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Dr. Saturday

Doc Five: Players who could keep Johnny Manziel from another Heisman – No. 1 and 1A, Bridgewater and Mariota

Frank Schwab
Dr. Saturday

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(USA Today Sports Images)

This offseason we will count down various topics from Monday through Friday, bringing you the top five of the important and definitely some not so important issues in college football. It's the Doc Five, every week until we will thankfully have actual games to discuss.

PLAYERS WHO COULD KEEP JOHNNY MANZIEL FROM ANOTHER HEISMAN

NO. 1 AND 1A, TEDDY BRIDGEWATER AND MARCUS MARIOTA

When we go to a restaurant, we just order two dishes to avoid having to decide.

Honestly, we planned on going with Teddy Bridgewater for the top spot. But how can you pick him over Marcus Mariota? Then again, Bridgewater has to be the top candidate aside from Johnny Manziel to win the Heisman, right?

So we just picked both as the co-leaders in the race to knock off Manziel from his Heisman throne.

Bridgewater might be the most talented quarterback in college football, at least in NFL scouts' eyes. Bridgewater telling Louisville he doesn't want any part of a Heisman campaign, so the focus stays on his team, has sparked an interesting debate.

Our first reaction was that it was a fine gesture and Heisman campaigns are just aimed at lazy voters anyway. The Sporting News' Matt Hayes said he thought Bridgewater had "saved Louisville’s season and was "dodging disaster" by telling Louisville no thanks. HeismanPundit.com's Chris Huston had a contrary opinion, saying Louisville should promote him anyway, comparing a Heisman campaign to a politician's marketing campaign. Both columns raise good points.

That's all a subplot for May, however. The big picture of this week's Bridgewater story is that his Heisman train has already started, whether he requested it or not.

As the player being named as the most likely to steal the No. 1 overall pick in the 2014 NFL draft from Jadeveon Clowney (and it will be very interesting if a quarterback needy team like Jacksonville or Oakland gets the first pick), of course Bridgewater has to be a top Heisman candidate.

The biggest issue with Bridgewater is his conference and how much exposure he'll get during the season. During Louisville's lame-duck season in the American Athletic Conference before it jumps ship to the ACC, Bridgewater faces a schedule that won't provide any high-profile games. The toughest opponents on Louisville's schedule might be Cincinnati or Rutgers. He has no margin for error. That makes it incredibly tough to win a Heisman. The last Heisman winner to come from a conference as small as the AAC was probably BYU's Ty Detmer in 1990. That's a long time. Bridgewater has a lot going against him.

Not so much for Mariota, who plays in a major conference and is on a team that should compete for a national title. Mariota played very well as a freshman, leading a team that was even more successful than Manziel's Texas A&M squad. Assuming replacing Chip Kelly with offensive coordinator Mark Helfrich works (and honestly, there has to be some worry when you replace an offensive genius like Kelly), Mariota should put up numbers as good as any other quarterback.

If he can boost his passing numbers a bit (32 touchdowns and six interceptions last year was remarkable, but 2,677 passing yards might not get it done given the depth at quarterback in college football), and add a bit to his rushing numbers (752 yards and five touchdowns in 2012), he will be in the conversation. He has the dual-threat talent, as well as the explosive offense that should again run a ton of plays, to make an even bigger name for himself this season.

We would pick Bridgewater over Mariota if we were starting a team. But Mariota is in a much better spot to have a huge season and impress voters. If anyone can knock off Manziel this year, the list probably starts with these two, in some order.

Previously on the "Doc Five"
5. Jadeveon Clowney
4. Jameis Winston
3. Lache Seastrunk
2. Tajh Boyd

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