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Heisman Watch 2013: Breaking Down Top Contenders Heading into Week 8

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Heisman Watch 2013: Breaking Down Top Contenders Heading into Week 8
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The first seven weeks of the 2013 college football schedule are now behind us, so as we move into the second half of the season, the race for the Heisman Trophy is officially on.

As is the case every year, it's far too early to crown a winner at this point, but there are certainly a handful of standouts who have emerged as favorites to walk off with college football's most coveted individual award.

Heading into Week 8 of the campaign, here's a look at the players who have established themselves as legitimate contenders to take this year's Heisman.

  

Marcus Mariota

With an astonishing 17 touchdowns and zero interceptions through Oregon's first six games, Marcus Mariota has emerged as the midseason favorite to take home the Heisman in 2013. 

Steve Dykes/Getty Images

As the leader of arguably the nation's most dangerous offense, Mariota guided the Ducks to blowout victories over heavily overmatched opponents but received his first true test of the season against No. 16 Washington in Week 7 of the season.

And even without starting running back De'Anthony Thomas on the field, the Huskies still couldn't stop Mariota, as the sophomore went 24-of-31 for 366 yards and three scores through the air and picked up an additional touchdown to go with 88 yards on the ground.

He's been simply outstanding thus far, and if he can maintain this level of excellence through the Ducks' pair of challenging games against Stanford and UCLA later in the year, one has to think he'll have Oregon playing for a national title.

If that's the case, expect to hear Mariota's name called when they announce the winner at the Heisman ceremony in New York.

 

Johnny Manziel

For all the talk about Johnny Football's lack of focus and maturity, the reigning Heisman winner certainly doesn't seem phased by any of it. Manziel has guided the Aggies to a 5-1 start, and he's been the primary reason behind it.

No, it hasn't always been pretty, as Manziel failed to throw a touchdown against Mississippi in Week 7, but he's a clutch performer, and when he fails to get things going through the air, he simply puts his head down and makes up for it with his legs.

Michael Chang/Getty Images

In the Aggies' only loss of the season to No. 1 Alabama, Manziel did everything he could to will his team to victory, throwing for an otherworldly 464 yards and five touchdowns with another 98 yards on the ground.

At this point, he's got some ground to cover in order to catch Mariota, but with two more games against current Top 25 teams in LSU and Missouri, he'll have an opportunity to do so if he comes up with vintage performances against a pair of quality opponents.

 

Tajh Boyd

Another quarterback very much in the mix this season is Clemson's Tajh Boyd, who has lead the Tigers to a surprising 6-0 start. 

With 15 touchdowns against just two picks, Boyd has been reliable all year for Clemson and has a very impressive season-opening win over then-No. 5 Georgia under his belt.

Tyler Smith/Getty Images

Though the senior hasn't faced an elite team since the win over the Bulldogs, Boyd will get a chance to bolster his case next week when Clemson hosts No. 6 Florida State, which has a Heisman contender of its own under center in freshman Jameis Winston.

If Boyd can guide the Tigers to a win there, or at least perform admirably in a losing effort, he appears to have one of the three finalist spots on lockdown, especially if he can will Clemson to a victory at South Carolina in the regular-season finale.

 

Teddy Bridgewater 

Widely considered to be among the most coveted prospects for the upcoming NFL draft, Teddy Bridgewater has established himself as one of the nation's best quarterbacks during his junior season at Louisville. 

No, his performance in Week 7 against Rutgers wasn't his best, as Bridgewater fumbled and threw a pick against two touchdowns, but his 1,872 yards passing and 71 percent completion rate are both on pace to break his career highs.

Andy Lyons/Getty Images

One factor working against Bridgewater is that he won't have played against the same caliber of competition as the three quarterbacks listed above, but if he has No. 8 Louisville headed to a BCS Bowl, he'll be in contention.

 

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