Every year you here the talk and the hype about who the front runners are to walk out of the Downtown Athletic Club in New York with the little bronze statue. This year guys like Kellen Moore, Landry Jones, LaMichael James and others are being put into the driver's seat even before a point has been scored.
Last year Cam Newton wasn't at the top of many peoples' list, and look what he did for the Tigers of Auburn.
This year I see at least five real out of the blue contenders. They are either steady starters who don't get a lot of national hype, or just guys that are already good, but ready to take it to the next level.
Here are my five other guys to keep an eye on in '11.
Most of the talk in and around Columbus has been of the scandals, cheatings and violations. Not many have talked about the potential talent that is still left on the Buckeye roster.
Joe Bauserman will now be the full-time starter after Terrell Pryor left the team a few weeks ago. Bauserman has not gotten a ton of time at QB, and when he has it has been mainly during mop up time.
So why is a senior QB who has barely thrown for over 300 yards in his career on the list?
Well, it's simple.
Bauserman has a ton of talent around him on both sides of the ball, which means victories. He has two backs that can move the ball on the ground in Berry and Herron (when the suspension is over). At WR there is some question about experience, especially since there best one will be sitting the first five games as well.
Bauserman will have timing with these guys. Many of the wideouts he threw the ball to as a second stringer will now get to step up and play big boy ball.
Joe Bauserman is a name to keep a look out for.
All the talk in Boise is about Kellen Moore getting to New York, not so fast my friend. The fate of the Broncos this year will rely heavily on the legs of senior tailback Doug Martin.
Last year Martin went for 12 scores and over 1200 yards on the ground. This year expect more from him as the Broncos break in new WR's to replace the departed Titus Young and Austin Pettis. Also a step up in conference strength should also keep games a little bit closer, which should give Martin more touches than he has gotten in the past.
A 1500 yard season is achievable, and if he does so, look for Martin, and maybe not Moore in the NYC come mid December.
When Dan Persa went down on the last play of the Iowa game in early November, so did the Wildcats season as they failed to win another game. Persa went down in the game with a season ending Achilles injury, but is expected back by fall practice.
Persa was the key to the entire offense last year. He was effective passing the ball with over 2500 yards and a 73.5 completion percentage. He was just as good with his feet, often avoiding sacks while rushing for over 500 yards.
The keys for Persa to make a dark horse run revolves around wins and losses. If the Cats can get off to 4-0 start heading into the Michigan game and Persa is playing like he did in 2010, the talk will start.
Look for Persa to have a solid year in Evanston and the Cats to compete for a division title.
Things have not been the greatest at the U over the past few seasons. Add a new coach and a play-making tailback and that all could change in 2011.
Lamar Miller could be that guy. Last year he ran for over 600 yards as a freshman, and took back a kickoff 88 yards against the Buckeyes. He is perhaps the speediest back at the U and maybe the nation.
New head coach Al Golden used a work horse RB during his time at Temple to win games. Bernard Pierce is a bit different than Miller, but Miller has the ability to get down the field quicker, and that could be scary for opposing defenses.
Watch for sophomore Lamar Miller this year, and in years to come, only at the U.
The Bill Stewart saga at West Virginia is finally over and Dana Holgorson is no longer the in waiting coach. What that means now is that instead of mentoring Geno Smith as an OC, Holgorson will do so as the head man in Morgantown.
Last year Smith threw for 24 scores and over 2700 yards as a sophomore. He also has a big time receiver coming back in Tavon Austin who grabbed 58 balls for nearly 800 yards. Up front the Mountaineers remain intact for the most part.
The last two QB's that ran a Dana Holgorson offense were Case Keenum and Brandon Weeden. Both put up monster numbers. If Smith, a guy who many consider to be more talented than either can learn the system, then look out.
As long as WVU puts up wins, consider Smith in the running until the end.