An Early Look at the 2012 Heisman Trophy Race

Josh SteinContributor IIIJanuary 24, 2012

An Early Look at the 2012 Heisman Trophy Race

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    Heisman trophy winner Robert Griffin III announced his intent to forgo his senior year at Baylor to enter the draft. He will join fellow juniors Andrew Luck (who was runner-up) and Trent Richardson (who came in third).

    With the top three candidates this year taking their talents to the NFL, we look ahead to the next winner of arguably the most prestigious, individual award in sports today. Although two players who were finalists for the award in New York, Montee Ball and Tyrann Mathieu, still remain, neither looks to win the award this year.

    These are the five men I see taking the trip to New York next year for the ceremony.

5. Colin Klein, Kansas State

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    It could be said that RGIII wasn’t the best quarterback in the Big 12 this season. Rather, Klein threw for 1,918 yards and 13 scores with six picks and ran for 1,141 yards and 27 touchdowns.

    Robert Griffin might have played dominantly against Klein's Kansas State team, but Klein ran for 113 yards and a score, threw for two touchdowns and got the win as he carried the offense time and time again on the way to a 10-3 season. They only lost to Oklahoma State, Oklahoma and Arkansas—who all finished in the AP top ten.

    With his leading receiver Chris Harper returning to school, Klein looks to take center stage in the Big 12 and national spotlight this year in his soon to begin Heisman campaign.

4. Marcus Lattimore, South Carolina

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    After suffering an awful knee injury at the end of this season, Lattimore looks to return in a big way. When he was healthy, he was the one of the nation’s premier backs, carrying a team that was less than satisfactory in the passing department.

    Before the season-ending injury against Mississippi State, he was on pace for about 1,300 yards and close to 16 touchdowns—which is crazy in the 11-game college season. His electrifying 246-yard game versus Navy cemented him as a Heisman candidate before his injury

    But he promises to run himself right back to the top of those ballots. Whenever he’s available, he’ll be the centerpiece of the attack working behind an experienced offensive line.

3. Geno Smith, West Virginia

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    He is on a Mountaineer team which was averaging video-game numbers, with 460 yards and 35 points per game.

    He threw a whopping 463 yards and two scores against the LSU defense, which was a top ten defense by the end of the year. And he gets all his top weapons back. He blew past the 4,000-yard mark in the Orange Bowl against Clemson, a game in which his team scored a record 70 points against an above-average Clemson defense.

    But next year it will be all about wins and big moments. Robert Griffin III won the Heisman because he put up huge numbers and was clutch in the stunner against Oklahoma. No one was better at bombing away late in games than Smith and West Virginia.

    His moments and heroics will come, and it won't take much time.

2. Denard Robinson, Michigan

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    In 2012, if Shoelace can cut down on his interceptions, run for another 1,000 yards and take Michigan to the Big Ten title, he might be able to win it in December.

    Interceptions have been the killer for Robinson in the Heisman chase, making him look like he does not have what it takes to pass the ball. Notably, his dual threat and excitement match those of previous Heisman winners RG3, Cam Newton and Tim Tebow.

    He didn’t throw more than one pick in any game over the final six games of the year, and he was flawless against Ohio State completing 14 of 17 passes for 167 yards and three scores, along with 170 rushing yards and two scores.

    He’ll always be one of the most electrifying players in college football. He could be the face of the rebirth of the most storied team in college football history, which started in the Sugar Bowl win over Virginia Tech.

1. Matt Barkley, USC

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    "The 2012 USC football team has some serious unfinished business to attend to, and I intend on being a part of that," Matt Barkley said when he revealed his intent to rejoin his teammates for one more season.

    The Southern Cali star child will start the year as the man to beat, after finishing this season with a gut-wrenching 3OT loss to Stanford (in which Barkley outplayed Andrew Luck) and a monumental win over the Oregon Ducks.

    His 3,528 yards and 39 TDs are an appetizer to Barkley's senior year. He will attempt a similar feat to Shoelace Robinson of restoring a previous college superpower to glory. Ironically, the previous Heisman winner from USC, Reggie Bush, is the reason they have not made a postseason appearance since Barkley took over.

    Barkley will hope to make the Trojan return to the postseason a historical one. The Trojans will have the best 1-2 receiving punch in the nation in Robert Woods and Marquise Lee. Running back Curtis McNeal is a potential star and, in all, 10 offensive starters might return along with nine on defense and both kickers.

    But it all hinges on Barkley, the front runner for the 2012 Heisman Trophy.

In One Year the Fraternity Gains Another Member

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    One of these five gifted men will join the elite group of players who have transcended the game and marked their spot in college football lore.

    All of them have the talents and the teammates to win the coveted award, but it will come down to who can come up big when it counts and will their team to glory. These are just five of the dozens of players who have a chance to make this season a historic one, with names Tajh Boyd of Clemson and Aaron Murray of Georgia topping that list.

    Regardless, predictions are only as accurate as the information presented. And as of January, it's still anyone's trophy.