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Heisman Watch 2012: Projecting Top Candidates and Final Vote

Jake MartinCorrespondent IIISeptember 17, 2016

Heisman Watch 2012: Projecting Top Candidates and Final Vote

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    After Matt Barkley's USC squad lost to Stanford 21-14, consider the Heisman race wide open.

    The Heisman was Barkley's to lose, but with the loss to Stanford, he may very well be out of contention for the most prestigious award in college football.

    Before USC lost, the Heisman race was somewhat stale, as everyone assumed Barkley would put up enough numbers to win the award decisively.

    That's not the case anymore, and though only three weeks have passed in the college football season, here are the projected top candidates and final votes for the Heisman Trophy.

5. Teddy Bridgewater

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    If you don't know who Teddy Bridgewater is, you'd better go out of your way to check this guy out. It's worth it.

    When the ball is in Bridgewater's hands, Louisville's offense is hell on wheels. Because of him, the Cardinals have broken into the Top 20 of the AP Poll and sport a 3-0 record.

    So far this season, Bridgewater has competed 72-of-88 passes for 855 yards with five touchdowns and no interceptions.

    But his numbers don't tell the whole story. You have to watch this guy play to truly appreciate how good he really is.

    He's smooth and calm in the pocket, and though he's mobile, he's constantly looking downfield to make a play. And as his stats suggest, he's an accurate passer. But because Louisville likes to run the ball and the Cardinals play in the Big East, Bridgewater won't receive the respect he deserves.

    First Place Votes: 22

    Total Points: 317

4. Jarvis Jones

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    Like the Honey Badger last season, Jarvis Jones is the kind of game-changing defensive player who doesn't come around that often.

    Tyrann Mathieu benefited from his punt returns last season, but Jones might be good enough without that extra phase in his game to be considered a Heisman contender.

    In two games this season, Jones has 17 total tackles, 3.5 sacks, an interception and two forced fumbles.

    But what qualifies him as a Heisman contender is the timing of his big plays. Big-time players make big plays in big games, and Jones switched the momentum toward Georgia's side in their showdown against Missouri in Week 2 with a forced fumble and an interception returned for a touchdown.

    Jones will have to make big plays all season for the Bulldogs to contend for a Heisman, and if last year's 13.5 sacks and two forced fumbles are any indication, he should produce.

    First Place Votes: 36

    Total Points: 378

3. Matt Barkley

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    Did USC's loss to Stanford cost Matt Barkley the Heisman Trophy?

    Barkley may be the best player in college football, but statistics and wins are the best way to capture a Heisman Trophy.

    So far, the Trojans are 2-1, and Barkley has 813 yards passing, 10 touchdowns and three interceptions. As USC advances and plays weaker teams in the Pac-12, expect Barkley to get those numbers back up.

    But has the damage been done? Let's just say, USC will have to beat Oregon twice this season for Barkley to have any shot at winning that Heisman Trophy.

    Judging by the way the offensive line played against Stanford, Barkley will contend for the Heisman, but he won't win it.

    First Place Votes: 154

    Total Points: 1,117

2. Geno Smith

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    With Barkley losing in Week 3, Geno Smith is the all-around favorite to win the Heisman.

    Smith has the stats, the wins and the flash to contend for postseason awards. Those three qualities are a winning recipe for the Heisman Trophy.

    In just two games, Smith has thrown for 734 yards and nine touchdowns. Makes you want to double-take and shout "say whaaaat?"

    But look at West Virginia's schedule. The Mountaineers play Texas, Kansas State, TCU and Oklahoma.

    That's plenty of opportunities to have that coveted "Heisman moment," but it could turn into four losses for the Mountaineers and pry that Heisman from Smith's fingertips.

    First Place Votes: 298

    Total Points: 1,230

1. De'Anthony Thomas

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    De'Anthony Thomas is the most explosive player in college football.

    This man puts up Xbox-type numbers each and every week, and because of Chip Kelly's system and play-calling, he will be a favorite to win the Heisman.

    Just look at what this man has done so far in just three games. Running around and away from opposing defenders, Thomas has 154 yards receiving, 228 yards rushing and seven total touchdowns.

    The Pac-12 isn't known for its defense, so you can expect Thomas to maintain this production all season long.

    If he gets a few highlight-reel returns in the punt-return game, as well, it should be enough to bring the Heisman to Nike U.

    First Place Points: 336

    Total Points: 1,708

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