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SEC Football’s Top Five Heisman Candidates

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SEC Top Five Heisman Candidates

Brett Davis-USA Today Sports

For many reasons, the SEC has taken over the world and sport of college football. The conference is gunning for its eighth straight national championship in 2013 and its fifth Heisman in seven years after last year's winner, Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel, took the hardware home in his school's inaugural SEC season. The SEC continually has some of the best teams year in and year out, however, the best players that play in the conference are routinely regarded as the best of the best.

The Iron Bowl in 2010 saw two Heisman winners on the same field in the previous year's Heisman winner Alabama running back Mark Ingram, the first ever winner of the award from that historically great program, and that year's winner in Auburn's sensational quarterback Cam Newton. In 2007, Florida quarterback Tim Tebow and Arkansas running back Darren McFadden finished first and second. Tebow obviously won the Heisman with a gigantic list of accomplishments that year with less than 900 rushing yards and well over 3,200 passing yards in a season in the spread option offense. That second place finish by McFadden was his second straight, after losing soundly to Ohio State's Troy Smith in 2006.

Danny Wuerffel laid claim to college football's highest honor in 1996, cemented by his head coach Steve Spurrier's radical Run and Gun offense, dropping passes into the great Reidel Anthony's hands. The conference's greatest rushers of all-time Herschel Walker, 1982 winner from Georgia, and Bo Jackson, 1985 recipient from Auburn, were the most memorable winners the conference has ever had. The SEC should display another winner this year after the league brought six teams to last season's bowl lineup with double digit wins. See who should be the SEC's favorite to make a trip to New York City.

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5. Aaron Murray-QB-Georgia

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Murray has become synonymous with this honor, after being named as a first teamer of the SEC coaches All-SEC team ahead of the past season's winner Johnny Manziel and Alabama's A.J McCarron. Murray, the fourth year starter, needs 1,428 yards passing to break the Georgia and SEC record of career passing, set by former Bulldog David Greene.

Murray's Heisman run will have to begin at the start of the season, mainly the next two weeks against Clemson and South Carolina. Murray doesn't necessarily have to gain the spotlight early, but a strong revenge to last season's 35-7 thumping by the Gamecocks definitely would stave off McCarron or a Braxton Miller for weeks.

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4. Todd Gurley-RB-Georgia

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Gurley put together one of the greatest freshman Georgia running back seasons in 2012. Gurley rushed for the second most yards in Georgia's history by a freshman, only needing about 240 yards to break the great Herschel Walker's freshman mark in 1980. If Gurley wouldn't have shared carries with Keith Marshall, he probably would have gotten there.

Gurley rushed past the century mark in eight out of the team's 14 games, including 122 yards alone in the SEC Championship against Alabama are the Tide had allowed an average of 76 yards a game all year long. Gurley's stock comes down to Week 2 against South Carolina, a team that controlled Gurley's worst performance last season.

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3. T.J. Yeldon-RB-Alabama

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It was Ingram, Richardson, Lacy, and now it's T.J. Yeldon's backfield for the taking at Alabama. Yeldon rushed for a freshman school record 1,108 yards on 154 carries, also tying the school record of rushing touchdowns at 12 last season. Yeldon will set up shop for a even more balanced attack when Alabama plays Texas A&M in one of the top three games of the season on the road. He played by far his best football at the conclusion of last season, racking up 153 yards in the SEC title game, with a 108 yards in the finale in Miami.

Yeldon's game winning touchdown against LSU in Death Valley his freshman season showed what kind of dramatic game changer he is with the ball in his hands at deciding moments. He will have moments that will make you stand in awe of him.

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2. Jadeveon Clowney-DE-South Carolina

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Mark Richt called Jadeveon Clowney maybe the best overall player in football altogether, and SEC quarterbacks like Tyler Wilson and Aaron Murray were largely afraid of him in their games at South Carolina. The Gamecocks defensive end is in striking distance from a fans' perspective of becoming the first pure defensive player to win the Heisman. Charles Woodson was a cornerback for Michigan but also played as a punt returner on the Wolverines' 1997 undefeated season.

By a country mile, Clowney is the best player approaching this season, and Manti Te'o came the closest to receiving one so he has a tremendous chance to take college football even more by storm. It's imperative that South Carolina is great in that he forces multiple turnovers and applies sacks in big games like in week two against Georgia if he wants to be a contender in the race. The main thing is that South Carolina has to do better than the previous two seasons of 11 total wins.

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1. A.J. McCarron-QB-Alabama

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All signs point to a third straight national championship for Alabama and a fourth total one in Tuscaloosa for Mr. A.J. McCarron. McCarron became the first quarterback to win back-to-back national championships in the BCS era. With 25 wins and two crystal balls in his two seasons as the starter for Alabama, it still kind of feels like the national mood implies that because of this non-stat stuffing offense towards the quarterback that McCarron won't have the flashy numbers like a Johnny Manziel or Tim Tebow to get a jump on the rest of the competition.

Writers will quickly turn the page on that notion when the Tide's week three game with Texas A&M comes to town, but McCarron's ability to light it up with quite possibly the nation's best receivers will come out. America loves the winning side of sports, and if McCarron keeps Alabama in the center of college football with the same success of the previous two seasons, nobody will be dumb enough to turn the other cheek.