Two years ago, Johnny Manziel took the college football world by storm. The first freshman ever to win the Heisman Trophy, Manziel was a TRUE dual-threat QB. He had uncanny accuracy and was extremely elusive in the pocket and when he tucked it away and ran. Last year, Jameis Winston just came in and topped Manziel's never-before-seen season with a National Championship to boot. In a word: dominant. Winston now has the opportunity to double up and take home a second piece of hardware. Here are the contenders:
Winston, as mentioned, won the Heisman. He is the odds-on favorite to win the award once again. The one thing that hurt him last year was winning by too much. If teams can play the Seminoles a little bit closer this year, allowing Jameis to stay in the game longer, I'd bet my money that he wins it again. With one of the best offensive lines in football, he should stay on his feet and make big plays downfield to his loaded supporting cast.
Braxton Miller might be the biggest threat to Winston because of what is asked of him in Ohio State's offense. While Winston can move, he is not the dynamic threat in the run game that Miller is. However, Miller might have won the Heisman last year if he was never injured and running the ball, of course, opens up the potential for injury. If Miller can stay healthy and Ohio State wins as often as expected, Miller should have the stats that will be tough to deny him of the hardware.
Todd Gurley is probably the most physical runner in college football. Gurley is made for the NFL and is a man amongst boys in college football. With Aaron Murray gone, Gurley will be the main threat in Georgia's offense. His biggest challenge will be getting enough touches and staying healthy. Gurley could never get it going last year because of injuries, but is healthy and ready to look like his freshman self.
The man who some are saying is a better pro quarterback prospect than Jameis Winston certainly has a shot once again. Marcus Mariota will once again put together another Heisman-caliber season. This year, he needs to play all 12 games like a Heisman candidate. Most notably, he needs to impress against Stanford after a pitiful performance last year. Still, Mariota possesses a lot of talent and is playing in the right offense. This year, we expect the Ducks to win the PAC 12 and if that is the case, expect to see Mariota in New York.
Bryce Petty is back again after an impressive 2013 performance. He was right up there in the Heisman talks until Baylor laid an egg against Oklahoma State on national TV. Petty loses his right-hand man in Lache Seastrunk, but returns a very strong core on offense. This year, without questions of Petty being a "system quarterback," look for Petty to be an even more prevalent Heisman candidate than last year.
Last year, Wisconsin's rushing attack was phenomenal. TWO rushers eclipsed 1,400 yards and one of them is gone. If that doesn't sound the Heisman-hopeful alarms I don't know what will. Melvin Gordon gained 1,650 yards and scored 12 touchdowns last year in his first year as the feature back. Gordon could benefit from getting more looks in the passing game with James White gone, who was the better receiver of the RB duo. Four offensive linemen return and everything looks good for Gordon. We will see if Gordon gets more touches this year now that White is gone or if Gary Andersen sticks to his two-back system.