In this day and age, it’s never too early to analyze the candidacy of the top college football players for the Heisman Trophy.
The 2011 sees three of the four Heisman finalists returning to school.
Though there are some clear cut favorites, any number of dark horses could emerge and claim the Heisman.
Here are the top ten Heisman candidates heading into 2011.
Aaron Murray had a sensational freshman campaign in 2010.
The Bulldogs quarterback was named a Freshman All-American while cumulating 3,216 yards of total offense, which is second in SEC history.
Murray has all the talent in the world and has a legitimate shot at the Heisman.
The Bulldogs’ schedule is relatively easy in 2011, with Alabama, LSU and Arkansas missing from it.
Murray can guide the Bulldogs to a berth in the SEC Championship Game while padding his stats for the Heisman.
If Murray can get the Dawgs to 10 wins while improving upon his freshman stats, he will be invited to New York in December.
Because of USC’s struggles in 2010, as well as their postseason probation, Matt Barkley’s 2010 season went relatively unnoticed.
However, he had a great season and took a step forward from his freshman season.
Barkley upped his completion percentage and threw for 11 more touchdowns in 2010.
Though USC is still under a postseason ban, they are still eligible for the AP national title.
A strong season by the Trojans and Matt Barkley, and we will be seeing Barkley in New York.
Marcus Lattimore bursted onto the scene in 2010, gaining 1,197 yards rushing in his freshman season.
He did his best work against SEC East division foes Georgia, Tennessee and Florida.
In those three games, he ran for a combined 578 yards rushing and six touchdowns.
With quarterback Stephen Garcia’s future in question, the Gamecocks will be relying even more on Lattimore in 2011.
Another berth in the SEC Championship game would also go a long ways for Lattimore’s candidacy.
With A.J. Green and Julio Jones moving onto the NFL, the nation’s top wide receiver is now Justin Blackmon.
Blackmon was the first wide receiver to win the Big 12 Offensive Player of the Year award in 2010 when he caught 111 passes for 1,782 yards and 20 touchdowns.
With a talented quarterback in Brandon Weeden throwing to him, Blackmon could become the third wide receiver ever to win the Heisman.
Though he played second fiddle to Mark Ingram his first two years, Alabama running back Trent Richardson still showed off how dangerous of a back he can be.
He has amassed 1,451 yards and 14 touchdowns through his first two seasons in Tuscaloosa.
Now that Mark Ingram has left Bama for the NFL, it’s Richardson’s time for the Crimson Tide.
With quarterback Greg McElroy and wide receiver Julio Jones also going pro, Richardson will be the focal point of the Alabama offense.
Also, the Crimson Tide have one of the best defenses, so Richardson will be called upon to run out the clock, which will help his stats and his Heisman candidacy.
Richardson has a great shot at the Heisman while leading the Tide to another title.
The favorite for the Heisman last September, Denard Robinson is back again to the lead the Wolverines’ new west coast offense.
The first player to ever throw for 2,000 yards and rush for 1,500 in the same season will look to build off his sophomore season and lead Michigan back to the BCS
If Robinson can adapt to the new offensive scheme and guide the Wolverines to a nine or 10-win season, he will fare better than his sixth-place finish in the Heisman balloting in 2010.
Landry Jones emerged out from Sam Bradford’s shadow in 2010 and threw for 4,718 yards and 38 touchdowns.
His stats could be even better in 2011, especially since top wide receiver Ryan Broyles is back.
The Sooners could start the season as the No. 1 team in the nation, and if they can hold onto the spot throughout the season, Jones will be a hard candidate to beat for the Heisman.
One of the winningest quarterbacks in NCAA history, Kellen Moore is back to try and lead Boise State to yet another BCS bowl game.
Moore was a Heisman finalist last season and finished fourth, and he hopes to build on that in 2011.
If Moore leads Boise State to another undefeated season and breaks the NCAA record for most wins in a career, Moore could end up winning the Heisman in 2011.
In 2010, LaMichael James rushed for 1,731 yards and 21 touchdowns while helping lead the Oregon Ducks to the National Championship Game.
The 2010 Doak Walker Award winner also finished third in the Heisman balloting last season, and hopes to improve upon that result this year.
With help from quarterback Darron Thomas, James will try to lead the Ducks back to the National Championship game while pursuing the 2,000-yard mark on the ground.
Everybody’s preseason for the pick to win the Heisman is Andrew Luck, and why shouldn’t it be?
Before opting to stay in school for his senior season, Luck was the consensus pick to be selected No. 1 overall.
Luck finished second in Heisman voting last season while guiding Stanford to one of its best seasons in its history.
This year, Luck hopes to surpass his 3,338 yard season from 2010 while leading Stanford to a national championship.
As of now, the Heisman is Luck’s to lose. However, there are twelve regular season games yet to be played, and as we all know, anything can happen.