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Brendan Bures | NCAA.com | August 15, 2014

Heisman Trophy watch list for 2014

  Jameis Winston, Ameer Abdullah and Marcus Mariota top our 2014 Heisman watchlist.

Here's something we'll admit upfront: We do not know who will win this year's Heisman trophy. However, we've got a pretty good idea of the guys competing for college football's coveted bronze statue. From their game on the field, their stats and, most importantly, their social media prowess, we're breaking down the top 10 players to watch this season who might claim this year's Heisman. 

Ameer Abdullah, Senior RB, Nebraska

The case: Here’s a man tasked with the Sisyphean-like effort of pushing Nebraska uphill in the Big Ten Conference and more than capable of accomplishing that feat. Abdullah has wanted to be a running back since a young age, and it shows in his running prowess. He’s equal parts violent explosion and swift elusiveness, like a ballerina on rocket skates. No player on this list may be more instrumental to their team than Abdullah to the Cornhuskers and any hopes of postseason participation rests on his legs.

Top 2013 stats: 281 attempts, 1,690 yards, 6.01 yards/attempt, 9 TDs, 130.00 yards/game

Social media game: Amazingly, Abudllah pulled of the rare accomplishment of Twitter beef with his own teammate. Here’s him making fun of teammate Kenny Bell’s cleats for a ll the world to see. 

And here’s Bell firing back with what he says Abdullah allegedly drives to practice every day.

Brett Hundley, junior QB, UCLA

The case: In college football’s toughest conference not named the SEC, it’s Brett Hundley and UCLA who have gained major momentum this offseason. It’s a result of Hundley deciding to return this season, despite understandable NFL hype if he had declared for the draft. He’s the total package as a quarterback, with a big arm and good mobility. Unlike their conference foes, UCLA has the benefit of facing top Pac-12 opponents Stanford, Oregon, Arizona and USC at home this season. Because of Hundley, UCLA has been labeled a dark horse to qualify for this year’s College Football Playoffs.

Top 2013 stats: 3,071 passing yards, 66.8%, 24 passing TDs, 9 INTs, 748 rushing yards, 11 rushing TDs

Social media game: No context necessary for this tweet. Hundley’s fists do all the talking.

Marcus Mariota, junior QB, Oregon

The case: If there is such a thing, Mariota is this year’s attractive preseason Heisman pick (http://insider.espn.go.com/blog/travis-haney/post?id=3158). Here’s why: Other than Jameis Winston, Mariota is the only college football player playing video games, not football games, every Saturday. Had he not been injured late last season, Mariota would’ve been heavily considered for the Heisman trophy. But if Mariota can lead the Ducks through the gauntlet of the Pac-12 and to the College Football Playoffs, he’ll be the easy favorite for this year’s Heisman.

Top 2013 stats: 3,665 passing yards, 63.5%, 31 passing TDs, 4 INTs, 715 rushing yards, 9 rushing TDs

Social media game: Sadly, Mariota is not a social media guy. He doesn’t use Twitter or Instagram and so instead here’s Oregon assistant AD Andy McNamara tweeting about Mariota’s impressive shoe game at his graduation this June.

Mike Davis, Junior RB, South Carolina

The case: Injuries addled Davis somewhat in 2013, but he suitably fulfilled Marcus Lattimore’s role for the Gamecocks. Unlike Nebraska’s Abdullah or Alabama’s T.J. Yeldon, Davis has no backup running back stealing carries from him. Expect head coach Steve Spurrier to ride Davis as a workhorse this season if Davis is able to stay healthy.

Top 2013 stats: 203 attempts, 1,183 yards, 5.83 yards/attempts, 11 TDs, 98.58 yards/game

Social media game: For a true behind-the-scenes look into South Carolina’s team, follow Mike Davis on Instagram. You will be rewarded with gold like this.

Nick Marshall, senior QB, Auburn

The case: Under the tutelage of first-year head coach Gus Malzahn, Marshall was forced to learn the robust offensive playbook on the fly. While he struggled with accuracy at times, Marshall excelled under crunch time -- with a little bit of luck. For three and a half quarters in the national championship game, Marshall outplayed Heisman winner Jameis Winston and would be touted highly had Winston not delivered some clutch play of his own. With a full offseason to digest and work with Malzahn, Marshall could conceivably play his way into the Heisman race this season.

Top 2013 stats: 1,976 passing yards, 59.4%, 14 passing TDs, 6 INTs, 1,068 rushing yards, 12 rushing TDs

Social media game: Marshall is pretty standard on social media, but here’s a fun picture of Marshall with then-teammates Greg Robinson and Quan Bray during national championship week.

Todd Gurley, Junior RB, Georgia

The case: Any luck that Auburn had last year was stolen from Georgia’s reserves as the Bulldogs were riddled with injuries in 2013, including an at-times gimpy Gurley. His impact was mitigated last year as a result, but let’s not forget the impact Gurley can have when healthy.

He’s also a huge threat out of the backfield, begging a defensive back to play him if Georgia didn’t have so many other options at the skill positions. If we’re to believe the law of averages, which doesn’t always apply to college football, Gurley and Georgia could have a huge bounceback year.

Top 2013 stats: 165 attempts, 989 yards, 5.99 yards/attempt, 10 TDs, 98.90 yards/game

Social media game: Gurley has a pretty tame social media game, but here’s a wonderful video of Georgia backwoods four-wheeling, with who we presume to be other Georgia football palyers. 

Braxton Miller, senior QB, Ohio State

The case: Miller has more than adapted to the spread offense of head coach Urban Meyer, thriving in the second half the season. If not for running into the indomitable defense of Michigan State, Ohio State likely would’ve been competing for a national championship last season. Should Miller polish his game this season and recover from his offseason shoulder surgery, he will have an otherwise favorable route to New York for the Heisman ceremony.

Top 2013 stats: 2,094 passing yards, 63.5%, 24 passing TDs, 7 INTs, 1,068 rushing yards, 12 rushing TDs

Social media game: Because Miller doesn’t want us to forget, let us remember when he decided to dye part of his hair last spring.

Bryce Petty, senior QB, Baylor

The case: His full stats are below, but that Petty threw for 4,200 yards and 32 passing TDs while rushing for 14 more touchdowns should have been enough for him to be invited to last year’s Heisman ceremony. Petty’s output gets slightly overlooked because he exists in the thriving environment of Baylor head coach Art Briles’ brilliant offense. However, with the weapons surrounding Petty this year, and another year to digest Briles’ playbook, Petty may even exceed his previous eye-popping numbers, which would place him square in this year’s Heisman race.

Top 2013 stats: 4,200 passing yards, 62%, 32 passing TDs, 3 INTs, 209 rushing yards, 14 rushing TDs

Social media game: While Bryce Petty has a wonderful Twitter where he delivers inspirational quotes to followers, this video from Baylor preseason practice is necessary viewing.

Jameis Winston, sophomore QB, Florida State

The case: Somehow, the conversation surrounding a quarterback who can do this and this and was last seen on a football field marshaling a championship-winning drive is that voters might tire of his “narrative” this season. However, what Heisman voters will or won’t do is of little matter now, weeks before the season. With the departure of wide receivers Kelvin Benjamin and Kenny Shaw, and a much more daunting regular-season schedule, Winston will have plenty of credentials if the Seminoles again go undefeated and land in the College Football Playoffs.  

Top 2013 stats: 4,057 passing yards, 66.9%, 40 passing TDs, 10 INTs, 219 rushing yards, 4 rushing TDs

Social media game: Can you throw a legitimate football pass to yourself down the field? Jameis Winston can. His caption to the post: “Did it once for the fans twice for the haters LMAO #BallisLife”

Rakeem Cato, junior QB, Marshall

The case: Cato serves as the great Heisman hope outside of college football’s major conferences. Marshall has launched a full Heisman campaign to try and launch Cato into the spotlight but his numbers -- Cato threw for 3,916 yards and 39 touchdowns this past season -- do enough of the talking. Things will certainly have to break for Cato to win this year’s loaded Heisman race, but should Marshall stay undefeated through their Conference USA schedule, Cato’s got a shot to be invited to New York.

Top 2013 stats: 3,916 passing yards, 59.7%, 39 passing TDs, 9 INTs, 294 rushing yards, 6 rushing TDs

Social media game: Cato, like Mariota, isn’t into the social media scene. But because you’re likely unfamiliar with Cato’s abilities, check out Marshall’s highlight video of Cato.

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