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Amari Cooper shoots up Heisman hopeful lists

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A couple of Heisman contenders have worked themselves out of favor in the last few weeks, including the reigning most valuable player himself. 

Jameis Winston's wild and unruly behavior initially just cost him a half of football against Clemson. But when he proceeded to reportedly lie to Florida State officials about his act, he was scratched for the entirety of the team's 24-17 win over the Tigers. 

A single game isn't all Winston lost through his public outburst, which at best was a childish, immature act — and at worst was the exposed cockiness of an accused rapist. Consider Winston's repeat Heisman hopes significantly dashed as well. It was difficult enough to vote for the troublesome, but talented signal-caller last season. 

Now imagine what type of oblivious Heisman voter would think it appropriate to choose Winston as the face of college football after the past year's shenanigans?

A couple of players capitalized on Winston's removal of serious Heisman consideration, including another supremely-talented passer, a dominant wide receiver and a running back whose name has already frequented awards discussion.

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1. Marcus Mariota, QB, Oregon

Oregon's athletic quarterback was a contender last year, in a season where he somehow managed to throw 31 touchdowns to only four interceptions. As the operator of the Ducks' fast-paced aerial attack, Mariota will always be able to put up top-level stats.

That being said, I'm not sure if Mariota is the long-term answer to the Heisman question. Yes, if the team goes undefeated and enters the college football playoff, he'll have to be considered.

But that schedule is not exactly full of world-beaters and that should be held against the Ducks quarterback.

They barely beat Washington State last week, having to mount a comeback for the 38-31 finish. Defeating Michigan State in week two was impressive, but the only two competitive teams left are No. 11 UCLA — a vastly overrated squad that just saw starting quarterback Brett Hundley injure his elbow — and No. 16 Stanford, who have given Oregon fits in the past.

I just don't see him finishing the season at the top of this list, but he's here for now.

2. Amari Cooper, WR, Alabama

Amari Cooper is seizing the moment like another high-lofted pass over a hapless defender.

The Alabama wide receiver has been a critical part of the team's fearsome offense since his arrival in Tuscaloosa three years ago. The 6-foot-1, 210-pound beast has been particularly impressive this year though, quickly becoming first-year quarterback Blake Sims' bailout option. 

Here is Cooper's season so far: 43 receptions for 655 yards and five touchdowns — in four games. He hasn't had a single contest with less than 130 yards receiving. Last week, he compiled 201 yards, singly keeping the the game close before Alabama broke free in the fourth quarter for a 42-21 victory over the Florida Gators.

His total tally for the season is only 82 yards less than what he had in 2013 — while playing in 11 games.

3. Todd Gurley, RB, Georgia

The Bulldog running back with jets and size has 329 rushing yards and four touchdowns, all while averaging a cool 9.4 yards per carry through three games. Those numbers would be even higher if he wasn't pulled early from a 66-0 blowout against Troy, in which he only received six carries for 73 yards in limited time.

While there are some backs with equal rushing stats, none can compare to Gurley in the simple eye test. He just looks like a Heisman candidate with his smooth, effortless running style. He splits through would-be tacklers like Moses parting the two seas, scoring touchdowns at will when he does get the ball.

The South Carolina loss — a 38-35 nail-biter — hurts Gurley's award resume a little bit. But if Georgia wins the rest of its games and becomes one of the Southeastern Conference's representatives in college football's inaugural playoff, expect Gurley to be the Heisman front-runner.

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