With the 2011 college football season set to kickoff on Thursday evening, it's perfect time to take a look at the leading contenders for college football's most prestigious award, the Heisman Trophy. Most people, including myself, have Andrew Luck as our top contender, but we have to look no further than last year's run away winner Cam Newton to show us all it's possible for a dark horse candidate to come forward and win.
THE TOP HEISMAN CONTENDERS
THE TOP HEISMAN CONTENDERS
1. Stanford QB Andrew Luck
The buzz: Some have predicted a Stanford decline because of the departure of coach Jim Harbaugh, but the Cardinal has gone from consistent loser to championship contender with Luck at quarterback. If Luck continues to be effective and the Cardinal continue to win, the trophy likely will be his. Luck must insure Stanford does not suffer a setback in Jim Harbaugh's absence, quarterbacks of 7-5 teams don't win Heisman Trophy's.
2. Oregon TB LaMichael James
The buzz: The Ducks' speedster has rushed for more than 1,500 yards in each of his two seasons. Last season, he led the nation with 1,731 rushing yards despite missing a game. This season, he could make a run at 2,000 yards.Thanks to the Ducks fast paced offense you know James is going to get plenty of reps and opportunities to put up big stats.
3. South Carolina TB Marcus Lattimore
The buzz: So what does he do for an encore? As a true freshman last season Lattimore rushed for 1,197 yards and 17 TDs despite missing one game and getting only one carry in another. In fact, he had fewer than 20 carries in eight games. The bet here is he gets more opportunities this season. If Lattimore can continue on the pace he set last year, and if the Gamecocks make a strong showing in the SEC, Marcus Lattimore could become a housef hold name.
4. Oklahoma QB Landry Jones
The buzz: OU is the preseason No. 1 team, so Jones is a top contender based on that alone. Five of the past seven Heisman recipients were quarterbacks whose teams played in the national championship game. Yet, Jones has "real" credentials, too. He passed for 4,718 yards and 38 TDs in '10. Now can he finally finish the job that so many in Norman Oklahoma have failed to do?
5. Alabama TB Trent Richardson
The buzz: There are Alabama fans who have been saying that Richardson was better than former Tide tailback Mark Ingram, the 2009 Heisman recipient. Based on last year's performance I'd agree with them. Sure, fans can be prone to hyperbole -- especially those in the SEC -- but in this case, they may be right. Richardson has power and explosive speed. He's rushed for 1,451 yards and 14 TDs in two seasons as a backup. Imagine what he can do now that he's the starter.
6. Michigan QB Denard Robinson
The buzz: Last season, his first as a starter, Robinson averaged 328.6 yards of total offense per game -- the second-highest in the country. A capable passer and a big-play threat as a rusher, can Robinson put up the same type of numbers for new coach Brady Hoke, who has scrapped the Wolverines' spread offense?
6. Oklahoma State WR Justin Blackmon
The buzz: No wide receiver has won the Heisman without also returning kicks, which Blackmon does not do. But times are changing. Until '09, no Alabama player had won it. Until '07, no sophomore had won it -- and there have been three sophomore winners. Blackmon could be another first. Last season, he had 111 receptions for a national-leading 1,782 yards and 20 touchdowns despite missing one game. But it wouldn't hurt if he got himself some more on-the-field exposure and returned a few kicks.
7. Boise State QB Kellen Moore
The buzz: No player from outside the Big Six conferences has won the Heisman since BYU's Ty Detmer in 1990. But Moore has a shot. Last season, he led the nation in passing efficiency. He has passed for more than 3,400 yards in three consecutive seasons. The Broncos are 38-2 with him as their starting quarterback, and he should become the winningest career starting quarterback in FBS history this season. Once again we see why it sucks playing for a Mid-Major Program.
9. West Virginia QB Geno Smith
The buzz: In 2010, Smith passed for 2,763 yards and 24 TDs as a first-year starter. Now, he's directing new coach Dana Holgorsen's high-powered offense. In each of Holgorsen's four seasons as an offensive coordinator, his quarterback has passed for more than 4,000 yards.
10. Houston QB Case Keenum
The buzz: He is one of Holgorsen's former pupils. Keenum finished eighth in the 2009 Heisman voting after passing for 5,671 yards. This season, he's returning from an injury that ruined his 2010 campaign. But Keenum could be first player to pass for 6,000 yards in a season.