The 2012 college football season is kicking off, so it's time to start kicking around some names of Heisman Trophy candidates. Here are my 10 preseason favorites to win the most prestigious award in college football.
No. 10 - Christine Michael, RB, Texas A&M (Sr.)
Admittedly, mentioning Michael is a bit of a stretch and a more of a nod to my alma mater, but if he can stay healthy this year and succeed against SEC opponents, he might turn some Heisman heads. Last season, he destroyed Arkansas with 230 rushing yards and 3 touchdowns, so there is some precedent for success in the Aggies' new conference.
No. 9 - De'Anthony Thomas, RB, Oregon (So.)
Thomas is just a sophomore, so he likely won't generate serious Heisman consideration until he provides a larger body of work to examine. Nevertheless, I can't get the image out of my mind of him ripping Wisconsin for touchdown runs of 91 and 64 yards in the Rose Bowl. There's definitely some talent there.
No. 8 - Eddie Lacy, RB, Alabama (Jr.)
With Trent Richardson gone, Lacy assumes the starting role in the backfield for the run-heavy Crimson Tide. The prominent player on the preseason No. 2 team in the nation deserves a Heisman glance, especially when he has averaged over 7 yards per carry over his first two years in college.
No. 7 - Marcus Lattimore, RB, South Carolina (Jr.)
Lattimore smoked Georgia for 176 rushing yards and a touchdown in the second game of the season last year and then unleashed 246 rushing yards and 3 scores the following week against Navy. Unfortunately, his season was derailed early by a torn ACL. He's healthy now, though, and ready to lead the Gamecocks--and perhaps himself--to glory.
No. 6 - Tyler Wilson, QB, Arkansas (Sr.)
I still have nightmares about Wilson ripping my Aggies for 510 passing yards last year. He's very talented, and he's under center for the preseason No. 10 team in the country. A successful season in the SEC will garner him some Heisman attention. I actually like Lacy and Lattimore a little better than Wilson, but since 10 of the last 11 recipients of the award have been quarterbacks, reality forces me to rank Wilson higher.
No. 5 - Geno Smith, QB, West Virginia (Sr.)
Four 400-yard passing games will get you noticed for the Heisman Trophy, especially when you disembowel Clemson for 407 yards, 6 touchdowns, 25 rushing yards, and one more score on the ground in a 70-33 Orange Bowl blowout win. How successfully Smith and the Mountaineers transition to the Big 12 will carry a lot of weight in how seriously Smith is considered for the award.
No. 4 - Landry Jones, QB, Oklahoma (Sr.)
What's better than Smith's four 400-yard games? How about Jones matching those four 400-yarders and throwing in a 500-yarder to boot. The senior faded down the stretch, however, in 2011, throwing for just 256, 250, and 161 yards in the last three games.
No. 3 - Denard Robinson, QB, Michigan (Sr.)
I watch a lot of Michigan football, as the Wolverines are one of my favorite college teams, so I've seen a lot of "Shoelace" Robinson. The kid is electric and can break the backs of opponents with his arm and with his legs, passing for 2,173 yards and rushing for 1,176 yards last season. He's not my front-runner because his stats aren't gaudy like Heisman voters like them to be, but he can certainly upgrade his stock with an impressive performance in the season opener against Alabama.
No. 2 - Montee Ball, RB, Wisconsin (Sr.)
I'd be negligent if I omitted one of the finalists for the 2011 Heisman Trophy from my watch list for 2012, especially since he's primed for another enormous season with the Badgers. Ball averaged a staggering 137.4 rushing yards per game, racking up 1,923 yards and 33 touchdowns on the ground. He also added 24 receptions for 307 yards and 6 more scores. Ball has scored at least one rushing touchdown in 19 straight games, dating back to 2010. Very impressive.
No. 1 - Matt Barkley, QB, USC (Sr.)
It's not a very original pick, but Barkley tops my 2012 preseason Heisman Trophy watch list. He plays quarterback for the preseason No. 1 team in the nation, and he threw for a very impressive 3,528 yards and 39 touchdowns against just 7 interceptions last year. It's hard not to like him for the hardware.
Tagged as a potential top five pick in the 2012 NFL Draft, Barkley instead decided to return to the Trojans for one more season in an attempt at a national championship after the program's two-year bowl ban. A deadly accurate passer--he completed nearly 70 percent of his attempts in 2011--who is on a mission to bring USC back to college football prominence, Barkley has Heisman written all over him.