The Big Ten hasn't had a Heisman Trophy winner since Ohio State quarterback Troy Smith in 2006. Before that, you would have to stretch back to the end of the last millennium to find another player from the conference—Wisconsin running back Ron Dayne—who claimed the award.
No other "power" conference has had less than two Heisman winners since 2000, but being an underdog is part of the Big Ten's newfound charm. No longer a powerhouse, the conference has taken on the role of the plucky underdog and, in certain spots, played it quite well.
But even if the league, as a whole, is considered a bit of an underdog, that doesn't mean the players and teams at the top are incapable of national recognition. Ohio State and Michigan State are expected to be Top 10 teams at the start of next season, and even beyond those two stalwarts, there are glimmers of hope throughout the Midwest.
Based on the body of work they have already put forth and the situations they find themselves in next season, at least four Big Ten players stand a realistic shot of contending for the Heisman Trophy.
Behind them, a deep class of dark horses could emerge. Johnny Manziel, after all, was not considered a "realistic" Heisman candidate when he took the reigns at Texas A&M two seasons ago.
Who says the next Johnny Football can't play in the B1G?