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Heisman favorites are all chalk in 2014

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The reigning Heisman Trophy winner always gets thrown back into the mix the following year - Florida State's Jameis Winston is no exception. (Source: Fox News Channel/MGN) The reigning Heisman Trophy winner always gets thrown back into the mix the following year - Florida State's Jameis Winston is no exception. (Source: Fox News Channel/MGN)
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    Tuesday, August 26 2014 10:28 AM EDT2014-08-26 14:28:01 GMT

    In the last two seasons, college football's premier award has gone to players who had never taken a single snap in a college game prior to the start of their Heisman-winning seasons. This year, it could happen again.

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    In the last two seasons, college football's premier award has gone to players who had never taken a single snap in a college game prior to the start of their Heisman-winning seasons. This year, it could happen again.

    More >>

(RNN) – As soon as the college football season arrives so do predictions for the Heisman winner.

The stars of college football in 2014 shine on a new season that's just a few days away. One of these frontrunners could break the streak of virtual unknowns who have won the trophy in the last few years.

The list will change and new favorites will emerge before midterms. But while the weather is still hot, here are the top seven players on the Heisman watch list.

Jameis Winston, QB, Florida State

The reigning Heisman winner always gets first dibs.

While Winston's off-season troubles have shown his age, his skills and ability to rally his team around him on the field are what matter to Heisman voters.

The Seminoles schedule is so manageable, it could be another cakewalk to back-to-back ACC Championships. The schedule will also allow (In)Famous Jameis to inflate his statistics; in 2013, Winston went 257-of-384 for 4,057 passing yards, 40 touchdowns and 10 interceptions, plus four rushing touchdowns.

Marcus Mariota, QB, Oregon

Could Mariota be the best quarterback in the country in 2014? That's up to Mariota, whose performances in losses at Stanford and at Arizona in 2013 hindered his trip to New York.

Mariota had 11 games where he threw for more than 230 yards; he had 31 passing touchdowns for 3,665 passing yards, along with nine rushing touchdowns – solid numbers for a Heisman contender.

The Heisman was his for the taking and Mariota didn't hang out - the junior could have one more year to chase it down. Given Oregon's 2014 schedule, Mariota's test will prove challenging.

Brett Hundley, QB, UCLA

Hundley might be overshadowed by Mariota's arm, but the two quarterbacks are similar: both are among the Pac-12's best signal callers, both are dual threats and they pose as each other's main nightmare to Heisman dreams.

Hundley's Heisman hopes will depend on a 2014 that's more like his 2012 season, where his statistics are slightly better than 2013. He's remained consistent, but with home games vs. Oregon, USC and Stanford and a neutral site game vs. Texas in Dallas, Hundley will have to be the top performer to shine for Heisman voters.

UCLA only has one other Heisman winner – quarterback Gary Beban in 1967. Hundley wants to add his name to that legacy.

Todd Gurley, RB, Georgia

If there is one player whose team's success depends on him, it's Todd Gurley and the Bulldogs. He's the SEC's most important player, and if he gets 350 to 400 touches in 2014, the possibilities are endless for Georgia.

The powerful, but oft-injured Gurley returns for his junior year healthy and ready to capitalize on numbers that have left Bulldogs salivating at the idea of a SEC Championship.

Gurley was impressive last year despite missing three games: 165 rushing attempts for 989 yards and 10 touchdowns, in addition to having six receiving touchdowns with 441 receiving yards.

How Gurley remains a Heisman contender: durability and consistency. If he's injured again or doesn't step up, he has a star running back behind him in Keith Marshall.

Bryce Petty, QB, Baylor

Petty lost heat in last year's Heisman race when the Bears lost at Oklahoma State following a 9-0 start.

But the senior quarterback with a Texas-sized throwing arm is back. Chicks dig quarterbacks – so do Heisman voters.

For the Heisman win, Petty will have to top his 2013 statistics: 250-of-403 for 4,200 passing yards and 32 passing touchdowns, plus 14 rushing touchdowns and nine games where he threw for 300+ yards.

Petty could be his own worst enemy – the numbers are so high and the hype so intense, he could fall victim to a slump as a fifth-year senior.

Ameer Abdullah, RB, Nebraska

The “sexy pick” in 2014. The Cornhuskers ball carrier will be looking for his third straight 1,000-yard rushing season. Abdullah has 2,977 rushing yards in his career at Nebraska – 1,690 yards came in 2013 – making him one of the best rushers in the country.

Abdullah would be the first player in Nebraska football history to conquer the feat, and he could be the one who carries the program back to the top of the Big Ten – and to national prominence.

Good thing for Nebraska, Abdullah is all about winning. Heisman voters love winners.

T.J. Yeldon, RB, Alabama

Alabama's offense will go wherever the mind of new offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin goes – which leaves many folks who yell “Roll Tide” a reason to be fearful.

But nothing Kiffin can do (hopefully) will slow down the junior speedster, who finished 2013 with 1,235 rushing yards and 14 touchdowns. Bama might have a dual quarterback setup to begin 2014, so he will get plenty of touches.

Keenan Reynolds, QB, Navy

A pick from the land of the Independents - the junior Midshipmen quarterback has posted a 15-6 record since becoming the starter in 2012.

Reynolds wins aren't going to make anyone swoon – the biggest came against Indiana and Air Force. But a large part of the country and Heisman voters will get to see him on Week 1 – his team opens with Ohio State.

Check out Reynolds's impressive stat line: 61-for-128 for 1,057 yards, eight passing touchdowns, 31 rushing touchdowns (an NCAA single-season record) 1,346 rushing yards in 13 starts.

Follow me on Twitter @TanitaG_RNN.

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