NCAA Football

Power Ranking the Top Heisman Trophy Candidates Through Week 8

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Power Ranking the Top Ten Heisman Trophy Candidates

Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

College football has reached its eighth week of the season, as the race for the national championship slims down and the Heisman Trophy race has begun to heat up.

Wisconsin Badgers running back Melvin Gordon has been outstanding this season. The redshirt sophomore running back is averaging 9.7 yards per carry, has recorded 870 rushing yards and scored eight rushing touchdowns.

Gordon is the third-leading rusher in the nation, but he doesn't crack the Top Ten Heisman Trophy Candidates list because of one key factor: signature game play.

Against the No. 4 Ohio State Buckeyes earlier this season, Gordon was limited to a season-low 74 rushing yards and zero touchdowns. The Buckeyes are the only team to hold Gordon below 100 rushing yards in a game this season.

As history has stated, for a player to win the Heisman Trophy, they must play their best when the lights are shining the brightest. Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel won the Heisman Trophy last season ultimately because of one game, as Manziel led the Aggies to a victory in Tuscaloosa over the eventual national champion Alabama Crimson Tide.

If Gordon would make this list in the future, though, he would have to absolutely maul future opponents. Getting on the Heisman Trophy radar will be awfully difficult for Gordon when the Badgers are playing teams like Illinois and Iowa the remainder of the season.

Gordon is a terrific player and possibly a future Heisman Trophy candidate as well as NFL runner, but big-game performances are absolutely crucial in college football. Gordon and the Badgers squandered their prime opportunity in Columbus earlier this season, plain and simple.

Both Gordon and Fresno State quarterback Derek Carr didn't make this list because of the product of their respective team's schedules. It's arguably unfair, but these ten candidates in this slideshow deserve to be put on serious Heisman watch moving forward.

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10. QB Bryce Petty, Baylor

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Petty is tearing up opposing competition, completing 69.9 percent of his passes while accounting for 17 total touchdowns (13 pass, four rush) this season. Petty and the Bears will have quite the test though later this season at home against Oklahoma (Nov. 7) and Texas Tech (Nov. 16), as well as a tough road test at Oklahoma State (Nov. 23). If the Bears keep winning and continue to scorch opposing defensive units, Petty's Heisman stock will skyrocket.

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9. WR Brandin Cooks, Oregon State

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Cooks is slicing up opposing defensive secondaries with 63 catches for 944 yards and 11 touchdowns this season. If Cooks and the Beavers can tear up Stanford (Oct. 26) and Oregon (Nov. 29) later this season, Cooks is the absolute dark horse in a Heisman class filled with quarterback candidates.

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8. QB Aaron Murray, Georgia

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Murray completed 25-of-45 passes for 290 yards and accounted for three turnovers (two INT, one fumble) in Georgia's home loss against the Mizzou Tigers. Murray has still led the Bulldogs to big wins over South Carolina and LSU, and Georgia still has a chance to win the SEC East. A clutch performance against the Florida Gators (Nov. 2) would help his case, too.

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7. QB Teddy Bridgewater, Louisville

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Bridgewater's statistics are fantastic (18 TD, two INT), the Cardinals are undefeated and the quarterback is on his way to NFL riches, but he doesn't deserve to be in the top-five of this list. Louisville isn't scheduled to play a ranked opponent this season, which hurts Bridgewater's stock.

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6. QB Jameis Winston, Florida State

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The stud-freshman quarterback lit-up the no.25 Maryland Terrapins nearly two weeks ago (393 yards, five TD), putting Winston just outside the top-five on this list. If the 'Noles can beat No. 3 Clemson on the road this weekend, Winston would make a heck of a case for the Heisman Trophy in December.

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5. QB Brett Hundley, UCLA

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Hundley is the heart and soul of the Bruins' offense this season, and he gives UCLA a heck of a chance to win at No. 13 Stanford and No. 2 Oregon in the next two weeks. Hundley is second on the team in rushing and has accounted for 15 total touchdowns this season. You want a big game? The sophomore will have two in a row to make his claim for the Heisman Trophy.

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4. QB Johnny Manziel, Texas A&M

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The reigning Heisman Trophy winner continues to put up gaudy numbers (2,273 total yards, 19 total TD), but Manziel needs a signature win this season. The Aggies have three big games ahead against No. 24 Auburn (Saturday), No. 6 LSU (Nov. 23) and No. 14 Mizzou (Nov.30). Manziel needs big numbers and big wins to become the second player to ever win two Heisman Trophies.

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3. QB A.J. McCarron, Alabama

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McCarron hasn't put up crazy numbers like Manziel, but his efficiency (68 percent completion, 11 TD, three INT), record (6-0), and leadership makes him an underrated Heisman Trophy candidate. He helped the Tide beat Johnny Football and the Aggies as well, so that's enough of a signature big game moment.

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2. QB Marcus Mariota, Oregon

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Arguably the best quarterback in college football, Mariota has 25 total touchdowns (17 pass, eight rush) and he is the second-leading rusher (426 yards) on the Ducks. The Ducks' offense has made a habit of scorching opposing defensive units, but Mariota is the key to their ridiculous success. Mariota and the Ducks have only played one ranked opponent, but upcoming games against No. 9 UCLA and No. 13 Stanford will be huge for Mariota's Heisman case.

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1. QB Tajh Boyd, Clemson

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Boyd has led the Tigers to a perfect 6-0 start and he has individually been a scoring machine this season (17 total touchdowns). Boyd has the top signature win among all Heisman candidates this year, after he accounted for five touchdowns in a season-opening win over No. 5 Georgia. With similar performances against Florida State (Saturday) and South Carolina (Nov. 30) later this season, Boyd would have the Heisman Trophy in the bag.