1. Mississippi State QB Dak Prescott
Last week (W, 38-23, vs. Auburn): 18-for-34, 246 passing yards, 1 passing TD, 2 INTs, 121 rushing yards, 2 rushing TDs
2014: 1,478 passing yards, 14 passings TDs, 4 INTs, 576 rushing yards, 8 rushing TDs
Who had Prescott leading the Heisman race before the start of the season? Nobody. The 6-foot-2-inch, 235-pound dual-threat junior quarterback has broken through in the most impressive of ways and looks to be here to stay. His résumé consists of three straight wins over ranked opponents and leading Mississippi State, perennial SEC bottom-feeder, to its first AP No. 1 ranking in school history. There’s no denying Prescott has earned the Heisman lead. He threw two early interceptions against Auburn, but his 367 all-purpose yards, clutch touchdowns down the stretch and eventual victory more than made up for his mistakes.
2. Oregon QB Marcus Mariota
Last week (W, 42-30, vs. UCLA): 17-for-27, 210 passing yards, 2 passing TDs, 75 rushing yards, 2 rushing TDs
2014: 1,621 passing yards, 17 passing TDs, 290 rushing yards, 5 rushing TDs
Oregon’s win over UCLA last week was much bigger than the score indicated, and Mariota picked apart the Bruins’ defense in every way possible. Most impressively, Mariota gashed UCLA for 75 yards on the ground and made most of the Ducks’ possessions look flawless. The junior has yet to throw an interception this season, which is an incredibly rare feat. In order to regain the Hesiman lead, he’ll have to hope Prescott slows down, but, as always, there’s no doubting Mariota’s greatness every time he steps on the field.
3. Notre Dame QB Everett Golson
Last week (W, 50-43, vs. North Carolina): 21-for-38, 300 passing yards, 3 passing TDs, 1 INT, 71 rushing yards
2014: 1,583 passing yards, 16 passing TDs, 4 INTs, 209 rushing yards, 4 rushing TDs
Golson may not put up the best numbers in college football, but all he does is win. He has been the guy pushing Notre Dame to wins each week and in last week’s shoot-out against North Carolina, it was Golson’s clutch factor that made the difference yet again for the Irish. This week, however, will make or break Golson’s Heisman campaign. A matchup with No. 2 Florida State on Saturday sets the perfect stage for Golson to either shine or fade away.
4. Wisconsin RB Melvin Gordon
Last week: (W, 38-28, vs. Illinois): 27 attempts, 175 rushing yards, 4 rushing TDs
2014: 1,046 rushing yards, 13 rushing TDs, 1 receiving TD
Wisconsin still has six regular season games on its schedule, and Gordon has already surpassed the 1,000-yard mark. Games such as last week’s against Illinois are the reason some say Gordon is the best running back in the country and his yards per game and total yards are both second in the FBS. The truth is, Gordon hasn’t faced great competition and his Badgers have lost to two mediocre teams in LSU and Northwestern. But the numbers he puts up and what he does every time he touches the ball have been nothing short of amazing.
5. Georgia RB Todd Gurley
Last week: Suspended
2014: 773 rushing yards, 8 rushing TDs
Considering Gurley was leading the Heisman race just a week ago, there’s no knocking him completely off the list for the controversy surrounding him off the field. For a running back who was having such an excellent season, Gurley’s suspension was both surprising and poorly timed. Right now, there’s no knowing how long Gurley will be out. But if he hopes to climb back into Heisman contention, he needs to get back on the field in a hurry, or else he’ll quickly fall out of the Heisman conversation.