1. Mississippi State QB Dak Prescott
Last week (W, 45-31, vs. Kentucky): 18-for-33, 216 passing yards, 1 passing TD, 1 INT, 88 rushing yards, 2 rushing TDs
2014: 1,694 passing yards, 15 passing TDs, 5 INTs, 664 rushing yards, 10 rushing TDs
Against Kentucky last week, Prescott wasn’t the super-human fans have grown accustomed to this season, but he still accounted for three Bulldog touchdowns in a 14-point road victory. Prescott’s been the breakout player this season, but he’ll have to show more consistency the rest of the way to keep his team in the win column and himself atop the Heisman race. He’s had three interceptions in his last two games — a tendency he needs to fix with stingy defenses coming his way.
2. Oregon QB Marcus Mariota
Last week (W, 59-41, vs. California): 18-for-30, 326 passing yards, 5 passing TDs, 1 INT
2014: 2,283 passing yards, 24 passing TDs, 1 INT, 325 rushing yards, 5 rushing TDs
As magical as Prescott has been, Mariota remains the nation’s most complete quarterback. If it wasn’t for Oregon’s one loss, in which Mariota turned the ball over at a critical moment, he would be at the top of the Heisman list. The 6-foot-4-inch, 219-pound junior leads the nation with a 10.5-yard per attempt average and 192.18 passer rating. With the way the Ducks’ schedule looks, Mariota could lead his team to the College Football Playoff, which would boost his Heisman résumé.
3. Wisconsin RB Melvin Gordon
Last week (W, 52-7, vs. Maryland): 22 attempts, 122 rushing yards, 3 rushing TDs
2014: 154 attempts, 1,168 rushing yards, 16 rushing TDs, 1 receiving TD
Gordon has rushed for at least 122 yards in all but one game this season, giving him the second-best rushing average in the nation. His three touchdowns last week, which all came in the first half, extended his touchdown streak to five straight games. Aside from Wisconsin’s blowout win over Western Illinois, in which Gordon wasn’t needed, the 6-foot-1-inch 207-pounder has heavily impacted every Badger game. Even with his humble frame, Gordon is the most feared running back in the nation.
4. Alabama WR Amari Cooper
Last week (W, 34-20, vs. Tennessee): 9 receptions, 224 receiving yards, 2 TDs
2014: 71 receptions, 1,132 receiving yards, 9 TDs
Cooper is averaging 141.5 yards per game for the Crimson Tide this season — second in the nation. Most wide receivers can only dream of those numbers in the defensive-minded SEC. But Cooper has lived it, and, at this point, he’s essentially a lock to put up 100 yards every Saturday. You can’t ask for more out of a receiver than what Cooper has given to Alabama. If it weren’t so difficult for players at his position to win the Heisman, Cooper would be even higher on this list. One thing is for certain, however: Cooper is the best player lining up outside the hashes in college football.
5. Nebraska RB Ameer Abdullah
Last week (W, 42-24, vs. Rutgers): 19 attempts, 225 rushing yards, 3 rushing TDs
2014: 180 attempts, 1,249 rushing yards, 17 rushing TDs, 169 receiving yards, 2 receiving TDs
Abdullah hasn’t faced the best defenses this season. However, one has to commend his average of 156 yards per game despite those yards coming against subpar teams. And, even though defenses know that the Cornhuskers will run their offense through him, the senior has become the nation’s leading rusher. Abdullah is guaranteed to earn a paycheck playing on Sundays next year, and, if he keeps doing what he’s been doing, he’ll find himself in New York this year as a Heisman finalist.