It is never too early to talk Heisman, and on this week's edition of the Tailgate we look at the five guys that I think will be sitting up front at the Downtown Athletic Club.
First of all I will say that I do not think anyone has an edge heading into 2010. Tebow is gone, so we won't have to hear the Archie Griffin comparisons all year. Mark Ingram is back, but he should be sharing more carries with Trent Richardson this year, which should affect his production.
So who do I like?
I like dark horses and non-BCS conference standouts to head the list of this year's finalists. A guy who plays on blue grass, a "divine" back, a man made of Clay, a run and gun QB, and a sophomore Boomer are all on my list.
It's never too early to debate, so let's get the party started with why each candidate stands a chance to hoist Mr. Heisman.
Kellen Moore is the pride of Prosser, for those of you familiar with Eastern Washington geography. He is also one of the best QBs in college football on one of college football's best teams.
Much is expected out of Boise State in 2010. There has been a lot of talk of the Broncos going to yet another BCS bowl game but not the Fiesta Bowl, the National Title game.
In order to do that they will need Moore to have his "A" game when he goes up against the likes of the Virginia Techs, Oregon States, and Fresnos of the college football world.
All Moore did last year was lead the Broncos to an undefeated season while throwing for over 3500 yards and 39 touchdowns. He also has a deep arsenal of weapons on the outside and in the backfield, plus a solid offensive line.
Perhaps the biggest benefit for Mr. Moore is that most Boise games get the coveted TV coverage that every Heisman candidate so desperately needs.
The knocks against Moore will be the level of competition he faces in the WAC and the fact that Boise does play games well after the East Coast has gone to bed.
Nevertheless, I think Moore will make his statement in week 1 and go all the way to the NYC in December.
Last season I thought Noel Devine could be a dark horse in the Heisman voting. This year I am going to say that he should undoubtedly be at the top of the pre-season Heisman lists.
Devine ran for over 1400 yards and 13 scores last year behind a line that was young and inexperienced. This year they are mostly intact, and the only question mark for the Mountaineers is at quarterback.
For the first time since the pre-Pat White era, West Virginia is left without an experienced signal caller. This could hurt Devine's stat line as teams should be stacking the box to stop him.
On the other hand, the Mountaineers have a big play receiver in Jock Sanders who should help keep defenses honest and a bruising fullback in Ryan Clarke who I think will be an NFL caliber talent.
Devine's big moment to shine may be on Sept 25 when the Mountaineers head into Death Valley and take on LSU. A big game here puts him at or near the top of the list, and all eyes will turn to Steel City when West Virginia head into Pittsburgh for what will likely be for a BCS berth on Thanksgiving weekend.
He's not Ron Dayne, but John Clay may be able to say he is in the same company as Dayne at season's end if he and the Badgers live up to a lot of preseason hype.
Clay returns to Madtown for his junior season after a 1500 yard, 18 TD season that earned him the offensive player of year award in 2009.
Up front, the Badgers have a heaping helping of beef, with every lineman being an athletic 300 lbs. Clay will also benefit from having a passing threat from QB Scott Tolzein and WR Nick Toon. This should keep teams honest and allow for Clay to put up big numbers for the majority of the season.
A weak non conference against the likes of the Austin Peay's of the world will also help Clay with the numbers part of the game.
The big question is how he will fare during the back to back national media spotlight games against Ohio State and Iowa in October.
If he can have two solid games back to back here, there will be no doubt that he ends up in New York for the Heisman presentation.
He is a system quarterback. There I said it, so now all of the doubters can listen to why even though he is a "system QB" he should be considered for the Heisman trophy.
Last year he put up video game-like numbers with over 5500 yards passing on 700 attempts and 44 TD's. I don't care who you play or what system you play in. That is outstanding.
Keenum opted out of going pro saying, "We have a chance to do something special this season."
The Cougs could very well have a "special" season as they return an abundance of talent at the skill positions. They should also benefit from being a top 25 team to start the year. Also, look for the level of competition that Keenum faces in Conference USA to be better than in year's past, which should help him.
The case for Case is simple: He needs to put up big numbers, and the Cougs needs to find a way into the BCS picture. Games against UCLA, SMU, Mississippi State, and Texas Tech should be the games to keep an eye on if Case is to break into the Heisman top five.
The Oklahoma Sooners situation a year ago was not ideal when Sam Bradford was hurt in the season opener against BYU, and freshman Landry Jones was thrust into seemingly a starting job for the rest of the season.
All Jones did was throw for over 3000 yards and 26 scores. Now Sooner Nation is expecting a sophomore season that is very Sam Bradford-like.
Jones has the benefit of having a year of experience under his belt along with solid skill players in Ryan Broyles and DeMarco Murray. He also has the benefit of playing his first 3 games of the season in the comfort of Memorial Stadium where the Sooners rarely lose.
The knocks on Jones may be the lack of experience, even though he started 10 of 13 games last season. Things are different when you know you have to be the guy, and the question will be how he handles the pressure.
He also may have some issues with the offensive line which breaks in 3 new starters in 2010.
I think the key game is not the Red River game but the Sept 11 tilt against Florida State. On this day, 80% of the best non-conference games are played, and a big performance against the 'Noles should give him a push towards following in the footsteps of Sam Bradford and Jason White.
Obviously there are more guys that will contend for the Heisman than just the five I listed, so here is a list of some other players to keep an eye on in 2010.
In the ACC, either of the Hokie backs in Williams and Evans could contend, along with Miami QB Jacory Harris, and Georgia Tech QB Josh Nesbitt.
In the Big East, Dion Lewis will put up numbers, and I think Rutgers QB Tom Savage will earn some recognition.
The Big Ten gives us Ohio State QB Terrelle Pryor, Penn St tailback Evan Royster, Iowa DL Adrian Clayborn, and I will also throw in Iowa QB Ricky Stanzi for grins.
Big 12 country should give us Taylor Potts of Tech, Blaine Gabbert of Mizzou, and hopefully a healthy Baylor QB in Robert Griffin.
In the SEC, Ingram of 'Bama along with Julio Jones should be in the conversation, along with John Brantley of Florida, and potentially Cameron Newton of Auburn.
Out West in the Pac-10, I like Nick Foles of Arizona, Jacquizz Rodgers the Beaver tailback, Jake Locker of UW, and LaMichael James the Ducks' back.
The best of the non-BCS conference guys are the TCU QB Andy Dalton, Utah RB Eddie Wide, Temple HB Bernard Pierce, and I will throw in Mid Tenn St QB Dwight Dasher because he deserves some recognition.
So those are my guys who Iike in the Heisman race and final five.
Who do I think will win?
Well, at this time I am going to go with John Clay, but I am a Big 10 guy at heart.
So who do you think wins the Heisman? Who are your final five?
As always feel free to leave your picks on the comment forum below and check out all of my other Friday Tailgate articles to quench that college football thirst.