A look at 2014 Heisman race as season nears halfway mark

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The Heisman Trophy race, much like the playoff chase, took a detour last weekend. The presumptive favorite, Marcus Mariota of Oregon, was unable to prevent his team from being upset. Dak Prescott emerged as a legitimate contender for Mississippi State and a couple of guys who were trending in September - Kenny Hill of Texas A&M and Ameer Abdullah of Nebraska - cooled off.

And now Jameis Winston isn't the only candidate to be suspended.

As the season hits the midway point, a Heisman edition of things to watch for this weekend.

WHAT TO DO WITH JAMEIS?

Winston's quest to become the second player to win two Heisman trophies might already be over. Before he ever played a down, the Florida State quarterback had two things working against him. First, he probably had to be at least as good, if not better, than last year, when he had one of the best seasons a college quarterback has ever had. Second, Winston came into the season carrying the baggage of off-the-field issues, and then added more with a one-game suspension.

Charles Davis, an analyst for Fox and Heisman voter, said he hasn't eliminated Winston, but he thinks other voters might be leaning that way already.

"My sense is that most voters will look for an alternative," Davis said in an email.

"As a colleague said to me recently: `I'm tired of having to defend my Heisman vote for things that are non-football related.'"

Winston and the top-ranked Seminoles are at Syracuse on Saturday.

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A look at 2014 Heisman race as season nears halfway mark
TALLAHASSEE, FL - OCTOBER 4: Quarterback Jameis Winston #5 of the Florida State Seminoles during warm-up before the game against the Wake Forest Demon Deacons at Doak Campbell Stadium on Bobby Bowden Field on October 4, 2014 in Tallahassee, Florida. The #1 ranked Florida State Seminoles defeated the Wake Forest Demon Deacons 43 to 3. (Photo by Don Juan Moore/Getty Images)
RALEIGH, NC - SEPTEMBER 27: Jameis Winston #5 of the Florida State Seminoles during their game against the North Carolina State Wolfpack at Carter-Finley Stadium on September 27, 2014 in Raleigh, North Carolina. Florida State won 56-41. (Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - DECEMBER 14: Jameis Winston, quarterback of the Florida State Seminoles, poses with the trophy during a press conference after the 2013 Heisman Trophy Presentation at the Marriott Marquis on December 14, 2013 in New York City. (Photo by Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images)
PULLMAN, WA - SEPTEMBER 20: Marcus Mariota #8 of the Oregon Ducks warms up prior to the game against the Washington State Cougars at Martin Stadium on September 20, 2014 in Pullman, Washington. (Photo by William Mancebo/Getty Images)
PULLMAN, WA - SEPTEMBER 20: Marcus Mariota #8 of the Oregon Ducks carries the ball against the Washington State Cougars during the game at Martin Stadium on September 20, 2014 in Pullman, Washington. (Photo by William Mancebo/Getty Images)
EUGENE, OR - SEPTEMBER 6: Marcus Mariota #8 of the Oregon Ducks looks on against the Michigan State Spartans during the game at Autzen Stadium on September 6, 2014 in Eugene, Oregon. Oregon won 46-27. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)
STARKVILLE, MS - OCTOBER 04: Dak Prescott #15 of the Mississippi State Bulldogs celebrates with fans following a game against the Texas A&M Aggies at Davis Wade Stadium on October 4, 2014 in Starkville, Mississippi. Mississippi State won the game 48-31. (Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images)
STARKVILLE, MS - OCTOBER 04: Dak Prescott #15 of the Mississippi State Bulldogs drops back to pass during the first quarter of a game against the Texas A&M Aggies at Davis Wade Stadium on October 4, 2014 in Starkville, Mississippi. Mississippi State won the game 48-31. (Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images)
BATON ROUGE, LA - SEPTEMBER 20: Dak Prescott #15 of the Mississippi State Bulldogs stiff arms Jalen Mills #28 of the LSU Tigers at Tiger Stadium on September 20, 2014 in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. The Bulldogs defeated the Tigers 34-29. (Photo by Wesley Hitt/Getty Images)
TEMPE, AZ - SEPTEMBER 25: Quarterback Brett Hundley #17 of the UCLA Bruins waves to fans after defeating the Arizona State Sun Devils 62-27 in the college football game at Sun Devil Stadium on September 25, 2014 in Tempe, Arizona. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
UCLA quarterback Brett Hundley (17) scrambles during the second half of an NCAA college football game against Utah Saturday, Oct. 4, 2014, in Pasadena, Calif. Utah won the game 30-28. (AP Photo/Alex Gallardo)
UCLA quarterback Brett Hundley scrambles against the Virginia Tech defens during the Sun Bowl NCAA college football game on Tuesday Dec. 31, 2013. (AP Photo/Victor Calzada)
Wisconsin's Melvin Gordon during the second half of an NCAA college football game against South Florida Saturday, Sept. 27, 2014, in Madison, Wis. Wisconsin won 27-10. (AP Photo/Morry Gash)
Wisconsin's Melvin Gordon (25) breaks away from Bowling Green's Jude Adjei-Barimah for a 50-yard touchdown run during the first half of an NCAA college football game, Saturday, Sept. 20, 2014, in Madison, Wis. (AP Photo/Morry Gash)
Wisconsin running back Melvin Gordon (25) runs with the ball against Northwestern during the second half of an NCAA college football game in Evanston, Ill., Saturday, Oct. 4, 2014. Northwestern won 20-14. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)
COLUMBIA, SC - SEPTEMBER 13: Todd Gurley #3 of the Georgia Bulldogs looks on before the game against the South Carolina Gamecocks at Williams-Brice Stadium on September 13, 2014 in Columbia, South Carolina. South Carolina won 38-35. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)
ATHENS, GA - SEPTEMBER 27: Todd Gurley #3 of the Georgia Bulldogs breaks a tackle by Cameron Sutton #23 of the Tennessee Volunteers at Sanford Stadium on September 27, 2014 in Athens, Georgia. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
ATHENS, GA - SEPTEMBER 27: Todd Gurley #3 of the Georgia Bulldogs breaks a tackle by Brian Randolph #37 of the Tennessee Volunteers at Sanford Stadium on September 27, 2014 in Athens, Georgia. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
OXFORD, MS - OCTOBER 4: Amari Cooper #9 of the Alabama Crimson Tide runs after the catch against the Ole Miss Rebels on October 4, 2014 at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium in Oxford, Mississippi. Mississippi beat Alabama 23-17. (Photo by Joe Murphy/Getty Images)
TUSCALOOSA, AL - SEPTEMBER 20: Amari Cooper #9 of the Alabama Crimson Tide makes a touchdown reception against the Florida Gators during the game at Bryant-Denny Stadium on September 20, 2014 in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. Alabama defeated Florida 42-21. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)
TUSCALOOSA, AL - SEPTEMBER 13: Amari Cooper #9 of the Alabama Crimson Tide takes a reception in for a touchdown against the Southern Miss Golden Eagles at Bryant-Denny Stadium on September 13, 2014 in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
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STOCK DOWN

Preseason Heisman hype hasn't meant much in recent years, but Mariota looked to be a player who could buck that trend and go from preseason favorite to runaway winner. And then Arizona upset the Ducks. Mariota wasn't bad in the game and his overall numbers are still impressive (15 touchdown passes and no interceptions). He did fumble twice versus the Wildcats and despite Oregon's offensive line problems those turnovers have to go on his resume.

"Mariota was my leader until Oregon lost," said voter Bob Asmussen of the Champaign (Illinois) News-Gazette. "It hurt him, but he is still a strong candidate."

Mariota gets a chance for quick redemption on Saturday when the 12th-ranked Ducks play at No. 18 UCLA. It's also an opportunity for Bruins quarterback Brett Hundley to get back into the mix.

STOCK UP

Prescott has overtaken Mariota and Hundley as the hot dual-threat quarterback, helping the Bulldogs bolt up the rankings to No. 3 in the country. The Tim Tebow comparisons help his cause, too. But things can change fast at this time of year. Great games against LSU and Texas A&M can be quickly overshadowed if Prescott plays a clunker against No. 2 Auburn.

"Early favorite in my book, based on games played, is Mississippi State quarterback Dak Prescott," said voter Jimmy Burch of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram.

RUNNING IT UP

Since 2000, only two running backs have won the Heisman (USC's Reggie Bush in 2005, since vacated, and Alabama's Mark Ingram in 2009). The running backs have returned this season: Wisconsin's Melvin Gordon (174 yards per game, tops in the nation) and Georgia's Todd Gurley (155 ypg, third in the country) all look capable of making a run at the Heisman. Both are averaging more than 8.0 yards per carry.

The Badgers host Illinois on Saturday. However, Gurley is suspended indefinitely while the school looks into allegations of NCAA violations. Meanwhile, No. 13 Georgia faces a key SEC East matchup at No. 23 Missouri.

A player who won't get as much attention as he probably should: Indiana's Tevin Coleman (168 ypg, second in the country). The Hoosiers are at Iowa.

CATCHING ON

Only two wide receivers have ever won the Heisman (Notre Dame's Tim Brown in 1987 and Michigan's Desmond Howard in 1991). Both also returned kicks. Alabama's Amari Cooper doesn't return kicks, but he's a good enough receiver to make history. He leads the nation in catches per game (10.4) and is second in yards per game (149.2). The seventh-ranked Tide is at Arkansas on Saturday.
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