By now, most college football fans know who the favorites are to win the Heisman Trophy this year. Some of the names you may hear as potential finalists are USC quarterback Matt Barkley, Oklahoma quarterback Landry Jones, Michigan quarterback Denard Robinson or maybe even Wisconsin running back Montee Ball.
Over the last two seasons though, the Heisman "favorites" have not walked away with the award. Last season, Baylor's Robert Griffin III was a popular player who had lots of potential, but not many looked at him as a potential finalist for the Heisman. Griffin went on to win the Heisman and become the No. 2 overall pick in the NFL Draft.
Two years ago, most people did not even know who junior college transfer Cam Newton was. Newton went on to have a sensational year. He led the Auburn Tigers to the National Championship, was selected No. 1 overall in the NFL Draft and, of course, won the Heisman Trophy.
So before you say that players like Barkley, Jones, Robinson or Ball are locks to be in New York receiving the Heisman Trophy in December, think again. There are many explosive players in college football who could find themselves lifting up the coveted Heisman Trophy at the end of the regular season.
Here are three of those players that may surprise you this season.
After Geno Smith's performance in the Orange Bowl in January, why not put him on the list as a potential Heisman candidate? Smith threw for 407 yards and six touchdowns in that game while also compiling a completion percentage of 74.4 and a quarterback rating of 200.
Smith also ran for a touchdown in the game. The six touchdown passes tied a bowl-game record, and the 70 points the Mountaineers put up were the most ever scored in a bowl game.
The Orange Bowl was not the only stage where Smith stepped up though. Smith threw for a grand total of 4,385 yards during the season and also tallied 31 touchdown passes vs. only seven interceptions. He had four games in which he threw for over 300 yards last year and another four in which he threw for over 400 yards.
With the Mountaineers moving to the pass-happy Big 12 this season, the arm of Geno Smith will be let loose all season long. Look for Smith to be in Heisman consideration talks all season long.
If any quarterback is ready to explode this season, it's Washington's Keith Price.
Price struggled at times in his first season as a college starter, but fans saw flashes of brilliance from Price all throughout the season. In Washington's final game of the season, the Valero Alamo Bowl, fans saw Price put it all together as he went toe-to-toe with Heisman Trophy winner Robert Griffin III.
Price threw for 438 yards against Baylor, recorded four passing touchdowns and ran in three more touchdowns himself. Price's performance was greater than that of Griffin's, who threw for 295 yards and one touchdown, though Baylor came out on top 67-56.
Nevertheless, the game showed us that Price is ready to perform on the big stage. The Washington defense is mediocre to say the least, and that means that Washington will have to turn to Price to put up huge numbers all season.
While he is still only a junior and may not have fully blossomed into a Heisman Trophy finalist yet, the proverbial window of opportunity is huge for Keith Price right now.
With the Missouri Tigers moving to the SEC this season they have a great opportunity ahead of them. Leading the way for Missouri this year will be star-junior quarterback James Franklin.
Franklin, just like the last two Heisman Trophy winners, is a dual-threat quarterback.
Franklin's numbers were astounding last season for the Tigers. He accounted for 2865 yards passing for the Tigers and 981 yards rushing for a total of 3846 all purpose yards. He also led the team with 21 passing touchdowns and with 15 rushing touchdowns.
Everyone can agree that SEC defenses will certainly give Franklin and the Missouri offense a difficult test, but Franklin's speed and throwing ability will also give the SEC defenses a tough test.
With the nation's No. 1 overall recruit Dorial Green-Beckham entering into the receiving mix at Missouri, the Tigers will bring a potent offense to the field every Saturday as they embark on their first season in the SEC.
Look for James Franklin and the Tigers to have a big inaugural season in the SEC, and look for Franklin to surprise many people when he enters the Heisman consideration this season.