, as Mississippi State's regular season had already concluded.
The skinny: Prescott is sixth nationally in total offense (327.9 yards per game), and he has had 10 outings with 300 total yards. 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 sixth nationally among quarterbacks in rushing yards; he also is tied for third nationally in rushing TDs by a quarterback.

5. QB Trevone Boykin, TCU

Season stats: 279-of-461 passing, 60.5 completion percentage, 3,714 yards, 30 TDs, 7 interceptions, 642 rushing yards, 8 TDs.
Saturday's stats: 30-of-41, 73.2 completion percentage, 460 yards, 4 TDs, 1 interception, 44 rushing yards in 55-3 win over Iowa State.
The skinny: Boykin set a career-high in passing yards in TCU's rout of Iowa State; that outing also was his third this season with at least four TD passes. He is third nationally in total offense at 363.0 yards per game. He had at least 350 yards of total offense in five games, including three of at least 450. Boykin has had six 300-yard passing games, including three of at least 400 yards. He also has accounted for at least three touchdowns in seven games and at least six in two games.

4. WR Amari Cooper, Alabama

Season stats: 115 receptions, 1,656 yards, 14.4 yards per catch, 14 TDs.
Saturday's stats: 12 receptions, 83 yards in 42-13 win over Missouri.
The skinny: Cooper set a single-season SEC record with his receptions total. He leads the nation in receptions and receiving yards, and is tied for second in touchdown 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 11 with at least eight catches. In addition, Cooper has had five games with at least 10 catches.

3. RB Tevin Coleman, Indiana

Season stats: 270 carries, 2,036 rushing yards, 15 TDs, 25 receptions, 141 yards.
Saturday's stats: None, as Indiana's season had already concluded.
The skinny: 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). Coleman has had four 200-yard game of the season and three three-TD outings. Most impressive might be that he averaged 7.5 yards per carry on a team that had no passing attack because it was forced by injuries to use its third-string quarterback. In essence, Coleman was 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 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: 309 carries, 2,336 rushing yards, 26 TDs, 17 receptions, 151 yards, 3 TDs.
Saturday's stats: 26 carries, 76 yards in 59-0 loss to Ohio State in the Big Ten Championship Game.
The skinny: Gordon needed a transcendent performance Saturday night in the Big Ten Championship Game to have a realistic shot at winning the Heisman, but he and the Badgers were stifled by Ohio State. Gordon's rushing total already is fourth-best in FBS single-season history, and because the Badgers have one game left, he should finish third in that category. He has had 11 100-yard games and five 200-yard outings this season. He also has had nine games with at least two touchdowns. Gordon leads the nation in rushing yards, in rushing yards per game (179.7) and in rushing touchdowns. Gordon is averaging 7.6 yards per carry, which is first nationally among the 40 players with at least 195 attempts. Cfbstats.com shows that he leads the nation with 54 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 86 teams.

1. QB Marcus Mariota, Oregon

Season stats: 254-of-372 passing, 68.3 completion percentage, 3,773 yards, 38 TDs, 2 interceptions, 669 rushing yards, 14 TDs.
Friday's stats: 25-of-38, 65.8 completion percentage, 303 yards, 2 TDs, 33 rushing yards, 3 TDs in 51-13 win over Arizona.
The skinny: Mariota has accounted for at least four TDs in 10 games this season (he did that three times last season) and at least five four times. He also has thrown at least two TD passes in every contest, at least three in seven games and at least four in three games. He is second nationally in TD passes, leads the nation in quarterback rating and is fifth in total offense at 341.7 yards per game. Mariota is one of 100 players with at least 2,000 yards of total offense per game, and he leads in per-play average at 9.1 yards (the next-highest is 8.55, and there are just five others averaging at least 8.0). Mariota has had 10 games with at least 300 yards of total offense. 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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