After a season of upsets and surprises, the 2008 regular season is upon us and the Heisman Trophy race will be hotter than ever. Here are a few of my top candidates, not including 2007 winner Tim Tebow.
1. Sam Bradford (Soph. QB-Oklahoma)
2007 stats- 70%, 3121 pass yards, 36 TD, 8 int
Many people believe he is the 2008 frontrunner behind Tebow. With a freshman season for the ages at OU, including a win over #1 ranked Missouri in the regular season finale for the Big 12 title, Bradford is one of the top returning quarterbacks in the country much less in his own packed conference. Even with the loss of WR Malcolm Kelly to the NFL, he still has one of the top pass-blocking lines in the country so expect Bradford to thrive in Year 2 and potentially take OU back to the National Championship Game for the first time since 2004.
2. Chase Daniel (Sr. QB- Missouri)
2007- 68%, 4306 pass yds, 33 TD, 11 int
This is the other top quarterback returning in the Big 12. Daniel burst onto the scene in 2007 leading Missouri to its first ever #1 ranking in the BCS before falling flat against Oklahoma but rebounding to a convincing Cotton Bowl win against Arkansas. As if being the smartest signal caller in the conference (if not the country) isn't enough, he also brings back with him WR Jeremy Maclin and an even better running game. A date in the big game isn't out out of his reach but he may have to get past the Sooners to do it.
3. Graham Harrell (Sr. QB- Texas Tech)
2007- 72%, 5705 pass yds, 48 TD, 14 int
This team and system just continues to break records across the board and this kid is no exception. With an offensive line that practically keeps his jersey clean, a schedule that would make a high school team laugh and returning freshman sensation WR Michael Crabtree, Harrell may be even more dangerous than ever.
4. Michael Crabtree (So. WR- Texas Tech)
2007- 134 rec, 1962 yds, 22 TD
Teammate of the record-setting quarterback, the record-shattering wide receiver returns with a year under his belt and defenses game-planning to slow him down. Crabtree obliterated every single-season record as a freshman in 2007, now in 2008 he will look to produce as much or better and also will look to increase his NFL stock througout the season.
5. Chris Wells (Sr. RB- Ohio State)
2007- 1609 rush yds, 15 TD
The man they call 'Beanie' up in Columbus could win the school's second Heisman in three years. For those that question his toughness, watch him against LSU in the BCS Title game. Behind a tough, rugged offensive line, Wells should have another productive season in a conference that is the Buckeyes' for the taking.
6. Dan LeFevour (Sr. QB- Central Michigan)
2007- 64%, 3652 pass yds, 27 TD, 13 int/1122 rush yds, 19 TD
Not many people know this guy, but trust me, you will. He's the Mid-American Conference's version of Tim Tebow and just as good. LeFevour, like Tebow, is a dual threat on the ground and through the air. Though ESPN will probably cover this kid only once a week (maybe more) and since he is not in a sexy BCS conference, you have to give the kid his due. He put up 4774 yards of total offense, which ranks second behind Texas Tech's Graham Harrell (5613 yards) for returning starters. He was the second quarterback in history to throw for 3000 yards and rush for 1000 more in the same season (Vince Young was the first, in 2005 at Texas) and was the first MAC quarterback to lead his team to conference titles as a freshman and sophomore.
So who will be invited to New York to claim college football's most prestigious individual award? Let the race begin....