Tom Dienhart, Senior Writer, January 28, 2014

Well, look at who is a Heisman contender for 2014: Michigan State QB Connor Cook. No doubt, the national front-runner entering next season will be Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston, who won the award last season. But don?t discount Cook, who hit 58 percent of his passes for 2,755 yards with 22 touchdowns and just six interceptions during the Spartans' 13-1 Big Ten title season.

The junior-to-be really came on late last season, rising from little-known backup to a playmaking signal-caller for one of the Big Ten?s top teams in the last 25 years. Cook?s 332 yards passing and two touchdown passes in the Rose Bowl win vs. Stanford were impressive, as were the 304 yards passing and three scoring strikes in the Big Tent title game vs. Ohio State.

It's safe to say the Cook replica jerseys will be flying out of bookstores this fall.

But the Big Ten?s top 2014 Heisman contender will be Ohio State?s Braxton Miller. He finished fifth in voting in 2012 and surely would have been a finalist last season if he hadn?t missed almost three games with injury. Miller will be the centerpiece of the Big Ten favorites next season, as he looks for a big senior send-off working behind an o-line that is being re-worked.

Another Big Ten Heisman contender for 2014 is Wisconsin running back Melvin Gordon. The junior-to-be ran for 1,609 yards last season, second in the conference. He averaged 7.8 yards per carry and could see his numbers rise now that James White has graduated. And an improved passing game also could mean a rise in Gordon?s numbers.

The other Big Ten player to keep on your 2014 Heisman radar is Nebraska running back Ameer Abdullah, who led the Big Ten with 1,690 yards rushing in 2013. He considered turning pro but opted to return for his senior season. Abdullah will work behind a rehabbed line, which could impact his numbers. Still, he?s a special talent.

About Tom Dienhart senior writer Tom Dienhart is a veteran sports journalist who covers Big Ten football and men's basketball for and BTN TV. Find him on Twitter and Facebook, read all of his work at, and subscribe to his posts via RSS. Also, send questions to his weekly mailbag using the form below and read all of his previous answers in his reader mailbag section.

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