What a cast of candidates we'll have this year competing for the Heisman trophy. A Gator junior will look to defend his crown, a Tiger QB will look to put himself over the top, a Texan sharpshooter will try to put up even gaudier numbers, and the Buckeyes' "Beanie" will trample through a weak Big-10.
Before I give a complete overview of my Heisman finalist picks, let me take some time to deflate some of the pretenders going into this year:
Matthew Stafford/Knowshon Moreno- Simply put, Georgia's attack is too versatile. Unlike Missouri or Texas Tech, Georgia gives too much attention to the air and ground game for one to really take over. They'll cancel each other out.
Sam Bradford- A combined sophomore slump mixed with less talent at receiver and a deep RB cast to hand the ball off to will limit his numbers this season.
Pat White- It remains to be seen if Noel Devine can replace Steve Slaton for an entire season, and White has durability questions to answer under a new head coach.
Any WR- If Crabtree wasn't a finalist last year, I'm not picking one to be in NY as a contender this year either. Maclin and Harvin don't get enough love for their special teams work to put them in the final four.
So with those players out of the running, who's left? Well, I pretty much already revealed my picks in my catchy and dramatic introduction, but allow me to provide some support, and pick a Heisman winner.
4. Graham Harrell: Frankly, I have a hard time believing that this kid is so good, simply because when I saw him live against a so-so defense at Mizzou, he got his butt kicked to the tune of one TD and four picks.
But all signs point to Harrell having a monster season, even better than last.
All five of his linemen return to protect him, and his WR corps is as good as ever. Returning Biletnikoff winner Michael Crabtree is one of the best targets in college football, and the running game should be better; good enough to provide support, but not good enough to outshine Harrell.
I think Harrell will put up numbers superior to Bradford, White, and almost any other QB in the nation.
If Colt Brennan can get some Heisman love and play absolutely nobody on his schedule, a 40 TD performance from Harrell will be enough to land him in NY in December.
3. Chris "Beanie" Wells: Oh the Big 10. My most favorite overrated conference. In a weak year for RB, Wells is, in my humble opinion, the best. He rushed for over 1,600 yards and 15 TD last season on a bad ankle, and also suffered from a broken hand. His health will surely be better this season, and so will he.
As I mentioned, I think the Big 10 looks weaker than ever. Wisconsin, Illinois, Penn State, Michigan, etc. all look like good but not great teams.
This is definitely Ohio State's conference title to lose, and Wells will be running behind four returning offensive linemen.
Additionally, what Texas Tech's running game is to Graham Harrell, OSU's passing game is to Wells. Todd Boeckman was surprisingly good last season, and he'll definitely take some heat off of Wells, but at the same time, the rock goes to Beanie first.
I think with a a big game against USC early on, Wells could cement himself as a favorite. And if Ohio State threatens for a national title again and gets a lot of publicity, Beanie's strong and lightning fast moves will be seen on TV screens all across the country.
Beanie will definitely be making an appearance in NY before bowl season.
2. Chase Daniel: I think we can all safely say that voters screwed up, and Daniel was a better player than Colt Brennan was last year, after Hawaii's terrible showing against Georgia.
That would put Daniel as the second runner-up for the Heisman last season, and a surefire favorite this year.
This is certainly not a homer pick on my account. Daniel is the best QB in a conference absolutely stacked at the position. And the scary thing is, Chase could get even better this year.
His attack will be fully loaded again, and he plays against a much weaker schedule (meaning no Oklahoma). If Daniel has a big showing against Texas on the road, he is poised to have no hiccups during the regular season.
Daniel and Missouri snuck up on some people last season, but with the national media watching the spread offense in Columbia run down the field more often this year, Daniel will be a favorite from the get-go. He's a confident player who coaches say has improved from last season, and I'd be stunned if he cannot put up numbers at least equal to 2007.
1. Tim Tebow: I'm sorry to the Tebow-haters out there, but how can I put anybody else at the top of this list? College football's "Superman" might not duplicate his 23 rushing TDs from last season, but he'll probably be better through the air.
If Percy Harvin stays healthy, there's no telling how high the ceiling is for the Gators' attack.
But there are definitely a few warning signs of an impending letdown. Tebow took tons of abuse last season, and while his 6-foot-3 inch, 232-pound frame can absorb its fair share of hits, he might sustain even more damage this year.
Also, Florida's running game outside of Tebow should be a lot better. Senior Kestahn Moore leads a committee that includes explosive freshman Chris Rainey and amazing USC transfer Emmanuel Moody.
This group will help the Gators diversify their offense, but might take away from Tebow's numbers overall.
So who could I pick other than Tebow? Honestly? I know it's anti-climatic, but the man was a monster last season, and should actually have an easier road this time around. Regardless of who wins, the numbers and performances should be downright breathtaking.
I'm Peter Fleischer. Thanks for reading. Let me know what you think through comments or questions.
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