Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel made college football history in 2012 when he became the first freshman to win the Heisman Trophy. In 2013, Manziel will attempt to do something only one player has done in the 77-year history of the award ... win it in back-to-back years. Manziel faces a difficult march to match Ohio State's Archie Griffin's accomplishments in 1974 and 1975, as a strong field of contenders will take aim at the 2013 Heisman Trophy. These are my top 10 candidates for the prestigious award:
1. Braxton Miller, QB, Ohio State
Miller's Buckeyes could go undefeated in 2013 (they went 12-0 in 2012, but were not eligible for a bowl game). Ohio State has nine starters from 2012 returning on offense. Miller is the type of dual-threat quarterback (he had 2,039 yards passing and 1,271 yards rushing in 2012) who is a real good fit for Ohio State's offense.
2. Teddy Bridgewater, QB, Louisville
Louisville is another team that could go undefeated. Bridgewater threw for 3,718 yards and 27 touchdowns (with just eight interceptions) in 2012. Bridgewater's 2013 Heisman campaign started with an MVP performance in Louisville's 33-23 win over Florida in the Sugar Bowl.
3. AJ McCarron, QB, Alabama
McCarron can win the national championship for a third consecutive season. McCarron had 2,933 yards passing with 30 touchdown passes and three interceptions in 2012. He is the engine that makes the train go for the Crimson Tide. Having a receiver with the abilities of Amari Cooper on your team won't hurt his chances, either.
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4. Jadeveon Clowney, DE, South Carolina
The reason I have three quarterbacks ahead of Clowney is because quarterbacks have more value to team success than a pass-rushing defensive end. He has compiled 21 sacks in two seasons with the Gamecocks. One play will have an impact on Heisman voters, and that is the hit on Michigan running back Vincent Smith during South Carolina's win in the Outback Bowl.
5. T.J. Yeldon, RB, Alabama
Yeldon split time in the Crimson Tide backfield with Eddie Lacy (currently with the Green Bay Packers), yet still rushed for 1,131 yards and 12 touchdowns. Alabama's offensive line has three new starters in 2013, and Yeldon's Heisman chances might be hurt by splitting the vote with teammates such as McCarron.
6. Johnny Manziel, QB, Texas A&M
Only one player -- Archie Griffin -- has won back-to-back Heisman awards. My biggest question with Manziel is if he can repeat his performance from 2012 now that people are more familiar with the offense Texas A&M runs coupled with the multiple off-field distractions Manziel has encountered. The Aggies also lost their left tackle from 2012 (No. 2 overall draft choice Luke Joeckel) and running back (the Seattle Seahawks' second-round pick Christine Michael). I'm not sure A&M has the quality of personnel that it had last year.
7. Lache Seastrunk, RB, Baylor
Seastrunk started just six games last season, but still managed to rush for 1,012 yards (with a 7.7 yards-per-carry average). He reminds you of former San Diego Chargers and New York Jets running back LaDainian Tomlinson. Baylor should also score a lot of points this season. The question on Seastrunk is how much exposure his team will get on television.
8. Marcus Mariota, QB, Oregon
Mariota is a tall kid (standing at 6-foot-2 1/2) and has outstanding speed. Last season, he had 32 touchdown passes versus just six intercpetions. He also ran for 752 yards. Mariota is much like Manziel, only bigger and sturdier.
9. Marqise Lee, WR, USC
Lee (118 catches for 1,721 yards and 14 touchdowns) had probably as good a single season as any receiver I can remember. He has great speed and hands. With Matt Barkley now in the NFL, Lee will have a new quarterback throwing to him in 2013.
10. Aaron Murray, QB, Georgia
Murray will be a four-year starter for the Bulldogs. In directing Georgia to just one regular-season loss and the SEC title game in 2012, Murray compiled 3,893 yards passing with 36 touchdowns and 10 interceptions. His passing efficiency rating from 2012 (174.8) set a school record, which is impressive when you consider that Detroit Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford played at the school. Murray is very reminiscent of New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees.