Braxton Miller’s season-ending shoulder injury scratched the Ohio State quarterback from the preseason short list of Heisman Trophy candidates but didn’t alter the reality that Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston is the man to beat. Who else is a top contender for the biggest individual award in sports? Here’s a look at five favorites, including the reigning winner:
Jameis Winston, QB, So., Florida State
The case: That he leads the nation’s preseason No. 1 team is reason enough to put him here. But facts are stubborn things, and the fact remains only Ohio State’s Archie Griffin in 1975 won back-to-back Heisman trophies.
Marcus Mariota, QB, Jr., Oregon
The case: The leader of a prime national championship contender, Mariota piled up 4,380 total yards and 39 touchdowns in 2013 — with a late-season leg injury. Helping the Ducks name the score may put his name on the Heisman.
Bryce Petty, QB, Sr., Baylor
The case: He led a precision passing attack last season, averaging 320 yards per game with 30 touchdowns and just two interceptions. Petty’s numbers could be even better if he hadn’t sat out so many second-half blowouts.
Todd Gurley, RB, Jr., Georgia
The case: Big, strong, fast, Gurley was everything you wanted in a Heisman-winning back last year except durable, never quite right after being injured against LSU. With Aaron Murray gone, his carries should only increase.
Brett Hundley, QB, Jr., UCLA
The case: An agile, accurate passer who completed nearly 68 percent of his throws last season, Hundley has to shake the image of being the poor man’s Mariota. If they both reach the Pac-12 title game, let the voters decide.
FIVE DARK HORSES
Nick Marshall, QB, Sr., Auburn
The case: He has the cred of having led his team within a whisker of the final BCS national championship and inherits the title from Johnny Manziel as the top run/pass threat in the SEC.
Melvin Gordon, RB, Jr., Wisconsin
The case: For all those LSU fans who think the Tigers will simply steamroll the Badgers, they have a steamroller of their own. Gordon rumbled for 1,609 yards in 2013 and should pile up similar numbers this year.
Trevor Knight, QB, So., Oklahoma
The case: Voters gravitate to the best player on the best team, and if Oklahoma is in the CFP Knight could win. First, though, he has to prove he’s the best QB in the Big 12. That’s Petty’s domain.
T.J. Yeldon, RB, Jr., Alabama
The case: If Alabama is CFP bound, Yeldon will make a strong case. Problem is he shares the backfield with Derrick Henry and that could split the vote. Even new Bama QB Jacob Coker is getting odds.
Leonard Fournette, RB, Fr., LSU
The case: He’s expected to be good, but the leader of Buga Nation couldn’t be Heisman good, could he? Fournette makes our list because he is that talented and, frankly, no one saw Manziel coming in 2012.