Two top candidates have emerged for this season’s Heisman Trophy: Dak Prescott and Marcus Mariota.
If the season ended today, either one of them could win it and it would be difficult to argue against the result.
But fortunately, both players have games the remainder of the season — big games — that will show just how valuable they are. Will one of them win it? It’s very possible, but there are still more viable candidates out there.
Here’s this week’s Heisman watch entering Week 10 of the season.
1. QB Dak Prescott, Mississippi State
Make or break: Could the Razorbacks this week be a stumbling block for Prescott? Yes. But all eyes are focused on Nov. 15 in Tuscaloosa when Prescott and the Bulldogs take on Alabama. Prescott didn’t play against the Tide last season because he was injured. Carry MSU to a win here and Prescott’s Heisman campaign gets a huge push.
Stats: He’s completing 60.1 percent of his passes for 1,685 yards, 15 touchdowns and five interceptions. He also has 664 rushing yards (5.4 yards per carry) and 10 TDs. He’s tied for fourth in the country, accounting for 156 points this season.
Next: Home vs. Arkansas on Saturday.
2. QB Marcus Mariota, Oregon
Make or break: In three years as Oregon’s starting QB, Mariota has lost four games and two of them came against Stanford — guess who the Ducks play this week? The Cardinal aren’t ranked this season, but have been the team that has knocked Oregon out of the BCS title race the past two seasons. A loss this season will eliminate Oregon from the playoff chase. Mariota has completed 57.7 percent of his throws in the two meetings for 228.5 yards per game with three TDs and an interception. He’s run 18 times for 73 yards and no scores.
Stats: He’s completed 68.8 percent of his passes — he’s the nation’s leader in passing efficiency — for 2,283 yards, 24 TDs and one interception. He also has 325 rushing yards (5.2 per carry) and five touchdowns as well as a 26-yard TD reception.
Next: Saturday at home vs. Stanford
3. RB Melvin Gordon, Wisconsin
Make or break: The Nov. 15 matchup against Nebraska at home. The Cornhuskers have allowed just two 100-yard rushers this season and rank 29th in the country against the run (123.8 yards per game). Gordon had his coming out game two seasons ago in the Big Ten title game against Nebraska when he ran nine times for 216 yards with a 56-yard TD run. With Wisconsin suffering two losses already — even though Gordon totaled 399 yards and two TDs in those games — a third loss eliminates him.
Stats: Has 154 carries for 1,168 yards (4th nationally), 166.9 yards per game (2nd), 7.58 yards per carry (6th) and 16 touchdowns (3rd). He has at least 122 yards in every game except one this season.
Next: Saturday at home vs. Purdue.
4. QB Trevone Boykin, TCU
Make or break: First, Saturday at West Virginia. Pass that test and a bigger one awaits Nov. 8 at home against surging Kansas State. In 2012, Boykins saw extensive playing time against both, completing 29 of 59 passes for 439 yards, three TDs and two interceptions. But he threw just one pass against the two last season. The Horned Frogs are a different team in 2014. Boykin is a huge reason they’ve gone from the nation’s 88th-best scoring team a year ago to first this season.
Stats: He’s completed 58.7 of his throws for 2,306 yards (13th nationally), 329.4 per game (8th), 21 TDs and three interceptions, while being accountable for 144 points this season.
Next: Saturday at No. 20 West Virginia
5. WR Amari Cooper, Alabama
Make or break: Cooper caught just three passes for 46 yards last season against LSU. This season, the Tigers are third in the nation against the pass and you can bet Les Miles will give Cooper plenty of attention. For Cooper, it’s an uphill climb though because receivers rarely win the Heisman. Even when they do, it’s usually because they’re also elite kick returners (Desmond Howard, Tim Brown), too.
Stats: The junior has 71 receptions for 1,132 yards — both career highs — with nine touchdowns. He’s second nationally in receiving yards, second in yards per game (141.5), fourth in catches per game (8.9) and tied for third in receiving TDs.
Next: Alabama is off this week and plays at LSU on Nov. 8
Five more to watch
WR Kevin White, West Virginia
White and Amari Cooper have been the nation’s most-dominating receivers. White was quiet last week in the win against Oklahoma State — three receptions, 27 yards, TD — which is the reason Cooper (who had a monster game) replaces him in the top 5 this week.
QB Nick Marshall, Auburn
When Marshall is running Gus Malzahn’s offense the way he did Saturday night against South Carolina, it may not matter much how Auburn’s defense plays. Marshall was accurate throwing the ball and his decision-making in the zone read run game was devastating. He gets opportunities — at Ole Miss this week and road games at Georgia and Alabama — to contend for the Heisman, or fall completely out of contention.
QB Everett Golson, Notre Dame
A lot like Marshall, when Golson is on his game, the Irish are difficult to beat. Golson can work his way back into the top five and earn a visit to New York if the Irish win out. But potential potholes are out there — at Arizona State, vs. Northwestern and Louisville and the finale at USC.
QB Anu Solomon, Arizona
What the redshirt freshman continues doing can’t be ignored. He’s completing 63.3 percent of his passes for 2,430 yards, 20 TDs and four interceptions. If it wasn’t for a 36-yard missed field goal in the final seconds against USC, we’d be discussing Solomon’s real prospects of winning the Heisman — after all, he did lead the Wildcats past Oregon.
RB Ameer Abdullah, Nebraska
He’s been fantastic this season — 1,249 rushing yards and 17 TDs — but his 24-carry, 45-yard outing in Nebraska’s loss to Michigan State dings him. The schedule sets up — the Cornhuskers don’t face another ranked team — well for him to give chase at 2,000 yards. That schedule also hurts his opportunity to climb much higher.