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Heisman race: The campaign rages on

AP Photo/Timothy D. Easley

It’s campaign season, so it’s only fitting that the Heisman Trophy race is rounding the corner and heading for its home stretch.

Preseason promises were made.

Many have been broken.

A few surprises have emerged, but there’s a clear favorite as we draw nearer to the polls.

The weekends will get more intense. Voters are called to attention. The 82nd Heisman Trophy will be presented on Dec. 10.

I’m Joey Johnston and I approve this message.

My top five:

1. LOUISVILLE QB LAMAR JACKSON: What more can be said?

He’s the favorite.

He has been spectacular.

It will take a huge reversal of fortune — by Jackson or any of his Heisman competitors — to change that trend.

THE LATEST: Jackson accounted for four touchdowns in a 54-13 win against N.C. State. He has a streak of 10 straight games scoring at least one touchdown passing and one touchdown rushing.

For the season, Jackson has accounted for 34 touchdowns — 18 passing, 16 rushing. He should easily join the 20/20 club of Florida’s Tim Tebow (2007), Auburn’s Cam Newton (2010) and Texas A&M’s Johnny Manziel (2012). Each of them won the Heisman.

Jackson has completed 58.3 percent of his passes for 2,161 yards, 18 touchdowns and four interceptions. He has rushed for 904 yards and 16 scores.

NEXT UP: Louisville (6-1) travels to Virginia (2-5) in an ACC game.

2. CLEMSON QB DESHAUN WATSON: Watson was a clear preseason Heisman favorite, based on his outstanding 2015 campaign, when he led the Tigers to a national runner-up finish. He has not been quite as spectacular — yet — but the quarterback of a national-championship hopeful program will generally be in the Heisman hunt.

THE LATEST: Watson is coming off a bye week. For the season, Watson has completed 63.6 percent of his passes for 20 touchdowns and eight interceptions. He has rushed 71 times for 274 yards.

NEXT UP: It could be a defining moment for Watson when Clemson (7-0) travels to Florida State (5-2), in what was supposed to be the ACC’s ultimate game this season. FSU’s struggles have taken away some shine, but it’s still a very big game. Clemson hasn’t won in Tallahassee since 2006.

The best in the Heisman West: San Diego State Aztecs running back Donnel Pumphrey -- Photo by Orlando Ramirez/Icon Sportswire

The best in the Heisman West: San Diego State Aztecs running back Donnel Pumphrey — Photo by Orlando Ramirez/Icon Sportswire

3. SAN DIEGO STATE RB DONNEL PUMPHREY: He had a sterling reputation coming into the season, but the Group of Five conference status made him a solid underdog. But there’s growing awareness of his talent, so he’s on the road toward a New York invitation. That’s a major victory in itself.

THE LATEST: In a 42-3 win against San Jose State, Pumphrey rushed for 135 yards and two touchdowns. For the season, he has 1,246 rushing yards and 5,818 for his career (eighth all time in the Football Bowl Subdivision). He has 58 career rushing touchdowns and 63 overall, breaking the school records of Marshall Faulk, runner-up for the 1992 Heisman Trophy.

NEXT UP: San Diego State (6-1) travels to Utah State (3-4) on Friday night for a Mountain West Conference game. If Pumphrey maintains his per-game rushing average (177 yards), he’ll be nearing the NCAA’s top five rushers of all time.

4. WASHINGTON QB JAKE BROWNING: Browning had a very solid freshman season for the Huskies and was among those “others to watch’’ in the preseason Heisman race. Thunderous victories against Stanford and Oregon placed him front and center. It never hurts to be the quarterback of an unbeaten team bidding for a College Football Playoff berth.

THE LATEST: In a 41-17 win against Oregon State, Browning completed 14 of 28 passes for 281 yards with three touchdowns and no interceptions. For the season, Browning has passed for 1,709 yards, a 68.6 completion percentage, 26 touchdowns and just two interceptions.

NEXT UP: Washington (7-0) travels to Utah (7-1) on Saturday for what could be a defining Pac-12 matchup.

5. FLORIDA STATE RB DALVIN COOK: Cook was one of the preseason Heisman favorites after a 1,691-yard rushing season in 2015 (that somehow did not earn him a trip to New York).

After some light rushing activity through most of September, Cook has seemingly hit his rhythm.

THE LATEST: Cook had a bye week and he probably could use the rest. He had three stellar games of all-purpose yardage — 329 yards against USF, 246 against North Carolina and 209 against Miami — and has rushed for 900 yards in seven games.

NEXT UP: This game represents a potential “Heisman Moment’’ if there ever was one. Cook’s Seminoles (5-2) host ACC Atlantic Division front-runner Clemson (7-0), led by QB Deshaun Watson, on Saturday night. This prime-time showdown will say a lot about both teams — and both players.

NEXT FIVE: Ohio State QB J.T. Barrett, LSU RB Leonard Fournette, Michigan LB/DB Jabrill Peppers, Oklahoma QB Baker Mayfield, Western Michigan QB Zach Terrell.

HEISMAN TRIVIA: QB Steve Spurrier, the 1966 recipient from the University of Florida, became the first Heisman Trophy winner to coach a Heisman winner. QB Danny Wuerffel, also from Florida, won in 1996.

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