LaMichael James led the nation in rushing yards this season, but missed out on the Heisman voting to a player that will be opposite the Oregon Ducks tonight in the National Championship, Auburn's Cam Newton.
Newton ultimately won the award for his all-around play, showing off a strong arm and the ability to run when called upon. James has announced he will return for his junior year, so it is time to being speculation on his chances of the Heisman this time around, and whether he can steal it from Andrew Luck.
Here is a look at the Oregon Ducks' 2011 schedule, and how LaMichael James stacks up game-by-game on his run towards the Nation's top honor.
The LSU Tigers will enter 2011 riding high following a convincing 41-24 AT&T Cotton Bowl victory over the Texas A&M Aggies.
LSU finished the season ranked eleventh in the country in points allowed, giving up just 18 points per game. The best of their defense is represented in the pass coverage of cornerback Patrick Peterson, who is currently projected as a top 5 pick in the upcoming 2011 NFL Draft.
The Tigers have a stout defense, but do give up rushing yards to speedy backs. James will have a good chance of racking up some yardage, but at the same time could be held under 100 yards.
LSU is losing three of their defensive linemen to graduation, and a small handful of defensive backs. The look of their defense will not change much, so all things considered, James will have a decent game, but certainly won't get the yardage he saw against Portland State.
This one could come down to the blocking ability of Oregon next season, and whether LSU is ready to play at the season debut.
Nevada is coming off a strong season, defeating Boston College in the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl. They will finish in the AP Top 25, and tied with Boise State and Hawaii for the best record in the WAC.
However, they will be losing senior QB Colin Kaepernick, who will likely be a late-round draft pick. On the defensive side of the ball, the Wolfpack showed they can shut down smaller opponents, but the larger school racked up the points, and even Utah State 42 points on Nevada's defense.
With most of the offensive pieces returning for the Ducks, this one seems to be a great opportunity for Oregon to run up the score, and for James to rack up the yardage. Look for the Ducks to mix James into the passing game in this one, spreading out his role in the offense while James goes well over 100 yards.
Missouri State will take the place of Portland State next season. The Ducks racked up 69 points against the intrastate rival Vikings, and Missouri State seems to be that "practice" game that allows major FBS teams to work out all the kinks.
This one won't be close, but Oregon fans will be treated to a career game for James, and a team they've never see or heard of before. Missouri State fills the hole vacated by the originally scheduled non-conference foe, Utah. The Utes joined the new Pac-12, and therefore a substitution was needed. MSU is a FCS school that finished 5-6 last season.
Oregon will open up their Pac-12 schedule with Arizona, who finished their 2010 campaign in disarray losing their final five games, including the Alamo Bowl to the Oklahoma State Cowboys.
However, they held James to just 126 yards, which is actually a small number for him. It took the Oregon RB 28 carries to get there, and he was only mildly involved in the victory.
The 2011 season may be more of the same for James, but this time around, he'll be running in the desert while the weather is still warmer. James will have a better game, and Arizona's fast start in 2010 may be a distant memory, as they are losing several defensive players to graduation.
The Cal Golden Bears hold the prestigious position of nearly beating the Oregon Ducks. When the game ended, they had held James under 100 yards, becoming only the second team all season (Arizona State) to do so.
Like Arizona, Cal is also losing many defensive players, and some starters. The game against Cal seems to be a fluke, given the Bears finished the season 5-7. Another disappointing year for a program that seems to be ranked in the pre-season Top 25 annually.
Oregon will be coming off a bye week entering their match-up with the Golden Bears. James will have a much better game this time around against Cal at home.
This will be a difficult stretch for the Ducks, if the 2010 season is any indication. Arizona State is the only other team, aside from Cal, to hold LaMichael James under 100 yards on the ground. Darron Thomas had to handle most of the offensive duties when James couldn't pick up big gains against the Sun Devils.
Oregon escaped with the win, but their offense seemed confused with the defensive scheme thrown at them by ASU.
James had just 94 yards and one TD on 28 carries, but didn't record a reception. This game may pose a threat again in 2011, if major factors don't change. Following a much stronger effort against the Cal Bears, James may struggle here, and fall slightly behind in the Heisman talks.
This rematch of the 2002 Fiesta Bowl won't have much of the competitive feel exhibited the first time around. The new-coming Pac-12 Colorado Buffalos are in the middle of transitive years, and will have to enter the new conference as an underdog.
Colorado finished the 2010 season 5-7, and won just two games against Big 12 conference opponents. Moving to the Pac-12 doesn't seem to be a way out. The Buffalos don't rank near the Top 25 in any category, including allowing nearly 31 points per game.
This will be a stats game for LaMichael James. Oregon's running back will be all over the Buffalos, and should get nearly 200 yards against a rebuilding defense that still needs more work. Add a few catches to this one, and it may be James' strongest Heisman statement on the season.
Washington State still doesn't pose much of a threat next season. They may finish slightly better than their two-win performance from 2010, but their program just isn't ready to compete yet.
Big game here for the Oregon running back, with receptions mixed in a slightly different offensive look. This might be a good game for the Ducks to use as an experiment, finding out what plays work well that can be used to deceive bigger opponents.
The stats might stray a little from the norm in this one, but James will have a great game, and no problems with his Heisman candidacy in Pullman.
Washington played spoiler to many Pac-10 teams, including Oregon State when they were ranked, and shut down Nebraska in the Holiday Bowl. While it was difficult to gauge the Huskies this season, 2011 seems to be much more obvious.
The loss of QB Jake Locker to the NFL will only be the beginning for the Huskies on quest for mediocrity in the Pac-12 conference.
James won't have a great game, but a good game. He will top the 100 yard mark again in this one, but Washington's defense will be strong next season. Heisman candidacy still very much alive.
Despite Stanford winning 12 games this season, including a dominating Discover Orange Bowl win over Virginia Tech, they were unable to beat the Ducks.
In fact, they got blown out, allowing 52 points to Oregon while James ran for 257 yards. The crown jewel of the Cardinal's roster is Andrew Luck, who will be returning for his junior year. The defense, however, is still a question mark. The absence of Jim Harbaugh puts the program in doubt, but they still have plenty going for them.
James will have a decent game, but his Heisman hopes may be slightly dashed in this one.
If the 2010 season means anything, James will run wild, but also carry the majority of the offensive load. It may be decision time for head coach Chip Kelly if James is getting shut down.
The Trojans will be entering their final year of bowl ineligibility for recruitment violations, and may be relatively the same as their 8-4 season.
In 2010, James ran for 239 yards against a USC defense that seemed sluggish and demotivated. The Ducks handed the ball to LJ 36 times, and he rushed for three scores as well.
Since most of the roster will stay the same for Southern California, and they will still not be eligible for a bowl game, James will have another solid game. At this point in the 2011 season, it may be a two-man race for the Heisman, with Andrew Luck being the most challenging candidate.
The Civil War has been one of the most competitive match-ups in the Pac-10 over the last decade, and the changing of the conference name will change nothing about that.
Both Oregon schools are becoming major college football programs, but it seems the Ducks and Nike are rising to the top ahead of the Beavers.
James rushed for 134 yards on 28 carries against OSU, and it was his steady pace that doomed the Beavers offense. Oregon State could only put up 20 points, while Oregon's offense dominated time of possession. The Beavs didn't have an answer for James and the Ducks.
The 2011 season will bring back all major pieces for both offenses, the Beavers returning James Rodgers, who was lost to a knee injury against the Arizona Wildcats. Both Rodgers brothers will be available and Ryan Katz will be experienced at quarterback.
This game will be another well-hyped affair, and for good reason. This game, along with a potential Pac-12 Championship game for the Ducks, may solidify James' Heisman Trophy victory.
Possibly, but there are statistics for James to reach in order to win the Heisman Trophy. James needs to become more instrumental in the short passing game. His receptions in 2010 were not relevant enough to gain the "well-rounded" tag that Heisman voters look for.
James is certainly the offensive leader on the team, and no doubt propels the Ducks to new heights. However, the RB ultimately missed out on the Heisman because he is strictly a runner, while Cam Newton has a strong arm and ability to run.
Andrew Luck with lead the Heisman cast in 2011, so James will have to diversity in order to conquer.