USC quarterback Matt Barkley will take over for Andrew Luck as the overwhelming preseason favorite to win the Heisman Trophy this fall.
A pair of finalists from last year return in Wisconsin running back Montee Ball and LSU corner/punt returner Tyrann Mathieu.
Ball will have to shoulder the offensive load, but with most of the firepower that surrounded him last season having departed, the touchdown machine may find the road to be a bit tougher in 2012.
Although no one made more game-changing plays last season than the “Honey Badger,” it's highly unlikely that Mathieu will be able to repeat his dominant performance in 2012 without wingman Morris Claiborne locking down the other side of the field.
Like Barkley, Oklahoma’s Landry Jones spurned the NFL for one final season in Norman, and although he will miss throwing to Ryan Broyles, the Sooners return plenty of firepower to help him post the eye-popping stats that could lead to him being the third Oklahoma quarterback to bring home the bronze statue in the last decade.
Staying in the Big 12—a league bursting at the seams with terrific quarterback play—Kansas State’s Collin Klein will take over for RGIII as the league’s most dynamic dual-threat quarterback and West Virginia’s Geno Smith will bring a ton of firepower in preparation for the Mountaineers' inaugural run in their new conference home.
A trio of quarterbacks in other power conferences are candidates to make a move in the Heisman chase.
Denard Robinson returns to Michigan for his final season—and the Wolverines are the favorite to win the Big Ten for the first time since 2004.
In the SEC, Arkansas flamethrower Tyler Wilson returns after throwing for 3,638 yards and 24 touchdowns in a league loaded with elite defenses.
Out west in the Pac-12, Washington’s Keith Price will be nipping at Barkley’s heels for the honor of being the top signal-caller in a league that’s been stocked with pro-ready quarterbacks recently.
Giving the quarterbacks company on this list is a pair of dynamic athletes capable of changing games—and scoreboards—in a flash.
What can Clemson’s Sammy Watkins possibly do to top his freshman campaign?
All he did last season was help the Tigers win the ACC for the first time in two decades on his way to being named an AP first-team All-American.
Another rising super sophomore will join him in making noise for the Heisman in Oregon—all-purpose threat De’Anthony Thomas.
Thomas offered a glimpse of what may be coming this season with an epic Rose Bowl performance where he accounted for 314 all-purpose yards—on only 11 touches—and two touchdowns.
There’s a great possibility that new names will emerge, but expect for most of the attendees in New York in December to come from this list.
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