Heisman Watch: Two clear leaders as season approaches apex

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

Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota and Wisconsin tailback Melvin Gordon had big games Saturday, and remained the top two contenders for the Heisman Trophy.

Mariota piled up 396 total yards, his highest total of the season, and Gordon had his third consecutive 200-yard rushing day in victories by their teams.

Mississippi State quarterback Dak Prescott remained third in the Heisman chase with a four-touchdown performance against Vanderbilt, but he needs a monster performance against Ole Miss in the Egg Bowl -- and lackluster games by Mariota and/or Gordon -- to move back into the top two.

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 Cody Kessler, USC

Season stats: 260-of-373 passing, 69.7 completion percentage, 3,133 passing yards, 30 TDs, 4 interceptions, 2 rushing TDs.
Saturday's stats: 22-of-34, 64.7 completion percentage, 214 yards, 1 TD, 1 interception in 38-20 loss to UCLA.
The skinny: Kessler and the Trojans were overwhelmed by the Bruins. Still, he is 11th in the nation in passing yards, 14th in yards per game (284.8) and sixth in TD passes. He also is fifth in completion percentage despite his percentage against the Bruins being his second-lowest of the season. He has had five 300-yard games and five four-TD games this season.

9. WR Amari Cooper, Alabama

Season stats: 90 receptions, 1,349 yards, 14.99 yards per catch, 11 TDs.
Saturday's stats: 3 receptions, 46 yards in 48-14 win over Western Carolina.
The skinny: Cooper left Saturday's game with a minor injury in the first quarter. He is third in the nation in receiving yards and is No. 5 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.

8. QB Brett Hundley, UCLA

Season stats: 242-of-336 passing, 72.0 completion percentage, 2,873 passing yards, 20 TDs, 5 interceptions, 566 rushing yards, 8 TDs.
Saturday's stats: 22-of-31, 71.0 completion percentage, 326 yards, 3 TDs, 1 interception, 1 rushing TD in 38-20 win over USC.
The skinny: Hundley leads the nation in completion percentage and is 15th in total offense (312.6 yards per game). He is 70-of-93 (75.3 percent) for 817 yards, six TDs, one interception and three rushing touchdowns in the past three games. Saturday's outing was his fifth 300-yard game of the season and the third time this season he has accounted for at least four TDs and the fifth time he has accounted for at least three.

7. QB Jameis Winston, Florida State

Season stats: 243-of-368 passing, 66.0 completion percentage, 3,125 passing yards, 19 TDs, 13 interceptions, 3 rushing TDs.
Saturday's stats: 22-of-32, 68.8 completion percentage, 281 yards, 1 TD, 1 interception in 20-17 win over Boston College.
The skinny: He already has thrown three more interceptions in 10 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 during games, but they have gotten it done when it matters. Winston drove the Seminoles to the game-winning field goal in the final four minutes Saturday. He is sixth nationally in passing yards per game, at 312.5; he finished 13th last season (289.8). He is averaging 8.5 yards per attempt, the highest rate of any of the 25 quarterbacks nationally averaging at least 35 attempts per game.

6. 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: TCU was idle this week.
The skinny: Boykin is third nationally in total offense at 356.9 yards per game. He has had five 300-yard passing games, including two of at least 400 yards. He has accounted for at least three touchdowns in five games and at least six in two games.

5. RB Tevin Coleman, Indiana

Season stats: 241 carries, 1,906 rushing yards, 15 TDs, 23 receptions, 135 yards.
Saturday's stats: 27 carries, 228 yards, 3 TDs in 42-27 loss to Ohio State.
The skinny: He is second nationally in rushing yards and in rushing yards per game (173.3); he also is tied for 15th in rushing TDs. Saturday was his fourth 200-yard game of the season and the third time he had three TDs in a game. Most impressive might be that he is averaging 7.9 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 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 12 TDs this season have covered an average of 41 yards, including a 90-yarder Saturday that was the longest run allowed by Ohio State since 1960.

4. QB J.T. Barrett, Ohio State

Season stats: 190-of-293 passing, 64.8 completion percentage, 2,658 passing yards, 33 TDs, 10 interceptions, 849 rushing yards, 9 TDs.
Saturday's stats: 25-of-35, 71.4 completion percentage, 302 yards, 4 TDs, 2 interceptions, 78 rushing yards in 42-27 win over Indiana.
The skinny: Barrett's 380 yards of total offense against Indiana was his fourth-highest total of the season. It also was the seventh time this season he has thrown at least three TD passes in a game and the fourth time with at least four TD passes. He has accounted for a school-record 42 touchdowns this season, and his 33 TD passes also are the most in a season school history; he broke the mark of 30 (set by Troy Smith in 2006) on Saturday.

3. QB Dak Prescott, Mississippi State

Season stats: 189-of-308 passing, 61.4 completion percentage, 2,714 yards, 23 TDs, 10 interceptions, 891 rushing yards, 12 TDs.
Saturday's stats: 16-of-21, 76.2 completion percentage, 193 yards, 3 TDs, 0 interceptions, 30 rushing yards, 1 TD in 51-0 win over Vanderbilt.
The skinny: Prescott is sixth nationally in total offense (327.7 yards per game), and while he accounted for four TDs against Vandy, it also was his lowest total offense output of the season (223 yards). It was the third time this season he has thrown at least three TD passes and the eighth time he has accounted for at least three touchdowns; in addition, it was the fourth time he has accounted for at least four TDs. He has had four 100-yard rushing days this season and ranks fourth nationally among quarterbacks in rushing yards; he also is tied for second nationally in rushing TDs by a quarterback.

2. TB Melvin Gordon, Wisconsin

Season stats: 254 carries, 2,109 rushing yards, 25 TDs, 15 receptions, 147 yards, 2 TDs.
Saturday's stats: 31 carries, 200 yards, 2 TDs, 4 receptions, 64 yards in 26-24 win over Iowa.
The skinny: Saturday's outing was his fifth 200-yard game of the season and his third in a row; it also was his 10th with 100 yards, including his ninth in a row. It was his sixth consecutive game with at least two touchdowns and the eighth 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 (191.7) and in rushing touchdowns. Gordon is averaging 8.3 yards per carry, which is first nationally among the 32 players with at least 185 attempts. cfbstats.com shows that he leads the nation with 50 runs of at least 10 yards, 29 of at least 20 yards, 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 teams, and he has more rushing TDs than 74 teams. (As an aside, he has one more rushing TD than Alabama does as a team.)

1. QB Marcus Mariota, Oregon

Season stats: 210-of-309 passing, 68.0 completion percentage, 3,103 yards, 32 TDs, 2 interceptions, 597 rushing yards, 9 TDs.
Saturday's stats: 24-of-32, 75.0 completion percentage, 323 yards, 3 TDs, 73 rushing yards, 1 TD in 44-10 win over Colorado.
The skinny: Mariota has accounted for at least four TDs in eight games this season (he did that three times last season) and has thrown at least two TD passes in every contest. Four times he has thrown at least three TD passes in a game. He is tied for third nationally in TD passes, leads the nation in quarterback rating and is fifth in total offense at 336.4 yards per game. Mariota is one of 19 players averaging at least 300 yards of total offense per game, and he leads in per-play average at 9.11 yards. Mariota has had eight games with at least 300 yards of total offense; Saturday's total of 396 yards was his highest of the season and the fifth time this season with at least 350 yards. His career TD-to-interception ratio is an incredible 95-to-12.

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

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