Philadelphia, PA (SportsNetwork.com) - While plenty of Heisman hopefuls played their way out of consideration on an eventful last full Saturday of the college football season, the favorites managed to separate themselves even more.
1. Marcus Mariota, QB, Oregon (last week: No. 1) -- With the No. 2 player on this list breathing down his neck, Mariota came through in Oregon's 47-19 Civil War victory over rival Oregon State with one of the best performances of his illustrious career. The signal caller scored a season-high six touchdowns (four passing, two rushing) in the turnover-free performance, while completing 19-of-25 passes and amassing just shy of 400 total yards. Mariota, who has been the Heisman frontrunner for most of the season, has been consistently outstanding with multiple touchdowns and at least 277 yards in every game this season, leaving him with simply astounding numbers on the season with 3,470 passing yards, 636 rushing yards, 48 total touchdowns and just two interceptions. A win in the Pac-12 Championship Game will all but sew up the award for Mariota, but that's not a forgone conclusion just yet. The Pac-12 South champs Arizona may have the formula to slowing down Mariota, as it delivered Oregon its only loss back on Oct. 2 (31-24), while holding the quarterback to his lowest yardage total of the season (277).
2. Melvin Gordon, RB, Wisconsin (last week: No. 2) -- There's some other notable performers named below, but this might as well be a two-name list in regard to players who have a legitimate chance at winning the award. With another stellar showing (29 carries, 151 yards, TD) in a win over Minnesota to determine which team gets to play for the Big Ten title, Gordon became the league's all-time single-season rushing leader with 2,260 yards, and with two games left, Barry Sanders' FBS record of 2,628 is well within reach for the explosive tailback. The Badgers have ridden Gordon's talents to seven straight victories to set up a showdown with Ohio State in the Big Ten Championship Game on Saturday, and if he can lead his team to the title, the potential to unseat Mariota as the Heisman favorite becomes much greater.
3. Amari Cooper, WR, Alabama (last week: No 8) -- It was impossible for this year's version of the Iron Bowl to live up to 2013's epic finish, but it certainly tried its best, as Alabama overcame a 12-point, second-half deficit to capture a 55-44 victory in the highest-scoring game in series history. Cooper, with the help of quarterback Blake Sims, lifted his team with three touchdowns, two of which came in the third quarter as the Crimson Tide mounted their comeback. Cooper caught 13 balls and had more than 70 percent of the team's receiving yards, tying his own single-game school record with 224 yards. Cooper ranks in the top-three nationally in receptions (103), yards (1,573) and touchdowns (14), and if he puts up another strong performance against Missouri in Saturday's SEC Championship Game, he can bank on being a finalist.
4. Trevone Boykin, QB, TCU (last week: No 4) -- The Horned Frogs' big win over Texas on Thanksgiving night (48-10) is especially important now that Mississippi State is out of the mix for the fourth spot in the College Football Playoffs, as they are now the likely favorite to scoop up that coveted place. Boykin was his typical, multi-faceted self in the victory, throwing for 223 yards and two touchdowns while rushing for 50 yards and another score, leaving him with 3,254 passing yards, 598 rushing yards and 36 total touchdowns against only six interceptions for the season. A lot is still left to be to be determined on Saturday with TCU, Baylor and Kansas State all in action, and each sitting at 7-1 in the league, but if the Horned Frogs can take care of business against Iowa State, Boykin's status as a finalist should be a lock.
5. Cody Kessler, QB, USC (last week: unranked) -- Every time Kessler was about to make his mark in the Heisman race, USC would suffer an untimely loss to put both he and the team on the back burner, at least nationally, but with his regular season done it's time to finally give him the recognition he deserves. For all of the Trojans' issues in an underachieving season, Kessler's play under center was not one of them. Five times this year he threw for at least four touchdowns an no interceptions, including in a statement win over Notre Dame over the weekend, when he completed 32-of-40 passes for 372 yards and six touchdowns. With the second-best completion percentage in the nation (.707), the sixth-most yards (3,505) and tied for the second-most passing touchdowns (36), paired with only four picks, Kessler's season sizes up with the best of the elite USC quarterbacks of the recent past.
6. Bryce Petty, QB, Baylor (last week: unranked) -- Petty was on his way to a big game against Texas Tech with 210 yards and two touchdowns before he was forced to leave with a concussion in the third quarter, and in his absence the Bears just barely held on for a 48-46 win. With a matchup next week against Kansas State that could very well decide the Big 12 as well as Baylor's fate in the College Football Playoff rankings, Petty vowed to be ready to play, confident he will pass the concussion protocol tests. It'll give Petty one more opportunity to impress Heisman voters and improve upon strong numbers (2,893 yards, 25 TDs, five interceptions).
7. Tevin Coleman, RB, Indiana (last week: unranked) -- Of the 18 2,000-yard rushing seasons in FBS history, none have come more quietly than Coleman's, who crossed the threshold on Saturday with a 130-yard performance as Indiana snapped a six-game losing streak with a 23-16 win over Purdue. Playing for the 4-8 Hoosiers has kept Coleman out of the national spotlight, but the fact that he is his team's only viable playmaker on offense has made his accomplishments all the more impressive.
8. Anu Solomon, QB, Arizona (last week: unranked) -- To say that Solomon found his way on this list by default would be overstating things, but with Dak Prescott and Brett Hundley coming up small in big games and J.T. Barrett going down with an injury, Solomon's stock is way up as he keeps leading his team to victories. The Wildcats' won their fourth straight game against rival Arizona State last Friday and clinched the Pac-12 South title behind a stellar performance from Solomon, who completed 15-of-21 passes for 208 yards with two touchdowns and no interceptions. It was hardly a fluky performance for the signal caller, who sits with 3,424 yards, 27 touchdowns and just seven interceptions on the season, to go with solid rushing numbers (282 yards, TD). Arizona now gets another shot at Oregon in the Pac-12 title tilt this Saturday after handing the Ducks their only loss of the season back in October.
9. Samaje Perine, RB, Oklahoma (last week: No. 7) -- Although the Sooners had off this past weekend, Perine is still basking in the glory of his FBS-record- setting 427 rushing yards against Kansas on Nov. 22. The freshman tailback has exceeded even the loftiest of projections this season by picking up 1,428 yards and 19 touchdowns on 214 attempts, with 640 yards and eight scores coming in the last two games. He'll have one more opportunity to build upon his dark-horse resume' in the Battle of Bedlam with Oklahoma State on Saturday.
10. Dak Prescott, QB, Mississippi State (last week: No. 5) -- Prescott's stock really took a nose-dive late in the season with losses to Alabama and Ole Miss to not only squash Mississippi State's SEC title hopes, but its chances at a College Football Playoff berth. But while he failed to step up his play when it mattered most, the Bulldogs' signal caller still needs to be recognized for an outstanding season in leading his underdog squad to the No. 1 ranking for a large chunk of the year. Prescott heads into MSU's bowl game with just shy of 4,000 total yards (2,996 passing, 939 rushing, 35 receiving) and 38 touchdowns.
Dropped Out: J.T. Barrett, QB, Ohio State (injury); Brett Hundley, QB, UCLA; Nick Chubb, RB, Georgia; Jameis Winston, QB, Florida State
Honorable Mention: Ameer Abdullah, RB, Nebraska; Nick Marshall, QB, Auburn; Bo Wallace, QB, Ole Miss; Gerod Holliman, DB, Louisville