Ranking Top 10 Heisman Candidates After Opening Weekend

Dan VastaSenior Writer IIISeptember 3, 2012

Ranking Top 10 Heisman Candidates After Opening Weekend

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    College football is back and better than ever, and all we can say is this: God bless Saturday!

    What makes the sport so amazing and exciting are the different die-hard fans from all over the country. Some have higher expectations than others, but that is what truly makes the sport special.

    Cam Newton came out of essentially nowhere two seasons ago and Robert Griffin III surprised us a tad last season as well to take home the sport's most coveted individual honor, the Heisman Trophy.

    Nobody doubted their talents, but this is a team game and your performance on national television will always decide your fate toward immortality. 

    With the first weekend nearly in the books, here are your top 10 Heisman candidates, in reverse order.

No. 10: De'Anthony Thomas, Oregon

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    Stats: Three carries for 64 yards and one TD, four receptions for 55 yards and two TD 

    De'Anthony Thomas put on a clinic in the first half and I wish I could throw him higher on this list, but the "Black Mamba" will likely take care of that by himself.

    Simply known as the most electrifying man on the planet, Thomas totaled three house calls against Arkansas State in one half. The kid has speed that kills and his totals will be bonkers when it is all said and done.

    A trip to New York is a legit and strong possibility if his Ducks continue to fly.  

    All of the following are right there with Thomas: Marcus Lattimore, Denard Robinson, Tyler Wilson, Aaron Murray, A.J. McCarron, De'Anthony Thomas, Teddy Bridgewater, Logan Thomas (see after GT game)

No. 9: E.J. Manuel, Florida State

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    Stats: 16-of-22 for 188 yards, five carries for 38 yards, one TD, one INT

    E.J. Manuel's health last season cost the Seminoles three games (OU, CU, WF) and many will bring up how Florida State threw all their eggs in one basket.

    That nationally-televised loss against Oklahoma at Doak was abysmal, but the Noles have many things going right for them this season.

    That young and improved offensive line looks poised to finally (understatement) take that next step, and Manuel will reap the benefits.

    Throw in the bevy of weapons E.J. has at both running back and wide receiver, and the sky is the limit for the team.

    The true key is how Florida State and Manuel perform against Clemson in two weeks. 

    A likely destination for College Gameday, this is the spotlight game in which it is imperative for Manuel to finally embrace the magic and to never let go. 

No. 8: Landry Jones, Oklahoma

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    Stats: 21-of-36 for 222 yards and two TD

    Landry Jones has not been his normal self since Ryan Broyles went down with his horrid knee injury last year, and yet Oklahoma is still ranked with the best of them.

    Kenny Stills is his go-to-guy once again, but Jones is battling and scrambling his brains out with a new offensive line. 

    If Oklahoma can avoid suffering any major injuries, their signal-caller has an outside chance of slowly climbing up the Heisman big board. However, if the Sooners suffer an early-season loss to Texas, Jones very well could drop a far way down the list.

No. 7: Taylor Martinez, Nebraska

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    Stats: 26-of-34 for 354 yards and five TD (six carries for 10 yards) 

    Taylor Martinez has been ripped for days, weeks, months and seemingly years on end due to his mechanics of old. They were once poor, but I have foreseen a monster season the entire offseason.

    Southern Miss certainly is not Michigan State, Ohio State or even Michigan, but Martinez has improved his mechanics and his weapons are much more dangerous.

    In a game in which Rex Burkhead leaves with a sprained MCL, the Husker quarterback would have never in his wildest dreams come through the way he did Saturday.

    The accuracy is there and the decision-making really has improved by leaps and bounds. And he didn't even bother tucking it and running. That right there is a reason for optimism, and the maturity of the playmakers around him was special to see. 

    The scary thought is if Martinez can remain scorching hot, these Huskers will be playing in December and January for something a bit more important than they have in a long time.

No. 6: Montee Ball, Wisconsin

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    Stats: 32 carries for 120 yards, one TD, three receptions for 31 yards

    Montee Ball had a few Heisman single-game performances last season, but they were not in the critical games. That is something that will need to change this season if he expects to once again get invited.

    Ball is still a stud and doesn't seem to have lost a step, but the rust he shook off in the opener against Northern Iowa could have a long-term impact if his offensive line does not do a better job. 'Sconny could lose two or three games this season (again).

    And quarterback Danny O'Brien surely would help his chances if he can be as consistent as Russell Wilson was, but the offensive line and receiving corps did not help at all in the Badgers' opener.

    It is way too early to start worrying over a close victory, but this is a much different team than last season. The defense looks better on paper, but bringing in six brand new coaches might have a much larger effect than anybody realizes. 

No. 5: Marqise Lee, USC

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    Stats: 10 receptions for 197 yards (297 all-purpose), two total TD

    Has a wide receiver ever won the Heisman as just a wide receiver before?

    No.

    Marqise Lee proved against Hawaii that he is much more than just a superstar wide receiver. The kid can scoot with the best of them, and until Sammy Watkins returns, he has to be considered as the best in the country.

    Lee brought back one to the house from 100 yards out on a return, and it was simply electric. There is nobody on the current slate that can slow this man down.

    We are destined for two games against the Oregon Ducks that already has me beyond pumped, but Lee needs to take it one game at a time if he wants to stay in the Heisman hunt.

    Whether we are talking about 20 TDs and over 1,500 yards receiving, Lee is capable of going bonkers with Matt Barkley threading tight spirals every play.

No. 4: Tajh Boyd, Clemson

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    Stats: 24-of-34 for 208 yards, 19 carries for 58 yards rushing, one TD, one INT

    How does rolling up 528 yards on offense against an SEC defense feel? Tajh Boyd would like to say thanks to all the doubters, but I cannot help but laugh when most prognosticators did not have Boyd in their top 15 for quarterbacks in the country.

    Certainly Boyd was inconsistent at times last year, but the guy is a flat-out stud in the pocket. Against Auburn he showed his pinpoint accuracy and he escaped relentless pressure all night against a ferocious Auburn front four.

    He lost over 10 pounds in the offseason, and it showed with an extra gear of quickness that many did not believe he had. The offensive line played out of its mind and Andre Ellington proved to America he is indeed the best tailback in the ACC (top 10 nationally).

    DeAndre "Nuke" Hopkins is a stud too, but the night belonged to Boyd's poise in the pocket. In previous games we would seen Boyd sitting back in the pocket as a dead duck, but he often bought time and took his licks seemingly with enjoyment.

    Getting back up every time he decided to tuck it and run, this tenacity and drive of Boyd will go a long way this season.

    The true test will be against Florida State's defense in two weeks, and dear lord will that be quite the atmosphere and contest. 

No. 3: Le'Veon Bell

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    Stats: 44 carries for 210 yards, two TD, six receptions for 55 yards

    Does 50 touches for 265 yards and a few trips to pay-dirt sound good?

    "Superstar" may ring a bell (no pun intended) for this stud because he is just that. Le'Veon Bell is going to carry the Spartans to perhaps another Big Ten championship appearance, and I cannot wait for their tilts against Ohio State, Michigan, Wisconsin and Nebraska this season.

    Bell will be given a boatload of opportunities, and he has the offensive line to help make him look good every weekend. 

    Certainly the development and improvement of Andrew Maxwell under center will be huge and so will those young receivers that failed to draw much separation from Boise State.

    Michigan on the road in October will be fun, as Camp Randall will be ready to rock the following week as well. A trip to Pasadena could be in the works. If they end up smelling roses, then this bell-cow back will reap the benefits.

No. 2: Geno Smith, West Virginia

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    Stats: 32-of-36 for 323 yards, 65 yards rushing, five total TD

    Anybody play some NCAA '13 lately?

    Geno Smith was as good as it gets as far as Week 1 performances go, and my goodness is this kid on the money when he throws.

    Throwing just four incompletions should be illegal and most are still unaware of the weapons he is surrounded with. They are every bit as good as the USC's and Clemson's, arguably because of their multi-dimensional ability. 

    Tavon Austin in an all-purpose machine and Stedman Bailey is studly in his own right. Once you throw in Ivan McCartney and J.D. Woods, it almost starts to get downright disgusting.

    Smith is in the perfect system with Dana Holgorsen and the best is yet to come.

    Scoring 139 points (20 TD) and totaling 1,250 yards is not only absurd, it is video game-like numbers. The Mountaineers will not slow down too much, even when the likes of Oklahoma, Texas, Oklahoma State and TCU come up to the plate.

No. 1: Matt Barkley, USC

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    Stats: 23-for-38 for 372 yards and four TD

    Matt Barkley is the easy favorite for the Heisman this season as the Trojans attempt to live up to the team's preseason hype every single weekend.

    They had plenty of fireworks against Hawaii in their opener, and Barkley was on the money to start off the year. The very first pass out of his hands was an easy strike to Marqise Lee that went the distance (75 yards). He ended up throwing for well over 300 yards, and his four TD just added the cherry on top.

    Certainly 15 incomplete passes does not qualify as a great day, but throwing it 38 times is a decent amount when you realize they only ran the ball 23 times despite leading for the entire game.

    Still, matchups against Utah (Thur, 10/4) and Oregon (likely twice) will decide the favorite's fate, and people are watching every snap and anticipating that next great moment.

    The amazing part is that Barkley is in line to become one of the greatest Trojan signal-callers yet, and he still has a lot left in the tank. 

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