Barkley, Ball Lead 2012 Heisman Hopefuls
With the smell of college football in the air and Robert Griffin III suited up in a Washington Redskins uniform, it is time to predict the contenders for the 2012 Heisman Trophy race.
Southern California quarterback Matt Barkley and Wisconsin running back Montee Ball are seemingly the widespread favorites to follow in RG3’s footsteps to receive the bronze statue.
The Trojan signal caller threw for over 3,500 yards and 39 touchdowns last season and has the benefit of throwing to wide receivers Marquise Lee and Preseason All-American Robert Woods. If Barkley can repeat his 2011 performance and USC can run the table with its relatively easy schedule – facing only two preseason top 25 teams and Oregon at home – he should sweep away the competition and maintain his stock as the number one pick for the 2013 NFL Draft.
Ball is an impressive candidate in his own right. The 5’11, 212-pound bowling ball led the country with 1,923 rushing yards and tied Barry Sanders’ NCAA record with 39 total touchdowns. Although he has been set back by an off-field skirmish and plays in a backfield that also features stud tailback James White, Ball should be ready to play in week one against Northern Iowa and continue to receive the majority of the carries to help new transfer quarterback Danny O’Brien’s transition. As an added bonus, Ball will have the luxury of running behind the notoriously massive Badger big uglies up front. Expect them to pave the way for Ball’s second All-American season.
There are several other names that are swirling around media circles. Michigan dual threat quarterback Denard Robinson passed for over 2,000 yards and rushed for over 1,000 yards last season. The senior could make a Heisman case for himself early on with a victory over Alabama this weekend. Oklahoma senior quarterback Landry Jones comes from a system that produced a Heisman Trophy winner in Sam Bradford in 2008, while West Virginia quarterback Geno Smith will be a large factor in the Mountaineers’ quest for a conference title in their first season in the Big 12. Smith will also benefit from flinging the ball to one of the most dangerous weapons in college football in receiver Tavon Austin.
But as good of seasons as all of these stars are expected to have, the recent past has revealed a tendency for preseason favorites not to come away with the honor of being awarded the Heisman.
The last three winners – Griffin, Auburn quarterback Cameron Newton, and Alabama running back Mark Ingram – were rarely in preseason Heisman Trophy discussion prior to their history-making seasons. In fact, Newton was only a one-year starter for the Tigers and just happened to lead the Tigers to an undefeated season and a National Championship.
Therefore, be on the lookout for a little-known candidate to rise to the top of the Heisman hype.
One player to consider: Virginia Tech quarterback Logan Thomas. Entering his second year as a starter, Thomas has drawn comparisons to Newton for his 6’5 frame, punishing running ability, and strong arm. Having already caught the attention of NFL scouts, Thomas will look to improve upon his 3,013-yard passing and 469-yard rushing numbers from a year ago and help the Hokies advance to the National Championship Game after falling short in overtime of the Sugar Bowl last season.
There will never be a college football season without surprises and upsets that stun the country, so for as good a Heisman Trophy prediction as anyone will make, it will remain just that: a prediction. There’s nothing left but to sit back and enjoy this year’s battle for college football’s most prestigious individual award.