College Football: 5 Favorites to Win the 2012 Heisman Trophy

Michael FitzpatrickCorrespondent IApril 28, 2012

College Football: 5 Favorites to Win the 2012 Heisman Trophy

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    Spring practices are done and our eyes are set on September. Robert Griffin III and Andrew Luck have taken their talents to the NFL leaving the race for the 2012 Heisman Trophy wide open.

    USC quarterback Matt Barkley enters the campaign as a favorite. He comes from a school with a rich tradition of producing award winners. He appears primed to put up gaudy passing stats, which the voters love.

    However, he's far from a lock. LSU cornerback Tyrann Mathieu was a finalist for the award in 2011 and will draw heavy consideration as will Wisconsin running back Montee Ball, another 2011 finalist. Or could this year's winner come out of nowhere, much like RGIII did a year ago?

    Sure it's only April, but it's never too early to speculate about who will win the Heisman.

The Comeback Kid

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    You might remember Knile Davis. As a sophomore in 2010, the Arkansas running back tortured defenses to the tune of 1,322 yards on the ground in just eight games. Blessed with speed that allows him to run the 40-yard dash in 4.33, his hopes for a big 2011 ended in an August scrimmage when he suffered a broken left ankle.

    Now, he's healthy again and looking to do big things for the Razorbacks, who lost their coach Bobby Petrino to scandal. A big year by Davis could make fans forget about all of that.

    Sports Illustrated ran a giant feature on Davis in April, touting him as a Heisman hopeful. Arkansas fans are just thankful he didn't make the cover.

Hail to the Potential Victor

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    Denard Robinson threw for 2,173 yards, 20 touchdowns and rushed for 1,176 and 16 scores as a junior last season. However, he also showed a propensity for being picked off with 15 interceptions.

    He made a big name for himself as a sophomore when he produced several games with monster numbers. During a game against Notre Dame that season, he rushed for 258 yards and finished with 502 yards of total offense.

    Not to mention, Robinson may have one of the best nicknames in the country: Shoelaces.

The Playmaker

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    Shoelaces is a great nickname, but LSU cornerback Tyrann Mathieu's nickname "Honey Badger" is good in its own right.

    Mathieu makes plays all over the field. He forced five fumbles, had two picks and 71 tackles a year ago. Most memorably, he had two punt returns for scores.

    It is big plays like that, especially in big games, that stick in the minds of voters. However, no one has ever won the Heisman while playing exclusively on defense, which could hurt Mathieu's chances.

Gets the Ball Rolling

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    The Big Ten has at least two legitimate threats for the Heisman in Wisconsin's Montee Ball and Michigan's Denard Robinson. Ball rushed for 1,923 yards in 2011 and tied Barry Sanders for the single-season touchdown mark of 39.

    He too made the trip to New York for the ceremony, but finished fourth overall.

    Ball started off 2012 with a bang as he rushed for 164 yards and a touchdown in the Rose Bowl against Oregon.

The Man with the Golden Arm

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    USC has produced a record seven Heisman Trophy winners. Can Matt Barkley make it eight?

    You have to like his chances. It seems like the guy has been playing college football for 10 years. In 2011 in the PAC-12, the same conference that gave us Andrew Luck, he threw for 3,528 yards and 39 touchdowns while completing 69 percent of his passes. Those numbers are gaudy.

    Barkley is considered by many as the favorite to win the award. There are some that think he is a better quarterback than Luck.