College Football 2012: Which Heisman Candidates Will Have the Best Week One?

Carl StineCorrespondent IJuly 18, 2012

College Football 2012: Which Heisman Candidates Will Have the Best Week One?

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    Now that Steve Spurrier has made his annual splash at the SEC Media Days, we turn our attention toward the rapidly approaching football season.

    The 15 football players on this list all have a legitimate shot at taking home the Heisman Trophy at the end of the 2012 season.

    Granted, that could change in an instant, due to injury, a turnover or lack of production.

    The guys featured here are primed for the season, and given their level of competition in week one, will kick off the 2012 football season with a bang.

15. Cierre Wood, RB, Notre Dame

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    Opponent: Navy

    In spite of sometimes limited carries in 2011, Wood had a solid season, gaining over 1,100 yards, and scoring nine touchdowns on the ground.

    With some solid experience on the O-Line, and quarterback questions lingering, it's hard to picture a scenario in which Wood's rushing abilities do not figure largely in this contest.

    If he can stay healthy, Wood will contend for the Heisman late into the season, and a big game against the Midshipmen will serve as a great springboard.

14. Teddy Bridgewater, QB, Louisville

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    Opponent: Kentucky

    That's right, Bridgewater makes the list as the only Big East representative.

    Last season, as a freshman, he surprised us with a solid season, and showed flashes of brilliance, mixed with the inevitable freshman mistakes.

    If he can limit his turnovers, he has a shot at putting up big numbers all season, starting with the meeting against a hapless Kentucky team that looks like the Charlotte Bobcats of the SEC.

13. Aaron Murray, QB, Georgia

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    Opponent: Buffalo

    In spite of somewhat limited help on the offensive side of the ball, Murray has a shot at competing for the Heisman by virtue of his experience and talented play.

    Buffalo is the perfect opponent for the Dawgs to get their act together, and help Murray kick off the season in a big way.

    Expect him to spend most of this game on his feet, unlike the last time we saw him, with plenty of big plays down-field against a less than solid Bulls' defense.

12. Knile Davis, RB, Arkansas

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    Opponent: Jacksonville State

    Razorback fans have got to be ready for this guy to get back down to business.

    Davis led the SEC in rushing in 2010, before going down for the season during fall practice last season.

    Expect a return with a vengeance against JSU.

    The Razorbacks have an excellent passing game, which will open up the field for Davis.

    While he will be hard pressed to lead the SEC in rushing again this season, this opening game gives him a great leg up on the competition.

11. De'Anthony Thomas, RB/WR Oregon

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    Opponent: Arkansas State

    Look, this guy can match speed with anybody in the country, and then beat them, no problem.

    Anybody that watched the Rose Bowl saw the ridiculous burners DAT possesses, and the way he accelerates is downright unfair.

    I expect him to put up big numbers in this one, as Arkansas State knows how to put up points as well, and will hang around in the first half, only to be put away early in the second half.

    This means plenty of touches for the "Black Mamba," and bad news for the Red Wolves.

10. Robert Woods, WR, USC

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    Opponent: Hawaii

    Woods isn't the only Trojan on this list, and some would even contend that he is not even the best wide receiver on the team.

    That said, this guy is a freakish athlete with the ball skills to catch anything within his range.

    This is not good news for a Hawaii team that will struggle to stop the relatively lightweight WAC offenses.

    Woods is going to have a field day against the Warriors.

9. Tyrann Mathieu, CB, LSU

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    Opponent: North Texas

    Say what you will about Mathieu and his apparent abuse at times by top-flight wide receivers.

    The man is electric.

    I expect at least one touchdown in this one, either by punt return or interception return.

    No matter how indisposed they are to allow scores in this one, the Mean Green have no way to slow this guy down if he gets the ball in his hands.

8. Denard Robinson, QB, Michigan

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    Opponent: Alabama

    This meeting is the highlight of opening weekend, and regardless of who wins the game, I expect Robinson to put up big numbers.

    Yes, 'Bama has some extremely talented guys stepping into the holes on defense, but they have never faced a quarterback with the athletic abilities of Robinson.

    Expect him to have a solid game, especially with another season of tutelage under Michigan offensive coordinator Al Borges.

    This is the perfect stage for Denard to prove to the nation that he is not just a "September Heisman winner," but a legitimate threat to make plays in a big game.

7. Landry Jones, QB, Oklahoma

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    Opponent: UTEP

    What's better than watching Bob Stoops orchestrate a winning season with a great offense?

    Watching him do so with the help of a Heisman caliber quarterback such as Landry Jones.

    UTEP allowed over 250 passing yards per game, and the Landry Jones to Kenny Stills connection will help the Sooners eclipse that mark in this one, giving Jones a jump start in the Heisman race.

6. Keith Price, QB, Washington

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    Opponent: San Diego State

    Price has the talent surrounding him to make a Robert Griffin-like run at greatness in 2012.

    His ability to run, when healthy, makes him a threat, much like Griffin, to do damage on the ground.

    While his deep ball is not quite as pretty, no one's is. Price was overlooked much of last season, until he outscored RG3 in the Alamo Bowl.

    While the Huskies will need some major help to win the conference, don't be surprised if Price is in Heisman discussions until late in the season.

    And it all starts against the Aztecs, who are less than experienced on defense.

5. Geno Smith, QB, West Virginia

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    Opponent: Marshall

    If you thought Geno Smith's performance last season was solid, don't be surprised when he blows away those numbers in the 2012 campaign.

    A second season in Dana Holgorsen's offense, coupled with a move to the defensively-challenged Big 12 will lead to a Heisman-like season for Smith.

    Marshall will make news against the 'Eers, for ineptitude against Smith and the offense.

    With weapons such as Tavon Austin and Stedman Bailey to which he can throw the ball, Smith will torch a Marshall defense that finished 96th against the pass in 2011.

4. Tyler Wilson, QB, Arkansas

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    Opponent: Jacksonville State

    Arkansas has two bonafide Heisman candidates in the backfield this season, including stellar quarterback Tyler Wilson.

    The Razorbacks have excellent wide receivers, and running back Knile Davis hopes to return to 2010 form.

    With the talent Wilson has surrounding him on offense, there is no question he will put up big numbers against Jacksonville State.

    As a matter of fact, he will likely sit out most of the game after scoring four touchdowns through the air early.

3. Montee Ball, RB, Wisconsin

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    Opponent: Northern Iowa

    Ball, last season's scoring king by 12 touchdowns, has a chance to get off to a hot start again this season.

    The Badgers face a hapless Northern Iowa team that will be fortunate to stop any running play Bret Bielema's team decides to run.

    Even though the Badgers have a talented stable of running backs and some stellar guys catching the ball (here's looking at you, Jared Abbrederis) Ball will be the focal point of the offense.

    With an experienced quarterback taking snaps, you better believe Montee will be toting the ball plenty with devastating effect in this one.

2. Logan Thomas, QB, Virginia Tech

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    Opponent: Georgia Tech

    Logan Thomas is one of the most underrated quarterbacks in the nation.

    The man scored 30 touchdowns last season, quietly tying the school record for rushing touchdowns by a quarterback.

    At 6'6", 260 pounds, this guy is tough to bring down, and has the laser arm to match his size.

    Expect some big plays against a Georgia Tech, a team Thomas will need to play most of the game against for the Hokies to win, unlike others on this list who will leave after the first half against cupcakes.

1. Matt Barkley, QB, USC

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    Opponent: Hawaii

    Hawaii's defense allowed nearly 245 passing yards per game last season, which placed them at 85th in the nation.

    Couple that with the loss of seven starters, and things bode well for Matt Barkley and the Men of Troy.

    Barkley will kick off his Heisman campaign with a big game, as the Trojan passing attack shows flashes of the brilliance that will follow later in the season.