Heisman Trophy Race: 10 Candidates Playing Themselves Out of Contention
Each season, the Heisman Trophy is awarded to college football's most outstanding player.
And every fall, fans and the media try to predict which players will lead their teams to greatness and take home arguably the most famous individual award in sports.
Some of those preseason picks pan out and others fall by the wayside.
Here are ten Heisman contenders who played themselves out of a chance to win the Heisman Trophy this season (in alphabetical order).
John Brantley, Florida Gators Quarterback
Sam Greenwood/Getty Images
While it seems laughable now, many people thought John Brantley would be an improvement over Tim Tebow at quarterback because he was, as Deonte Thompson put it, "a real quarterback."
Let's put it this way: Brantley isn't even the best quarterback on his team (see: Reed, Jordan), so all of the preseason "Heisman dark horse" talk seems ridiculous at this point.
Brantley only has eight passing touchdowns this season against eight interceptions and his 119.6 passer efficiency currently ranks 10th in the SEC.
Maybe the Florida Gators' coaching staff will tailor the offense to Brantley's strengths in 2011, but if this season was any indication, don't count on it.
Unfortunately for Brantley, he'll be remembered as the starting quarterback for the worst Florida team in recent memory.
Jacory Harris, Miami Hurricanes Quarterback
Jared Wickerham/Getty Images
Ever since Randy Shannon took over as the head coach of the Miami Hurricanes prior to the 2007 season, the team has steadily improved both on and off the field.
Shannon's "no nonsense" style and the improved image of the team has led the college football world to believe that the 'Canes are on the cusp of becoming one of the nation's elite teams once again.
2010 was believed to be "the year" and quarterback Jacory Harris (3,352 passing yards in 2009) was supposed to be a huge part of that.
However, 2010 already wasn't going very well for Harris when he suffered a concussion in a 24-19 loss to the Virginia Cavaliers.
He was throwing for a lot of yards, but simultaneously, he was struggling with both interceptions (11) and his completion percentage (53.9 percent).
After missing three games due to his concussion, Harris is cleared to play, but Shannon has decided to stick with backup quarterback Stephen Moore for the time being.
Miami missed a chance to play for the ACC title this season and with only one year left in Miami, it'll be crunch time for Harris in 2011.
Mark Ingram, Alabama Crimson Tide Running Back
Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images
While the defending Heisman Trophy winner certainly isn't having a bad season, he is nowhere the near the offensive force that he was last season.
With just two games remaining this season, Ingram looks unlikely to crack 1,000 rushing yards after setting Alabama's single-season rushing record with 1,658 yards on the ground last season.
However, this decline in numbers isn't all Ingram's fault.
In addition to sharing carries with fellow home run threat Trent Richardson, Ingram missed the first two games of the season due to a minor knee surgery.
But with the exception of his stellar 157-yard performance in a 24-20 win over the Arkansas Razorbacks, Ingram has failed to take over in big games.
The junior halfback hasn't eclipsed the 100-yard mark since the Arkansas game and the drop-off in his production has hurt the Crimson Tide offense.
Ingram is still one of the best runners in the country, but his quest to repeat will come up well short.
Jerrod Johnson, Texas A&M Aggies Quarterback
Aaron M. Sprecher/Getty Images
Putting the team first has to be a hard thing for Texas A&M Aggies new backup quarterback Jerrod Johnson to do, especially considering the circumstances that earned him his new position.
Johnson, who holds that Texas A&M school record for passing yards (8,011) and touchdown passes (67), was benched for junior quarterback Ryan Tannehill after three straight losses.
It turns out that Mike Sherman actually has a pretty good team—a Big 12 South contender—in College Station, Texas, and their biggest problem was their record-setting quarterback, who threw nine interceptions in a three-game span and also lost three straight contests before his time ran out as the starter.
Since Johnson was benched for Tannehill, the Aggies have rattled off five straight victories, including a 33-19 beat down of the Oklahoma Sooners.
And with Texas A&M appearing to end up with the short end of the stick should a tie in the Big 12 South occur, many Aggies are left wondering if starting Tannehill all season could have helped them win an extra game or two.
Going from one of the nation's most dynamic playmakers to a guy that is being buried on the depth chart in the latter half of his senior year is a very tough pill for Johnson to swallow.
Dion Lewis, Pittsburgh Panthers Running Back
Jared Wickerham/Getty Images
As a freshman last season, Dion Lewis took the college football world by storm, breaking Tony Dorsett's Big East freshman rushing record and ranking third nationally with 1,799 yards on the ground.
And with the Pittsburgh Panthers poised to compete for the Big East title in 2010, many expected first-team preseason All-American Lewis to carry the team on his back on the way to a great season.
The 6-4 Panthers currently control their own destiny in the Big East race, but they would be better off if Lewis was having a season that was at least close to his production in 2009.
Lewis started the year slowly and currently ranks only second on his team with 661 rushing yards.
Granted, Lewis has started to pick up the slack by rushing for 377 yards and five touchdowns in his last four games, but it's too little too late for the talented sophomore for this season's Heisman race.
Keep an eye on Lewis in 2011 though. He'll be invited to New York before his college career ends.
Jake Locker, Washington Huskies Quarterback
Christian Petersen/Getty Images
Believed by many to be a potential Top 10 pick in the 2010 NFL Draft, Jake Locker's decision to return for his senior season surprised many people.
However, Locker liked what he saw from first-year head coach Steve Sarkisian in 2009 and decided he wanted another season with the former USC Trojans assistant.
Unfortunately for the Huskies' starting quarterback, he has been merely average and disappointed many with his performance in 2010.
With Locker under center, Washington has been one of the Pac-10's worst offensive teams this season, ranking eighth in scoring offense (21.4 points per game) and passing offense (191.0 yards per game) and ninth in passer efficiency (119.3).
Even though Locker had the disadvantage of a sub-par supporting cast, you would expect a player of his caliber to put up better numbers, especially during his senior year.
Jeremiah Masoli, Ole Miss Rebels Quarterback
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images
It's truly amazing how so much can change in just one calendar year and Ole Miss quarterback Jeremiah Masoli is the poster child.
Masoli led the Oregon Ducks to a Pac-10 Championship and a Rose Bowl berth just last season, but now, he's quarterbacking a bad Rebels team with a 4-7 record.
Oh, and by the way, the Ducks are undefeated and likely headed to the BCS National Championship Game at season's end.
So, to go from the potential Heisman hopeful quarterback of one of the nation's elite teams to just an above average dual-threat signal-caller on a bad Ole Miss team is playing your way out of Heisman contention.
Also, his numbers are nothing to write home about: 13 touchdowns passes, 12 interceptions, 123.5 passer efficiency, and a 56.7 completion percentage.
Plus, there's the embarrassing home loss to Jacksonville State in the season opener that leaves a very bad taste in your mouth.
DeMarco Murray, Oklahoma Sooners Running Back
Ronald Martinez/Getty Images
Through the first six games of the season, the Oklahoma Sooners were the No. 1 in the country and senior running back DeMarco Murray was a big reason why.
Murray had 663 yards on the ground and 11 rushing touchdowns, averaging 110.5 rushing yards per game for the Sooners.
However, since a paltry 49-yard performance in a 36-27 upset loss to the Missouri TIgers, Murray just hasn't been the same.
Over the next five games, Murray racked up only 310 rushing yards and three touchdowns, as Oklahoma lost a second time, a disappointing 33-19 loss to the Texas A&M Aggies that ended their hopes for a chance at a national title.
The Sooners' chances for a Big 12 Championship Game berth were dashed with the Aggies' 24-17 victory against the Texas Longhorns Thanksgiving Day, so now Oklahoma will try to upset their rivals, the Oklahoma State Cowboys, in order to notch a 10-win season.
They'll need a big game from Murray to accomplish that.
Christian Ponder, Florida State Seminoles Quarterback
Streeter Lecka/Getty Images
WIth Jimbo FIsher taking over a new-look Florida State team from Bobby Bowden, many expected Christian Ponder to have a big season and lead the 'Noles to a resurgent season.
Well, while Ponder hasn't been awful in 2010, he hasn't exactly lived up to expectations.
Granted, he has the ACC"s third-best passer efficiency (133.4) and has thrown a career-high 17 touchdown passes, but he has underachieved.
Ponder has only thrown for 200 yards or more twice this season and under his leadership, Florida State squandered their lead in the ACC Atlantic Division with back-to-back losses to NC State and North Carolina.
Ponder is having a nice season, but with a better effort on the field and in the locker room by the senior quarterback could have the Seminoles in the BCS National Championship discussion right now.
Evan Royster, Penn State Nittany Lions Running Back
Jamie Sabau/Getty Images
More recently, one major quality of a Heisman Trophy winner has been the success of his team and many voters look for that one defining "Heisman moment."
Well, to put this frankly, Penn State running back Evan Royster had plenty of opportunities to rise to the occasion and instead, he was shut down.
In the Nittany Lions' four losses to Alabama, Iowa, Illinois, and Ohio State this season, Royster has rushed for 176 yards on 46 attempts (3.7 yards per carry) and scored zero touchdowns.
That's right. Zero.
Penn State is very inexperienced at quarterback and whenever Royster is not on the top of his game at running back, things fall apart very quickly for Joe Paterno's team.
It's difficult and disappointing when a senior team leader struggles to perform up to his highest level in high-pressure situations and that has been the case for Royster in 2010.