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Heisman Watch: Welcome To Separation Saturday

DALLAS (105.3 THE FAN) - We're now unofficially half way through the college football season and the bar has been raised for those wishing to hoist the coveted Heisman trophy.

Competition has jumped up a notch, the stats continue to accumulate and more is being asked out of each performance…we'll see who survives.

Week 8 will feature a heavyweight  "candidate vs. candidate" match-up, another test for last year's winner and a few opportunities for those on the outside looking in.

Here is my Top 5 list with a few mentions of players that could jump on to the podium in the weeks to come. Per the usual, each players rank is noted before their name.

1. (prev. 1) Marcus Mariota - Oregon (season: 1,724 yards passing, 17 TDs, 0 INTs, 426 yards rushing, 8 TDs) From here on out, he will be known as "The Lead Duck." Mariota threw for 366 and three more scores as no. 2 Oregon improved to 6-0 on the season with an easy win over 16th ranked Washington. Mariota has a squeaky clean stat line this season and is firmly at the helm of the most explosive offense in the county. Marcus is not only torching defenses through the air, but is also averaging 70+ yards and a touchdown per game on the ground. He should continue the onslaught against Washington State next week before getting two huge opportunities to cement his spot at the top when Oregon faces top-15 teams UCLA and Stanford…up next: Washington State

Texas A&M v Mississippi
Johnny Manziel (Photo by Michael Chang/Getty Images)

2. (prev. 4) Johnny Manziel - Texas A&M (season: 1,835 passing yards, 14 TDs, 438 yards rushing, 5 TDs) Johnny Football produced a "I'm not going to let my team lose this one" type game last week in Oxford as A&M survived the upset against Ole Miss. Manziel made the world gasp when he clutched for his knee, only to bring those same people to their feet with classic Manziel runs in the 2nd half to help get the Aggies the win. Despite having his first game without a passing touchdown, AggieLand supporters could argue that was Manziel's second best game of the year, following his outing against Alabama.  Not that he needs it, but the sophomore should get some pub this week as the Aggies face a ranked opponent on national TV and barring a disaster, Heisman number 2 could be well within his grasp come December…up next #24 Auburn *On 105.3 The FAN at 1:30 on Saturday*

3. (prev. 2) Tajh Boyd - Clemson (season: 1,783 passing yards, 15 TDs, 187 yards rushing, 5 TDs) Boyd and the Tigers needed a 4th quarter comeback against Boston College last Saturday to keep their undefeated season alive. The senior struggled early with a pair of fumbles (both recovered by Clemson), but finished strong with a passing and rushing TD each in the 2nd half. Tajh will have a Heisman heavyweight throw down this weekend in Death Valley against no.5 Florida State and fellow candidate Jameis Winston. He had a similar showdown in his first game of the season, accounting for five total scores against then no. 5 Georgia and quarterback Aaron Murray. Boyd can put some separation between him and some of the top 5 candidates this week with a good performance against a stout Seminoles defense. All eyes will be watching this game…up next: #5 Florida State *6:30 Saturday night on 105.3 The FAN*

4. (prev. 3) Jameis Winston - Florida State (season: 1,441 yards passing, 17 TDs, 135 yards rushing, 2 TDs) Speaking of the Saturday afternoon ACC showdown, Winston will get his first real shot to impress with all America watching as the 'Noles travel to Death Valley for their first real test of the year. The freshman sensation has not disappointed since bursting on to the scene with a performance for the ages against Pittsburgh the opening weekend of the season. "Famous Jameis" has had two weeks to prepare for his first national stage, so it is to be seen if the bright lights will get the frosh. So far (5 games in) nothing seems to big for the Alabama native, as he has the second highest quarterback passer rating in the country and has nine TDs and no interceptions in his past two games. Buckle up though, because Saturday night at Clemson will be fun…up next: #3 Clemson *6:30 Saturday night on 105.3 The FAN*

Rutgers v Louisville
Teddy Bridgewater (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

5. (prev. 5) Teddy Bridgewater - Louisville (1,872 yards passing, 18 TDs, 50 yards rushing) Bridgewater continues to built his stock as possibly the number one overall pick in next April's NFL Draft, but his barrage on overmatched opponents on the college level continues to hinder his Heisman status. Teddy had another 300+ passing, multi score outing last weekend, but without real competition, a lot of his impressive statistics will be questioned. At this point, the junior should be dominating his AAC opponents, but Bridgewater had an INT and didn't look sharp against Rutgers last weekend. Unfortunately for Louisville, there are no marque matchups until a possible BCS bowl game in January, but on the bright side, when they get there, their quarterback will have unreal numbers…up next: UCF

Keep an eye on:
Brett Hundley - UCLA Has accounted for 15 total scores this year and led the Bruins to a top 10 ranking and undefeated season so far. Has a HUGE opportunity to put a stamp on his candidacy this weekend against Pac-12 rival and 13th ranked UCLA.

Bryce Petty - Baylor The quarterback with the highest passer rating in the county is the brain of the best offense in America (outside of Eugene). Petty took a side step last week against Kansas State, but should continue to chase all of former Heisman RG3's Baylor records as the Iowa State Cyclones come to Waco this weekend.

Lache Seastrunk - Baylor The highest rated player not playing quarterback this year, Seastrunk was stymied last week, rushing for just 59 yards and no touchdowns. The Baylor speedster has four 100+ rushing yard games this year and eight TDs.

Aaron Murray - Georgia The senior signal caller took a huge step back last week, throwing a pair of picks in an ugly loss to Missouri. Murray has the stats to stay in the hunt, but will need big performances against ranked SEC teams down the stretch.

If I missed your favorite player from your team, let me know on Twitter @itsnatewood. You can also catch Mike Rodriguez and myself on Saturday afternoons on the FAN.

Happy Footballing everyone.

(©2013 CBS Local Media, a division of CBS Radio Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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