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NFP Heisman Watch

Is this the year that a Ducks offensive star takes home the hardware? Dave Miller

Print This September 18, 2013, 06:15 PM EST

Despite losing to Alabama on the field last week, Johnny Manziel may have won off of it.

Because of his second straight strong performance against the Crimson Tide, Johnny Football did nothing to hurt his Heisman Trophy chances as he looks to become just the second repeat winner in the award's history.

While it is way too early to forecast this race, let's take a look at where I have some of the leaders ranked after three weeks of play.

Oregon QB Marcus Mariota: The redshirt sophomore continues to run the same up-tempo, high-octane offense we saw under Chip Kelly, and he continues to put up big numbers. The Ducks' dual-threat signal-caller has recorded 1,151 total yards and 11 touchdowns against no interceptions in three games under new OC Scott Frost, including a career-high 456 passing yards and five total touchdowns last week as the Ducks handed Tennessee its worst loss in more than 100 years. The Ducks' late-season contest against Stanford and a possible Pac-12 title game could help Mariota's cause.

Johnny ManzielUS PRESSWIREJohnny Manziel remains a top candidate for the Heisman after his performance against Alabama.

Texas A&M QB Johnny Manziel: Manziel, who became the first freshman to claim the Heisman when he won it last year, recorded 562 total yards and five touchdowns against Nick Saban and the two-time defending BCS national champion Crimson Tide last week. There is still a steep hill to climb if he wants to repeat because there likely will be Johnny Football fatigue in some voters, but his performance last week showed voters just how special of a player he really is when it matters. But how much Heisman love will he get if the Aggies fall one or two more times?

Clemson QB Tajh Boyd: The senior's performance in the season opener against Georgia still carries a lot of weight, as he recorded five touchdowns and played turnover-free. The South Carolina State game in Week 2 did not particularly enhance his standing, but the Tigers host Florida State, play in-state rival South Carolina and could have another contest in the ACC title game. A schedule with marquee games helps tremendously, so a trip to New York is very possible because the numbers should be there at the end of the year.

Alabama QB AJ McCarron: McCarron showed last year and in last week's game against Texas A&M that he is much more than a game manager. He played a nearly flawless game in College Station, helping his team to a 49-42 victory over the Aggies by throwing four touchdown passes and helping the team score 35 consecutive points after it fell behind 14-0. And the play-action game remained deadly for 'Bama, as McCarron went 7 of 10 passing with 12.9 yards per attempt and two touchdowns on such plays. Overall, McCarron was 20 of 29 through the air for 334 yards. If the Crimson Tide are in position to play for their third straight BCS title, the QB who is 26-2 as a starter may have a chance to win without staggering numbers.

Louisville QB Teddy Bridgewater: The junior was solid in the Cardinals' 27-13 win over Kentucky last week, as he went 16 of 28 passing for 250 yards with one touchdown and no interceptions. He was considered a favorite for this award by a lot of national pundits in the preseason, especially because he essentially started his campaign last year with the Sugar Bowl win over Florida. The major issue for Bridgewater is he will not have a ton of chances to perform on a big stage because he plays in a conference that is not elite. It may not be fair, but the Cards may have to go undefeated for Bridgewater to win. And, fair or not, he can't really afford to have games with just one touchdown.

UCLA QB Brett Hundley: The redshirt sophomore is coming off of a strong performance in a win over Nebraska on the road, especially in the second half. He completed 16 of 24 passes for 294 yards with three touchdowns and an interception in the win and also rushed 19 times for 61 yards. On the season he's completing 66.7 percent of his passes for 568 yards with five touchdowns against one interception. He’s also rushed 26 times for 124 yards with two scores. Hundley still has high-profile games against Oregon and Stanford, so he will have a chance to be in the mix for the hardware.

Georgia RB Todd Gurley: The sophomore was the first Bulldogs running back to rush for at least 1,000 yards as a true freshman since Herschel Walker did it in 1980, and he has started off this season strong despite not even being 100 percent healthy. The Bulldogs still have games against LSU and Florida, so Gurley will get more high-profile matchups to show his worth. But after his performances against Clemson and South Carolina, many observers believe he is the best running back in the country.

Others to watch

Florida State QB Jameis Winston

Utah State QB Chuckie Keeton

Northern Illinois QB Jordan Lynch

Alabama RB T.J. Yeldon

Baylor RB Lache Seastrunk

Colorado WR Paul Richardson

Dave Miller, the college football editor and writer for the National Football Post, is on Twitter @Miller_Dave.

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