1. Marcus Mariota, Oregon, QB: Decision to forgo NFL draft and absence of off-field problems plus brilliant dual-threat skills make Mariota leading challenger to Jameis Winston if Ducks reach College Football Playoff.
2. Jameis Winston, Florida State, QB: Won 2013 Heisman as redshirt freshman and capped it with BCS title-winning pass, but off-field issues might affect some voters and only Ohio State RB Archie Griffin has repeated (1974-75).
3. Bryce Petty, Baylor, QB: Arrived last season as orchestrator of most prolific college offense in America. Sheer volume of his numbers will be hard to top, but Bears must win the big games to keep him in contention.
4. Brett Hundley, UCLA, QB: Hard to call Hundley a "sleeper'' after throwing 53 TD passes, rushing for 20 TDs and even catching a TD pass in past two seasons. But if Bruins deny Pac-12 title to Oregon, Hundley's stock rises.
5. Nick Marshall, Auburn, QB: Led Tigers’ shocking turnaround to reach BCS title game last season, but he must carry a bigger load now that RB Tre Mason has moved on. A second SEC title puts him in race.
6. Tyler Lockett, Kansas State, WR/KR: For sheer excitement, Lockett is a highlight delight after catching 81 passes for 1,262 yards and 11 TDs last season and with 31.1-yard career kickoff return average for four TDs.
7. T.J. Yeldon, Alabama, RB: In two seasons, Yeldon has totaled 2,343 yards rushing and 26 TDs, and he figures to carry a heavy load for an offense relying on unproven QBs Jacob Coker and Blake Sims.
8. Melvin Gordon, Wisconsin, RB: Averaged 7.8 yards per carry while rushing for 1,609 yards and 12 TDs last season, and he could top those numbers behind an experienced offensive line averaging 319 pounds per starter.
9. Todd Gurley, Georgia, RB: Rushed for 2,374 yards and 27 TDs the past two seasons and also is effective catching passes out of the backfield, totaling 53 receptions for 538 yards and six TDs in that time.
10. Everett Golson, Notre Dame QB: Took a hit when he left school last year after a reported cheating scandal, but his return could make a night-and-day difference for an Irish team he led to the BCS title game in 2012.