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Preseason Heisman Trophy candidates

Oregon running back Royce Freeman (21) bolts up the field during an NCAA college football game against Georgia State on Sept. 19, 2015, in Eugene, Ore.
Oregon running back Royce Freeman (21) bolts up the field during an NCAA college football game against Georgia State on Sept. 19, 2015, in Eugene, Ore. Associated Press file

With the college football season less than two months away, here’s a look at the top Heisman Trophy candidates in 2016

Christian McCaffrey, RB, Stanford

McCaffrey was here, there and everywhere for the Cardinal last season as a sophomore, racking up an NCAA-record 3,864 all-purpose yards, rushing for 2,019 yards and eight touchdowns and catching 45 passes for 645 yards and five touchdowns. Along the way, McCaffrey set a school mark for single-game rushing yards (243) in a 56-35 victory over UCLA, and he amassed a Rose Bowl-record 368 total yards of offense in the Cardinal’s 45-16 victory over Iowa in Pasadena, becoming the first player in the game’s history to finish with 100 yards rushing (172) and 100 yards receiving (109). McCaffrey was named The Associated Press College Football Player of the Year and finished second in the Heisman Trophy voting to Alabama’s Derrick Henry and is the preseason favorite to win the award.

Baker Mayfield, QB, Oklahoma

Mayfield, who transferred from Texas Tech after his freshman year, threw for 3,700 yards and 36 touchdowns with just seven interceptions in 2015 for the Sooners. Mayfield set a school record with 572 yards of total offense (487 on 32 of 38 passing and 85 rushing) in a 52-38 victory over Tulsa. He threw for 383 yards and four touchdowns on 27 of 32 passing in a 62-7 rout of Kansas. Mayfield finished fourth in the Heisman Trophy voting.

Royce Freeman, RB, Oregon

Freeman rushed for 1,836 yards and 17 touchdowns last season for the Ducks. Freeman ranked fourth in the nation in rushing in addition to becoming the only FBS player to amass more than 100 yards from scrimmage in every game while leading the country with 36 runs of 15 yards or more. The first-team All-Pac-12 selection set school records by rushing for 100 yards or more in nine consecutive games and finished the season having topped the 100-yard mark in 11 of 13 games. Freeman led the Pac-12 in total touchdowns scored (19) and rushing TDs (17) while tying for 12th in the nation in both categories.

Dalvin Cook, RB, Florida State

Cook rushed for 1,691 rushing yards on 229 attempts and 19 TDs in 2015 for the Seminoles. He averaged 140.9 yards per game and topped the 150-yard mark in six games while becoming just the second Seminole to have two 200-yard rushing games in one season. Cook’s 19 rushing scores were one shy of tying Greg Allen’s single-season record of 20 rushing touchdowns set in 1982. He received the Jim Brown Award – given to the nation’s top running back – and finished seventh in the 2015 Heisman Trophy voting.

Leonard Fournette, RB, LSU

Fournette rushed for 1,953 in 271 attempts and 22 touchdowns during a stellar sophomore campaign for the Tigers in 2015. Fournette rushed for a career-best 244 yards and two touchdowns in a win over Syracuse, and ran for 212 yards and scored five touchdowns in LSU’s 56-27 victory over Texas Tech in the 2015 Texas Bowl. He finished sixth in the Heisman Trophy voting.

Deshaun Watson, QB, Clemson

Watson finished third in the 2015 Heisman voting after passing for 4,104 yards and 35 touchdowns while rushing for 1,105 yards and 12 scores. Watson threw for 383 yards and five touchdowns in a 46-41 victory at N.C. State, and he set a National Championship Game record with 478 yards of total offense, including 405 passing yards, and threw for four touchdowns in the Tigers’ 45-40 loss to Alabama. He finished third in the Heisman Trophy voting.

Seth Russell, QB, Baylor

Russell started and flourished in the Bears’ first seven games in 2015 – throwing for 2,104 yards and 29 touchdowns while rushing for 402 yards and six scores – before suffering a season-ending neck injury. Russell matched a school record by accounting for six touchdowns (five passing, one rushing) in Baylor’s season-opening win at SMU, finishing with 376 yards passing and 59 rushing, and he tied a school record with six touchdown passes in a victory over Rice.

Compiled by Stu Rosenberg

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