2012 College Football Preseason Heisman Trophy Watch

Zack Alspaugh@AlspaughZaContributor IIIMay 31, 2012

2012 College Football Preseason Heisman Trophy Watch

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    Although Barack Obama will be entering a race during the upcoming fall months of 2012, it will not, of course, be the Heisman Trophy race.

    As college programs begin gearing up for another season, football pundits around the country have been putting brain trusts together in hopes of predicting who contends to raise the illustrious bronze trophy at the end of the season.

    Even with a magic 8-ball, a swami or Rasputin himself, there is no telling who it will be. Trying to predict the Heisman winner in the offseason is like predicting who will throw the MLB's first no-hitter or guessing what color combo Craig Sager will don.

    If you can sweep the board, then head to Vegas. For everyone else, good luck.

    Even though things are subject to change and then change again, it is still fun to speculate. Here is a breakdown of some Heisman hopefuls by conference.

    For a full list of candidates, follow this link. Make your own predictions as to who will succeed Robert Griffin III and post them in the comments section below.


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    Matt Barkley, USC

    The senior slinger is the national favorite to win the Heisman and be the first overall pick in the draft. But before he books himself two flights to New York, Barkley has some serious work to do.

    Bowl eligible for the first time since the Reggie Bush scandal, USC will be in the hunt for a national title. Couple that with Heisman expectations and Barkley will have a plate full of expectations. Every since he stepped in as Mark Sanchez's successor as a true freshman, Barkley has handled the pressure that comes along with USC starting quarterback, and many think he will deliver.

    In the 2011 season, Barkley threw for 3,528 yards, 35 touchdowns and only seven interceptions.

    De'Anthony Thomas, Oregon

    Thomas has proven himself to be a real showstopper with his sudden bursts of speed and a wide range of versatility. Mixed with Chip Kelly's relentless offensive attack, Oregon's No. 6 will terrorize the opposition.

    ESPN blog writer Kevin Gemmell writes:

    [Thomas's] exploits can be packaged into an explosive highlight reel that is easily digestible for East Coast voters. No one ever gets tired of seeing 85-yard touchdown runs (unless you're safeties chasing Thomas)."

    Thomas finished the year with 595 yards rushing, 605 receiving and a total of 18 touchdowns all as backup to LaMichael James. Just imagine what he will accomplish as a starter.

    Other Mentionables

    Washington's Keith Price has been thrown around in the Heisman mix. However, he is widely unknown to east-coast pundits, which is a travesty considering they pull the puppet strings on all that is college football polling.

    He can gain some serious attention if he performs well against LSU early in the year, but don't expect him to win unless the Huskies can take down USC and Barkley.

    Although Stepfan Taylor isn't listed as an official candidate, keep your eyes out for Stanford's running back as a possible dark-horse contender.

    Don't believe me? Then have at what he can do. 

    His combination of speed and strength allowed him to run for 1,330 yds and 10 TD. With Andrew Luck gone and the offense falling on his shoulders, don't rule out another Cardinal Cinderella in the Heisman running, i.e. Toby Gerhart.


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    The SEC boasts a nation-high six candidates in the preseason watch. Here is a quick look at two key names.

    Tyler Wilson, Arkansas

    On top of having a rocket arm and stunning accuracy, Wilson is described as being an impeccable leader. He replaced Ryan Mallett, throwing for 3,638 yd with 24 touchdowns and carrying the Razorbacks to an 11-2 record and a top-five national ranking.

    Despite losing three key receivers in Jarius Wright, Joe Adams and Greg Childs, Wilson won't have any problem finding capable targets. He can connect with anyone with two arms and two legs. But he won't need to, because Cobi Hamilton and Marquel Wade look awesome. 

    Wilson went "Hog Wild" in Arkansas' spring game, according to SportingNews.com's Steve Greenberg, completing 31-of-41 for 462 yards and two touchdowns.

    If anyone can give Barkley a run for his money, it will be Wilson.

    Marcus Lattimore, South Carolina

    Lattimore, a destructive back out of South Carolina, was one of the highest-acclaimed recruits. As a freshman, he opened eyes, smashing through both the Georgia Bulldogs and top-ranked Alabama defenses. In just seven games, Lattimore posted 818 yards and 10 touchdowns.

    Of course, there is a concern with his healing ACL injury and whether or not he will be the same player in 2012 as he was last year.

    With great strength and the reliable hands, Lattimore has all of the tools to be the Gamecocks' workhorse back. Most important of all, he scores a lot of touchdowns.

Big Ten

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    Denard Robinson, Michigan

    Robinson's name has come up in Heisman conversations every year he has been a Wolverine, but disappointing performance seems to hold him back time and time again.

    Could it be his expectations are too high, or will he at last finish with stats to match his talent?

    Robinson is a dynamic quarterback with unparalleled athleticism. However, turnovers are his downfall. Entering his senior year, Robinson finally might have the matured enough to overcome his past setbacks.

    He will be the most compelling candidate to watch as he takes on a loaded schedule, with Alabama, Notre Dame, Michigan State, Nebraska and Ohio State all looking to slow him down. If "Shoelace" can triumph, he will undoubtedly impress the voters.

    Montee Ball, Wisconsin

    With the season Ball had in 2011, many expected him to be cashing checks in the NFL instead of returning for his senior season.

    "Ball must have felt that he had unfinished business in Madison," writes Bleacher Report columnist Danny Flynn. Perhaps it was finishing fourth in the Heisman running that lit a fire in his belly.

    Starting in August, Ball will look to top his outstanding 2011 numbers of 2,286 yards of offense and 40 touchdowns. If he does, he will more than likely finish higher than fourth this time around.