Philadelphia, PA (SportsNetwork.com) - With a suspension dropping one former favorite from the ranks, quarterbacks dominate the upper half of this list as the Heisman Trophy picture begins to get clearer near the season's halfway point.
1. Dak Prescott, QB, Mississippi State (last week: No. 1) -- The top-ranked Bulldogs' early season run is perhaps the most unlikely story in a college football season full of crazy twists and turns, and Prescott shoulders the majority of the credit. Mississippi State has downed a top-10 opponent in three straight weeks, including a 38-23 triumph over No. 2 Auburn over the weekend. Prescott struggled at times against a stingy Tigers' defense, completing less than 53 percent of his passes (18-of-34) and tossing two interceptions, but overall he was outstanding with 246 passing yards, 121 rushing yards and three touchdowns. The Bulldogs will enjoy a bit of a break in their schedule in the coming weeks with contests against Kentucky, Arkansas and UT Martin, where Prescott will try to improve upon his gaudy numbers (1,478 passing yards, 576 rushing yards, 22 TDs) before being put to the test again late in the season with road bouts at Alabama (Nov. 15) and Ole Miss (Nov. 29).
2. Marcus Mariota, QB, Oregon (last week: No. 3) -- After the Ducks stumbled with a home loss against Arizona two weeks ago, they bounced back in a big way with a 42-20 road triumph at nationally ranked UCLA to put themselves back in the national picture. Mariota was predictably outstanding, throwing for 210 yards and two touchdowns while adding 75 yards and two more scores on the ground. With mounting problems on defense and the offensive line, this Oregon squad is not the program's most talented of the past few seasons, and it will have a difficult time navigating through the remainder of a tough Pac-12 schedule, but even with sky-high expectations, Mariota has played even better than anyone could have envisioned coming into the season, completing greater than 70 percent of his throws, piling up 1,937 total yards, scoring 23 touchdowns and having yet to throw an interception.
3. Bryce Petty, QB, Baylor (last week: unranked) -- After a disappointing effort on Oct. 4 at Texas (7-of-22, 111 yards), Petty fell from the list a week ago but managed to make up for lost time in a marquee, top-10 shootout versus TCU. Petty only managed to complete 50.9 percent of his passes (28- of-55), but he tossed a career-high 510 yards and six touchdowns, with three of those scores coming in the fourth quarter as the Bears erased a 21-point deficit to down the Horned Frogs, 61-58. It's been an up-and-down campaign for Petty, who missed time early in the year with a back injury, but Baylor is a top-5 program and appears to be the best the Big 12 has to offer, and if he can continue his current pace (1,534 passing yards, 18 TDs, three interceptions), not only will the Bears be in line for a berth in the College Football Playoff but the signal caller will have a strong case to be a Heisman finalist.
4. Melvin Gordon, RB, Wisconsin (last week: No. 7) -- With Todd Gurley's status for the rest of the season up in the air, Gordon has taken over the throne as college football's best tailback. Gordon led the Badgers to a 38-28 home victory over Illinois with yet another excellent performance, turning 27 carries into 175 yards and four touchdowns. The 6-foot-1, 207-pound junior is now the nation's second-leading rusher (1,046 yards, behind only Indiana's Tevin Coleman with 1,060) thanks to an incredible run over the past four games (868 yards, 12 TDs) when he's become the first player to rush for at least 175 yards in four straight since UCF's Kevin Smith in 2007. Wisconsin's championship aspirations are nothing more than a pipe dream, but with a back as talented as Gordon, that distinction will only hurt his stock so much.
5. Bo Wallace, QB, Ole Miss (last week: unranked) -- Prescott isn't the only undefeated signal caller in the Magnolia State, and it's about time Wallace received some credit for what he's done with the Rebels, who have asserted themselves as one of the nation's best with back-to-back wins over Alabama (23-17) and Texas A&M (35-20). Although Ole Miss was aided by a pair of defensive touchdowns in its victory at A&M this past Saturday, Wallace was nonetheless outstanding in upstaging the Aggies' high-flying offense by completing 13-of-19 passes for 178 yards, rushing for an additional 50 yards and accounting for three touchdowns without committing a turnover. Wallace is one of the nation's most accurate passers (68.5 completion percentage), he's scored 17 touchdowns (two rushing), and since throwing three interceptions in the season opener, he's tossed just three picks in the five games and 145 attempts since.
6. Everett Golson, QB, Notre Dame (last week: No. 4) -- The good news for the Fighting Irish is they are still undefeated after escaping a home contest with North Carolina with a 50-43 victory after trailing late in the third quarter. The bad news is their quarterback has had difficulty holding on to the football. With an interception and a fumble against UNC, Golson has eight turnovers in his last three contests after giving the ball away zero times in the first three games. Luckily Golson helped shield his miscues with 300 passing yards, 71 rushing yards and three touchdowns in the win, giving him 20 total scores on the season, but there's no doubt Golson's play under center will need to improve greatly if Notre Dame is to continue as one of the nation's best.
7. Jameis Winston, QB, Florida State (last week: No. 10) -- Stop me if you've heard this before, but Winston found himself in the headlines for all the wrong reasons late last week when a report said FSU and the Tallahassee, Florida, police took steps in hindering a criminal investigation of Winston back in 2013 following the allegations that he sexually assaulted a student. Winston will face a disciplinary hearing that could decide the fate of his future at the university, and it's likely Heisman voters have grown tired of the former winner's situation, making his repeat chances incredibly slim, but the results on the field are still there. Winston had his best game of the season in a 38-20 win over Syracuse, completing 30-of-36 passes for 317 yards, three touchdowns and zero interceptions, and the Seminoles have now won 22 in a row and are 19-0 with Winston starting under center.
8. Amari Cooper, WR, Alabama (last week: No. 6) -- After tallying at least eight catches and 91 yards in each of his first five games, Cooper had his first dud of the season in Alabama's narrow, 14-13 road victory over Arkansas by recording just 22 yards on two receptions. The Razorbacks made it a point to focus heavily on Cooper, but the rest of the Crimson Tide offense could not step up, as they amassed just 227 yards. Although any win in the SEC Western Division is a good one, especially on the road, Alabama is definitely vulnerable on offense, meaning that Cooper's electric pace (54 receptions, 768 yards, five TDs) could start to slow down as defenses begin to catch up with the Tide's game plan.
9. Ameer Abdullah, RB, Nebraska (last week: No. 8) -- Abdullah lost some momentum (as well his FBS high in rushing yards) with the Cornhuskers' bye week, and his effort against a stout Michigan State defense on Oct. 4 was forgettable (24 carries, 45 yards), but it's hard to argue with the back's production through six games, as he's rushed for 878 yards, added 130 receiving and scored 12 total touchdowns. Abdullah returns to action this week against Northwestern, which allows only 145.7 rushing yards per game.
10. Nick Marshall, QB, Auburn (last week: No. 5) -- Marshall set a poor tone early in Auburn's loss to Mississippi State by tossing an interception on the team's first drive, and while he brought the Tigers back to within one score of the lead late in the game, he could not overcome the team's four turnovers and his off-target passing afternoon (17-of-35). He managed to turn 17 carries into 100 yards, marking the fourth time he's crossed the century mark on the ground this season and leaving his yearly totals at 492 rushing yards, 964 rushing yards and 14 touchdowns. Marshall's and the Tigers' stock are down, but one loss in the SEC is hardly a death sentence. They'll need to be practically flawless down the stretch if they want a chance at the SEC Championship Game, which will be tough with contests versus South Carolina, Ole Miss, Texas A&M, Georgia and Alabama still on the docket.
Dropped out: Todd Gurley, RB, Georgia (last week: No. 2) -- The NCAA can be pretty backward sometimes, as Winston continues to play in the wake of his investigation yet Gurley is suspended indefinitely for reportedly making money off his likeness, but the rules are the rules, and Gurley certainly isn't blameless in the act that could possibly cost him his season. Gurley (773 yards, 8.2 yards per carry, nine TDs) was on the fast track to being a Heisman finalist and had a great chance at winning the award prior to this setback. We'll learn more about his status in the coming days, but we might not see Gurley again until he's suiting up on Sundays as a high NFL draft pick.
Also dropped out: Kenny Hill, QB, Texas A&M
Honorable Mention: Tevin Coleman, RB, Indiana; Kevin White, WR, West Virginia; Josh Robinson, RB, Mississippi State; Preston Smith, DE, Mississippi State.