Each week, Advocate sportswriter Scott Rabalais, a Heisman Trophy voter since 1997, breaks down the top candidates for college football’s most prestigious award.
1. MARCUS MARIOTA
Quarterback, Jr., Oregon
All signs are pointing up for Mariota, who has clearly asserted himself in the Heisman race. He turned in yet another stellar game Saturday, albeit against lowly Colorado, throwing for 239 yards and three touchdowns while rushing for 114 yards and another score. His season stats are untouchable: 2,780 yards passing with 29 touchdowns (No. 2 in the nation) and just two interceptions plus 524 yards and eight TDs rushing. With Oregon ascending to No. 2 in the CFP poll, Mariota embodies what most Heisman voters look for most often: the best player on the best team.
2. DAK PRESCOTT
Quarterback, Jr., Mississippi State
Prescott threw for 206 yards and two touchdowns and rushed for 54 yards and a score in a “fill in the blank” win Saturday over Tennessee-Martin, but that doesn’t matter. What does matter for his Heisman candidacy is leading the Bulldogs to a win Saturday at Alabama and keeping State No. 1 in the CFP rankings. While Prescott’s star has cooled a bit over the last month, no player can make a bigger splash this week.
3. MELVIN GORDON
Running back, Jr., Wisconsin
Thirty years ago, Gordon would be the Heisman frontrunner. He ran for 205 yards (his seventh straight 100-yard game and third over 200) and a TD against Purdue and had a spectacular catch among his three grabs for 44 yards and a TD. For the season he’s rushed for 1,501 yards and 19 TDs. Unfortunately for Gordon, he’s playing RB in the wrong era.
4. TREVONE BOYKIN
Quarterback, Jr., TCU
TCU’s rise into the CFP top four, plus Boykin’s showing against highly regarded Kansas State (219 yards and 1 TD passing, 123 yards and 3 TDs rushing), keep him in contention — but barely.
5. AMARI COOPER
Wide receiver, Jr., Alabama
Cooper showed he’s the NCAA’s best against LSU — for a half. He caught eight passes for 83 yards and a TD, giving him 79 catches for 1,215 yards and 10 TDs total. But it’s looking more like he’ll have to settle for the Biletnikoff Award.
ON THE RADAR
Ameer Abdullah, RB, Nebraska
Everett Golson, QB, Notre Dame
Duke Johnson, RB, Miami (Fla.)
J.T. Barrett, QB, Ohio State
Jameis Winston, QB, Florida State