10 Players Who Will Start 2014 Heisman Campaigns in Bowl Season

Sebastian Lena@SP7988Analyst IDecember 23, 2013

10 Players Who Will Start 2014 Heisman Campaigns in Bowl Season

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    It’s never too early to start thinking about the 2014 Heisman Trophy.

    Sure, 2013’s award was handed out just over a week ago. However, many of college football's biggest stars will be looking to make a splash during the upcoming bowl season.

    From returning finalists to snubs to other surprise names, there are plenty of potential contenders to go around.

    Join Bleacher Report as we take a closer look at 10 players who will do their 2014 Heisman candidacy a positive favor during their respective bowl games.


    Author’s note: The players selected are only those the author believes will return to college football next season.

RB Todd Gurley (Georgia)

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    The Matchup: Nebraska (8-4) vs. No. 22 Georgia (8-4), Jan. 1, 12 p.m. ET on ESPN2 (TaxSlayer.com Gator Bowl)


    The Skinny

    If it wasn’t for an injury that sidelined him for a month, there’s no doubt that Bulldogs running back Todd Gurley would have received an invite to New York City this season.

    Through nine games, the sophomore rushed for 903 yards and 10 touchdowns on 144 carries. He also caught 30 passes for 344 yards and five scores.

    One of the most versatile backs in all of college football, Gurley closed out the regular season strong, accounting for four touchdowns to lead Georgia to a thrilling win over Georgia Tech, 41-34, in double overtime.

    It certainly helps that the Cornhuskers have a weakness in stopping the run. Thus far, the team ranks No. 61 against the run (161.1 YPG). Furthermore, Nebraska has given up a whopping 21 touchdowns.

    With quarterback Aaron Murray graduating, the full load of the Bulldogs offense will be on Gurley.

    And if the team’s last win showed anything, it was that the Tarboro, N.C. native was more than up for the task.

RB Melvin Gordon (Wisconsin)

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    The Matchup: No. 19 Wisconsin (9-3) vs. No. 9 South Carolina (10-2), Jan. 1, 1 p.m. ET on ABC (Capital One Bowl)


    The Skinny

    The Badgers’ Melvin Gordon is easily one of the most underrated running backs in the entire nation.

    Through 12 games, the sophomore rushed for 1,466 yards and 12 touchdowns on 181 carries while sharing the load with fellow running back James White. That includes topping 140 yards or more seven times this season while helping Wisconsin rank No. 8 in rushing (283.0 YPG).

    The Gamecocks run defense better brace itself. Thus far, the unit ranks No. 33 against the run (142.3 YPG). South Carolina has given up 16 rushing touchdowns while conceding 4.05 yards per carry.

    With White graduating, that should more than double Gordon’s load for 2014.

    That’s a scary thought for opposing defenses.

LB/RB Myles Jack (UCLA)

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    The Matchup: Virginia Tech (8-4) vs. No. 17 UCLA (9-3), Dec. 31, 2 p.m. ET on CBS (Hyundai Sun Bowl)


    The Skinny

    The Bruins’ Myles Jack can do it all.

    Through 12 games, the freshman linebacker has racked up 71 tackles (five for loss), forced a fumble and blocked a kick. Surprisingly, he has also contributed largely on offense, rushing for 267 yards and seven touchdowns on 37 carries.

    Jack’s play earned him Pac-12 honors for both Offensive Freshman of the Year and Defensive Player of the Year.

    Look for the game against the Hokies to be his audition to be a contender for next year’s Heisman Trophy.

    Although Virginia Tech is stout defensively—No. 4 in the nation—the team only ranks No. 99 in total offense. Not to mention, the Hokies are 90th in sacks allowed (30.0).

    This time around, look for Jack to make his presence felt mostly on the defensive side of the ball.

QB Marcus Mariota (Oregon)

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    The Matchup: No. 10 Oregon (10-2) vs. Texas (8-4), Dec. 30, 6:45 p.m. ET on ESPN (Valero Alamo Bowl)


    The Skinny

    For most of the 2013 season, the Heisman Trophy was quarterback Marcus Mariota’s to lose. 

    Unfortunately, just like the Ducks’ bid for a BCS title, his campaign completely unraveled during the final month.

    All things aside, Mariota still had a stellar season. The sophomore threw for 3,412 yards, 30 touchdowns and four interceptions on 63.1 percent passing. He also added another 582 yards and nine touchdowns on 81 carries.

    Although Mariota will be disappointed with losing two of his final four games, he has to feel proud about the improvements he made this year. If you recall, this is a guy who had thrown for 25 touchdowns and no interceptions through 10 games.

    A soft Longhorns secondary could do well to right the ship. Thus far, the unit ranks No. 47 against the pass (221.8 YPG). Texas has allowed 12 passing touchdowns while intercepting just 10 passes. The Longhorns also conceded a school-record 550 rushing yards to BYU this season.

    Look for Mariota to close out 2013 on a high note.

RB Mike Davis (South Carolina)

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    The Matchup: No. 19 Wisconsin (9-3) vs. No. 9 South Carolina (10-2), Jan. 1, 1 p.m. ET on ABC (Capital One Bowl)


    The Skinny

    Running back Mike Davis flew under the radar for most of 2013.

    Through 11 games, the sophomore rushed for 1,134 yards and 11 touchdowns on 194 carries. He also caught 32 passes for 342 yards.

    Furthermore, Davis has topped the century mark in rushing seven times this season.

    Going up against the Badgers run defense will be no easy task. The unit ranks No. 6 against the run (101.3 YPG) and has given up just seven rushing touchdowns all season.

    However, this is the same defense that gave up 126 yards on 4.5 yards per carry against Penn State in the season finale.

    Who’s to say Davis can’t have the same success?

    These are the kind of games that propel a player into the Heisman Trophy conversation.

QB Bryce Petty (Baylor)

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    The Matchup: No. 15 UCF (11-1) vs. No. 6 Baylor (11-1), Jan. 1, 8:30 p.m. ET on ESPN (Tostitos Fiesta Bowl)


    The Skinny

    Bears quarterback Bryce Petty is easily one of the biggest snubs of the 2013 Heisman Trophy presentation.

    Through 12 games, the junior threw for 3,844 yards, 30 touchdowns and just two interceptions on 61.8 percent passing. He also added another 192 yards and 11 scores on 83 carries.

    Furthermore, Petty’s passer rating of 179.2 ranks second to only Florida State’s Jameis Winston.

    Against a Knights defense that has been slacking against the pass, expect the Midlothian, Tex. native to turn it up.

    Thus far, the unit ranks No. 63 against the pass (229.8 YPG). UCF has only managed to intercept 13 passes on the season.

    With a favorable matchup—and potentially all of Baylor’s offensive weapons returning next season—Petty is an easy bet to be in New York City for next year’s ceremony.

QB Braxton Miller (Ohio State)

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    The Matchup: No. 12 Clemson (10-2) vs. No. 7 Ohio State (12-1), Jan. 3, 8:30 p.m. ET on ESPN (Discover Orange Bowl)


    The Skinny

    Although he may think he’s ready for the NFL, quarterback Braxton Miller is not quite there.

    But that doesn’t mean the junior isn’t successful at the collegiate level.

    Through 11 games, Miller threw for 1,860 yards, 22 touchdowns and five interceptions on 63.2 percent passing. He also added another 1,033 yards and 10 scores on 153 carries.

    A large reason Miller didn’t get an invite to New York City was because he only began playing impressively over the Buckeyes’ final six games—he’s accounted for 24 touchdowns during that span.

    Against the Tigers defense, Miller should continue his hot streak.

    Although the unit ranks No. 15 against the pass, Clemson has a vulnerability in the run game, ranking only No. 52. The team has conceded 19 rushing touchdowns on the season.

    Miller should find rushing yards easy to come by, thus opening up the passing attack.

RB T.J. Yeldon (Alabama)

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    The Matchup: No. 11 Oklahoma (10-2) vs. No. 3 Alabama (11-1), Jan. 2, 8:30 p.m. ET on ESPN (Allstate Sugar Bowl)


    The Skinny

    Over the last three years, the Crimson Tide offense has gone through quarterback AJ McCarron for the most part.

    Even still, running back T.J. Yeldon has been a huge factor in the team’s success.

    Through 11 games, the sophomore rushed for 1,163 yards and 13 touchdowns on 190 carries. That includes topping the century mark in three consecutive games while finding the end zone in all but two contests.

    Expect that success to continue against Oklahoma’s run defense.

    Thus far, the unit ranks No. 26 against the run (138.3 YPG). However, the Sooners have allowed 15 rushing touchdowns while conceding a generous 4.13 yards per carry.

    With McCarron graduating, Alabama will be breaking in a new quarterback in 2014.

    That means a whole lot more of Yeldon, which can only mean a Heisman Trophy campaign is a real possibility.

RB Tre Mason (Auburn)

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    The Matchup: No. 1 Florida State (13-0) vs. No. 2 Auburn (12-1), Jan. 6, 8:30 p.m. ET on ESPN (Vizio BCS National Championship)


    The Skinny

    There’s no denying that the Tigers wouldn’t be in this game without the sensational play of running back Tre Mason.

    Through 13 games, the junior has racked up 1,621 yards and 22 touchdowns on 283 carries. He’s also caught 11 passes for 121 yards.

    Furthermore, Mason has rushed for more than 100 yards in eight of the Tigers' last nine games. He’s accounted for 1,206 rushing yards and 17 touchdowns during that span.

    Sure, the Seminoles have a solid run defense—No. 14 against the run while conceding just five rushing touchdowns all year. However, the unit hasn’t faced a rushing attack quite like Auburn’s.

    The unit—ranked No. 1 in the nation—has successfully tossed aside two of the better defenses in the nation in Missouri and Alabama in back-to-back games.

    If the Tigers can do so while claiming the BCS title, there’s no way Mason doesn’t start the 2014 campaign as one of the front-runners for the Heisman.

QB Florida State (Jameis Winston)

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    The Matchup: No. 1 Florida State (13-0) vs. No. 2 Auburn (12-1), Jan. 6, 8:30 p.m. ET on ESPN (Vizio BCS National Championship)


    The Skinny

    Quarterback Jameis Winston became the second consecutive freshman to take home the Heisman this season.

    His play certainly backed him up.

    Through 13 games, the redshirt freshman threw for 3,820 yards, 38 touchdowns and 10 interceptions on 67.9 percent passing. He also added another 193 yards and four scores on 27 carries.

    No matter the opponent or the challenge, Winston had no trouble overcoming the obstacles thrown in his path.

    That should also include the Tigers' secondary.

    Thus far, the unit ranks No. 103 against the pass (259.3 YPG). Auburn has given up 17 passing touchdowns while conceding a very generous 7.4 yards per attempt.

    But even if Winston comes up short, there’s no way last year’s Heisman Trophy winner won’t be a top contender heading into 2014.


    All stats and rankings used in this article are courtesy of NCAA.com.

    For complete coverage and everything college football, you can reach Sebastian on Facebook, on Twitter and via email at Sebastian.LenaBR@gmail.com.