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2015 Heisman Watch: Ranking next year's top 10 contenders

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The Heisman Trophy was handed out Saturday night, and what do you know: Unlike the past two years, one of the preseason favorites won the award -- and won it quite easily.


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With the 2014 Heisman campaign in the rear-view mirror, let's look ahead to the 2015 Heisman: Who will be the leading contenders? Here are 10 of the best. (You'll notice the lack of some big-name underclassmen on this list. Not that we're sure, but we're leaving some guys off our list that don't figure to be back.)

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Remember that each of the past five winners -- and 13 of the past 15 -- have been quarterbacks; the only non-quarterbacks were running backs Mark Ingram of Alabama in 2009 and Reggie Bush of USC in 2005. That's why you never can have too many quarterbacks on your watch list.

10. Nick Chubb, RB, Georgia

The skinny: Chubb leads his team in rushing as a true freshman. He shared carries with Todd Gurley and a few others early on, but became the feature back once suspensions and injuries hit. He is a tough inside runner with good speed and should be the focal point of the Bulldogs' offense next season.

9. Dalvin Cook, RB, Florida State

The skinny: If QB Jameis Winston does leave, Florida State will rely more heavily on the run, and that would work out well with Cook on hand. He leads the Seminoles in rushing as a true freshman this season and really came on down the stretch. He has big-play ability and breakaway speed and seemingly is in line to get 225-plus carries next season. FSU's single-season rushing record is 1,242 yards by Warrick Dunn in 1995. Cook's goal next season should be to break that mark -- and he should get every opportunity to do so.

8. Royce Freeman, RB, Oregon

The skinny: Here's another true freshman who leads his team in rushing -- and he is doing it in a backfield that includes the guy who just won the Heisman. Even if Marcus Mariota goes pro, Oregon's offense is not going to change, which means Freeman will go from being the No. 2 guy to the focal point of an offense that is sure to be prolific.

7. Anu Solomon, QB, Arizona

The skinny: Solomon was the surprise winner of Arizona's quarterback battle as a redshirt freshman, then turned in a great season, with 3,717 yards of total offense. Expect him to be more of a running threat next season, but his passing ability will remain the strong suit of his game.


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6. Leonard Fournette, RB, LSU

The skinny: Yet another true freshman who leads his team in rushing. Fournette shared carries with Kenny Hilliard and Terrence Magee -- both seniors. Fournette should end this season with close to 200 carries. He almost certainly will share carries again next season, but it's conceivable he still gets around 250 attempts, which could get him around 1,500 yards.

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5. Connor Cook, QB, Michigan State

The skinny: Cook appears likely to return, and he'll be at the controls of a team expected to be one of the best in the Big Ten again. He doesn't get a lot of attention, but he does produce: He has thrown for 5,655 yards and 44 TDs in the past two seasons and should take on a bigger load as a passer next season.

4. Cody Kessler, QB, USC

The skinny: He was overshadowed on his own team this season by DE Leonard Williams, RB Buck Allen and WR Nelson Agholor, but he quietly has put up huge numbers, throwing for 3,505 yards, 36 touchdowns and just four interceptions. He made big strides this season under new coach Steve Sarkisian, and more improvement -- and perhaps even better numbers -- would be likely next season. In addition, being the USC quarterback is one of the most glamorous roles in the nation, and he would receive a ton of preseason acclaim.

3. Dak Prescott, QB, Mississippi State

The skinny: He was a prime Heisman contender for much of this season, but he and the Bulldogs sputtered a bit down the stretch. He still threw for 2,996 yards and 24 TDs and rushed for 939 rushing yards and 13 TDs. Mississippi State meets Georgia Tech in the Orange Bowl, and Prescott should become just the seventh quarterback in FBS history to pass for 3,000 yards and rush for 1,000 in the same season. Taking those numbers into the offseason would lead to a ton of hype.

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2. J.T. Barrett, QB, Ohio State

The skinny: Had he not been injured in the regular-season finale against Michigan, Barrett was a lock to pull the 3,000 passing yards/1,000 rushing yards double; he threw for 2,834 passing yards (with 34 TDs) and rushed for 938 yards (and 11 TDs). He accounted for 45 TDs, which set a Big Ten single-season record. Braxton Miller's return from injury will create a logjam at quarterback for the Buckeyes, but given how well Barrett played this season, the thought here is that Miller moves on and plays his final college season elsewhere, making Barrett the unquestioned Buckeyes quarterback. And an unquestioned Heisman contender.

1. Trevone Boykin, QB, TCU

The skinny: He made huge strides this season under the tutelage of new co-coordinators Doug Meacham and Sonny Cumbie. If he makes the same kind of strides next season, monster numbers await. And he put up some eye-catching numbers as it was this season, throwing for 3,714 yards and 30 TDs and running for 642 yards and eight more scores. Hmmm -- what about 4,000 yards and 35 or so TDs through the air next season, along with 750 rushing yards and at least 10 TDs? He finished fourth in the Heisman voting this season and probably will be the highest finisher to return to school.

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

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