The Top 50 Heisman Trophy Candidates and the One Game That Will Trip Them Up

Dan Vasta@CI_StatsGuruSenior Writer IIIJune 15, 2012

The Top 50 Heisman Trophy Candidates and the One Game That Will Trip Them Up

0 of 50

    There are so many Heisman dark horse candidates that catch us by surprise every season, but very rarely is there a guy that comes out of literally nowhere.

    Some may argue Cam Newton shocked us two seasons ago (he did with his bonkers numbers at least), but he was on many radars for the Heisman in terms of the top 50.

    Looking at all of the top candidates this season, there are always a few daunting tasks that trip up a player from getting that invite to New York City.

    So, here are your top 50 Heisman candidates with the one game that will indeed trip them up and ultimately cost them their legacy as the 78th Heisman Trophy winner!

    Note: Obviously somebody on this list will end up winning the Heisman, but every contender has a trap game or a buzzsaw that they run into where everything seems to be going against them.

Cameron Marshall, Arizona State

1 of 50

    Sept. 15 (at Mizzou)

    The Missouri Tigers will be coming off a much anticipated matchup with Georgia, but win or lose they will not allow Cameron Marshall to beat them.

    Any top 10 SEC squad’s defense would cause major issues for Marshall, but the uncertainty of a new system certainly kills any Heisman long shot.

    Marshall is a dynamic north-south runner with solid breakaway speed, but he will be attempting to get ASU to a bowl game and that in itself will be tough. 

Stedman Bailey, West Virginia

2 of 50

    Oct. 6 (at TX)

    The Mountaineers passing offense should be the best in the country next season, but that is only because Geno Smith has so many viable options to throw to.

    Spreading the wealth is a must in Dana Holgorsen’s offense, but guys like Ivan McCartney and Tavon Austin will steal the necessary looks that Stedman Bailey will need to have to make a run at the Heisman.

    Plus, this is a No. 2 wide receiver we are talking about at the end of the day, and certainly his numbers would have to be earth-shattering to even consider him a top 30 candidate.

James Vandenberg, Iowa

3 of 50

    Oct. 13 (at MSU)

    The Iowa Hawkeyes are certainly not on the national radar and many doubt their chances of even competing in the Big Ten after a rough 7-6 campaign.

    James Vandenberg is one of the most underrated players at his position throughout the entire country, and it should be intriguing to see if he can put together a few virtuoso performances with Keenan Davis out wide.  

Fitzgerald Toussaint, Michigan

4 of 50

    Sept. 1 (Alabama)

    Fitzgerald Toussaint surely is not the first guy mentioned on the Wolverines squad and that is because of Denard Robinson still being around.

    Toussaint is looking to eclipse the 1,500-yard mark, but he better have a decent game against Alabama if he wants to earn the national recognition.

    The Crimson Tide defense is insane and Nick Saban sure as hell will not allow any back, let alone a group of players, to break the 100-yard mark in a single game.

    If Toussaint cannot get it down in the opener, then his Heisman chances are likely done with the likelihood of losing all his votes to Denard.

James Franklin, Missouri

5 of 50

    Sept. 8 (vs. UGA)

    Coming off shoulder surgery in April is one thing, but going up against the SEC does not help the thought process a whole lot when you take a few good licks every single weekend.

    James Franklin loves to tuck it and run, but that is suicidal at times when going up against the likes of Georgia, Alabama and South Carolina.

    The presence of Dorial Green-Beckham will help to along with T.J. Moe at wide receiver. Still, this Missouri offense will run into several buzzsaws with the SEC greeting them with a few rude awakenings. 

Cobi Hamilton, Arkansas

6 of 50

    Sept. 15 (vs. Bama)

    This star receiver in the SEC will get even more recognition with Jarius Wright, Joe Adams and Greg Childs all gone. Tyler Wilson will not force it to Hamilton, but expect a ton of looks thrown his way towards the red zone.

Giovani Bernard, North Carolina

7 of 50

    Oct. 6 (vs. VT)

    This former redshirt freshman put on a clinic last season for the Tar Heels, and now Larry Fedora can only hope some sort of an improvement is made.

    Giovani Bernard is on a vastly underrated Heels squad that is capable of winning nine or as many as 10 games despite the lackluster of star opponents.

    That certainly will keep Bernard behind the eight-ball, but he may post huge numbers once again (239 carries, 1,253 yards and 13 TD).

Isaiah Crowell, Georgia

8 of 50

    Oct. 6 (at SC)

    This Bulldog put a great freshman campaign together although he did not quite reach his highest of abilities.

    Isaiah Crowell will not be running behind the best SEC line, but the explosive options Georgia has out wide along with Aaron Murray at quarterback will allow him to post legit numbers.

    Crowell is a future All-American if he can stay healthy and develop a more explosive burst past the secondary (looks just fine to me), but he may be another season away before officially becoming All-American let alone Heisman worthy.

    The talent is there for Crowell, but it is also there for a UGA backfield that is loaded with a few capable backs.

Cierre Wood, Notre Dame

9 of 50

    Sept. 15 (at MSU)

    This flashy, electric running back truly gives the Irish a solid offense depending on the consistency from their starting quarterback (whomever it ends up being).

    Cierre Wood is capable of eclipsing 1,500 total yards of offense (thanks to a top 10 OL) and he may reach paydirt a dozen times as well. However, those pedestrian numbers are not good enough compared to the best players in the country.

    Plus, games against those four premier programs will likely cost this Golden Domer any sort of a realistic shot.

Mike Glennon, North Carolina State

10 of 50

    Oct. 6 (vs. FSU)

    Just leave it up to the LSU and Florida State defense to ruin a few Heisman opportunities next season because they have over a dozen of future stars on Sundays. The speed they have is borderline perfection, but the beef up front is what makes them elite.

    Timmy Jernigan, Bjoern Werner and Brandon Jenkins will be licking their chops against an ACC star in Mike Glennon, but this game will tell us a whole lot about the Seminoles secondary as well.

    A defensive back's best friend is a terrific pass-rushing defensive line, and that is just what the doctor ordered against Mike Glennon.

    He may get his yards assuming his team is trailing for most of the second half, but the mistakes and overall hits he takes will be the most of any game he plays in.

John White IV, Utah

11 of 50

    Oct. 4 (vs. USC)

    This bruiser of a tailback can take the Utes back to a BCS bowl (yeah, you heard), if they can find a way to upset the USC Trojans on one of the best Thursday games of the entire season.

    This game really is the season for White’s Heisman chances because a loss would send White IV back to the abyss of rankings with a few dozen of other stronger candidates.

BJ Daniels, South Florida

12 of 50

    Sept. 29 (vs. FSU)

    This senior from Tallahassee will get to host that nationally ranked program from his hometown, but the game will actually be played in Tampa (home of the Bulls).

    The first few games should not be too difficult for the Bulls, but they will easily have their toughest competition against the Seminoles defense.

    With next-level talent at every position on the field, many point to this game as the one being the downfall of B.J. Daniels.

    If he can come out of it unscathed or at least alive, it should help him down the road even if he has zero chance at a Heisman run.

Taylor Martinez, Nebraska

13 of 50

    Sept. 29 (vs. Wisconsin)

    Taylor Martinez arguably could be eliminated per se in the Heisman race if he loses one particular game.

    His throwing mechanics have been questioned by nearly the entire country, but a home loss to the Badgers would cost him a dream shot of contending for the Heisman.

Manti Te’o, Notre Dame

14 of 50

    Oct. 27 (at OU)

    Arguably the best defensive player in the country, the Irish will need to accomplish a whole lot to make noise to have any sort of a player to win the Heisman.

    Mani Te’o is a stud and then some, but he will need a few electrifying moments in games against Michigan State, Michigan, Oklahoma and USC to stand even a chance of garnering any votes.

    Also, did I mention that three of the four opposing quarterbacks are arguably the three best in the entire nation?

    Even if the Irish were to sneak in a BCS bowl and win double-digit games, it would still be a stretch to expect their superstar linebacker to have a front row seat in NYC.

D.J. Harper, Boise State

15 of 50

    Aug. 31 (at MSU)

    D.J. Harper was granted and given an extra year of eligibility coming off a few major injuries (ACL), but this Smurf has the talents to make a nice splash despite losing the most successful quarterback in FBS history.

    Harper only has one problem: Michigan State’s defense is nearly flawless.

    Their defensive backs can tackle with the best of them and the linebackers are flat out filthy. Oh yeah, and there is that William Gholston guy that can manhandle you.

Silas Redd, Penn State

16 of 50

    Oct. 27 (vs. OSU)

    This stud back has the capability of becoming the best runner in the entire conference, but he will need to go up against opposing defenses that concentrate solely on stopping him.

    Silas Redd has speed that kills, but many wish that we could say the same for his teammates.

    PSU’s offense was vanilla one season ago and many just pointed to the lack of star talent. Redd, however, brings that to the table and he will be challenged in several games.

Christine Michael, A&M

17 of 50

    Oct. 20 (vs. LSU)

    The LSU Tigers defensive line is among the top five units in the entire country to take a long, paused look at thanks to the impressive talent they feature.

    The size, speed, awareness and superstar ability the Bayou Bengals front four has is absurd. The NFL stars keep on coming through Baton Rouge, and it should be quite the matchup when they go up against Christine Michael and the Aggies tremendous offensive line.

    It should be a great matchup for the entire game, but Michael will take his fair share of licks in this one because LSU’s defense is just next level greatness. 

Marqise Lee, USC

18 of 50

    Oct. 4 (at Utah)

    Arguably the best NFL draft prospect in two seasons (save Mr. Watkins), Marqise Lee is a spectacular talent to look forward to in 2012 and 2013.

    Matt Barkley only has one more season left throwing to this stud and you should bank on the two connecting on several large gains.

    However, with Robert Woods and several other USC targets on the field at once, it might be tough for this Trojans to bank on anything more than an All-Pac 12 and or All-American type of season.

    Note: It isn’t necessarily one game as opposed to the spread out stars on this USC squad that will prevent Lee from winning the Heisman. Plus, Matt Barkley is the home-run choice to win the Heisman so taking any votes away from him would be insane to think.

De’Anthony Thomas, Oregon

19 of 50

    Known as the “Black Mamba” due to his electric, explosive, electrifying home runs that we have seen him go off on, De’Anthony Thomas is a young star of all youngsters.

    This track superstar is arguably the most explosive player on the planet regardless of positions, but it is tough to become a Heisman favorite in Chip Kelly’s unstoppable offense.

    There are several other options on the team that will post staggering numbers, and even if the Ducks run the table, anything more than a Heisman invite would be a complete shock (at least for 2012).

Marquess Wilson, Washington State

20 of 50

    Sept. 29 (vs. ORE)

    This underrated receiver has the capability to go bonkers in Mike Leach’s pass-happy offense. Marquess Wilson is a name you do not want to forget this season because he will be targeted early and often.

    A long, lanky and underrated red-zone possession receiving freak should have an excellent chance to be in the final running for the Biletnikoff award.

    The Ducks defense is so quick though that Wilson will not know what hit his Cougars offense.

    Look for some tremendous numbers at the end of the season once again, but it won’t be enough (along with enough team success) to make a dream run at the Heisman.

Keith Price, Washington

21 of 50

    Sept. 8 (at LSU)

    It won’t take very long for Keith Price to get a real strong test. Many will write off UW perhaps after this contest, but the talent around Price is extremely talented.

    If they can stay healthy, the Huskies have a great chance at finishing as high as third in the Pac-12. Still, the Bayou Bengals defense up front is as strong as any team in the nation.

    Prince may get brutalized in this one and we can only hope he does not miss any sort of time with the Pac-12 schedule looming just a few weeks later. 

Robert Woods, USC

22 of 50

    Oct. 4 (at Utah)

    Robert Woods is arguably the best receiver in the country despite the fact that some feel he is not even the No. 1 receiver on his own team.

    Woods alongside Marqise Lee, are both of Matt Barkley’s favorite targets. Woods will not draw a whole lot of double coverage with Lee on the opposite side of him, so look for improved numbers in 2012.

    Still, the touchdowns will come and go since he is just a receiver at the end of the day, though USC’s offense will be one of the most entertaining to watch. 

Tajh Boyd, Clemson

23 of 50

    Sept. 22 (at FSU)

    This Tigers quarterback has played like an All-American and then he has played like a typical Clemson player.

    No shots intended at such a prestigious program, but this squad has been the so called “sexy” team for several seasons and they always end up disappointing us. Perhaps, the expectations have not been reasonable although a guy like Sammy Watkins will make you think of the top achievement.

    If Boyd can cut down on the turnovers and improve upon his accuracy, I would bank on the Tigers and Boyd going a far way in the near future. Just knowing that Watkins will be around for another season after his 2012 campaign is making ACC fans around the country frightened.

    This season will not be easy and going up against an aggressive, attacking and relentless FSU defense could be the downfall of a magical Heisman run. 

Kenny Stills, Oklahoma

24 of 50

    Oct. 13 (vs. TX)

    This top-notch Boomer Sooner receiver will be looked at a ton by Landry Jones. Hauling in 61 passes for 849 yards and eight TDs a season ago was solid.

    However, the Sooners will need others to stretch the field or else their potent passing attack will struggle. The perfect matchup to watch for will be against the Longhorns' extraordinary defense that is loaded with defensive backs. 

Tavon Austin, West Virginia

25 of 50

    Oct. 6 (at TX)

    This all-purpose machine just scored against Clemson again. Hauling in 11 passes for four TDs and 123 yards officially made this star a national household name.

    If he can continue to go off with Geno Smith threading the needle, this Mountaineer may surprise some folks although it still far-fetched to see him in the Heisman race.

Teddy Bridgewater, Louisville

26 of 50

    Sept. 15 (vs. UNC)

    The ‘Ville will be a fun team to watch with Charlie Strong as its head coach, but Teddy Bridgewater should be the main reason why.

    A true sophomore heading into the season, this youngster is a star on the rise that will catch the entire nation by surprise. The Big East competition is tough, but the non-conference will be even tougher this year.

    A young and upcoming Tar Heels defense will be primed and ready to dethrone the Big East favorites.

Keenan Allen, California

27 of 50

    Sept. 15 (at OSU)

    Nearly posting triple-digit receptions a season ago (98), Keenan Allen should have another sensational season with Zach Maynard (half-brother) threading the needle towards his way.

    Cal was a balanced offense one season ago and it should only improve in 2012.

    The only problem is that the defense should decline which could limit the possessions and more importantly the opportunities to post improved individual numbers (for Allen).

Ray Graham, Pittsburgh

28 of 50

    Sept. 15 (vs. VT)

    The Virginia Tech Hokies defense led by defensive coordinator Bud Foster has been terrorizing opposing backfields for decades.

    Since joining the ACC, Foster has had a top two defense in all but one season (2010). The Hokies will be on the road, but they should have no issues keeping a close eye on Ray Graham.

    A very talented back that is capable of posting several 100-plus yard games, he should be stymied against a motivated bunch that is also talented.

Stepfan Taylor, Stanford

29 of 50

    Sept. 15 (vs. USC)

    This Cardinal runner is a workhorse and then some, and many could argue there is has not been a better incoming active back in the country these days. Stepfan Taylor is a stud and Stanford will ride him as far as he can take them.

    However, without Andrew Luck around, the Pac-12 will tee off and key on his productive star and he may not be capable of carrying this team against the USCs and Oregons of the world.

Kenjon Barner, Oregon

30 of 50

    Nov. 3 (at USC)

    Oregon will likely face off with the USC Trojans on two separate occasions, but Kenjon Barner should not have many issues against any other defenses out there.

    USC’s isn’t the most talented out there either, but the back seven sure is talented. Their depth is questioned, but they have youngsters waiting in the wings and Barner will be tested towards the end of the season.

    He will be asked to shoulder the bulk of the load, but De’Anthony Thomas may steal a few electrifying touchdowns that will likely cost Barner a chance at appearing in NYC.

Tyler Bray, Tennessee

31 of 50

    Sept. 29 (at UGA)

    When the Vols and ‘Dawgs matchup in late September, many fans will not be watching, but this may very well rank as your most exciting matchup in the month of September for SEC East squads.

    That may seem crazy and that is no disrespect for arguably the best (or second best) squad in the East (South Carolina), but Tyler Bray and his star receivers will be going up against a tremendous UGA defense and secondary that will have Bacarri Rambo back from likely four-game suspension.

    Bray is a star in the making if he can remain healthy, but he will need to put up big numbers and will have to find a way to upset a likely top-10 UGA team.

Casey Pachall, TCU

32 of 50

    Nov. 24 (at TX)

    This Horned Frog will need to step his game up against the Big 12 because his defense will not be shutting any teams out.

    The great news is that Casey Pachall is developing into a star passer and his backs and receivers are talented enough to expose some of the defenses in the Big 12. Josh Boyce is one stud that could see great numbers, although TCU and Pachall have proven to spread the wealth.

    One game that Pachall better bring his “A” game to is in Austin against the Longhorns.

    It would be quite the accomplishment if Pachall can even remain among the candidates in late November, but a poor showing would drop him a far way down the rankings.

Logan Thomas, Virginia Tech

33 of 50

    Oct. 20 (at CU)

    The Clemson Tigers always seem to get up for huge home games, and although the Seminoles defense should easily be the toughest VT faces all season, this matchup in October could be the toughest one.

    Plus, Logan Thomas does not have a bunch of experienced playmakers around him so this road test may decide if the beast of a Hokies signal-caller has any chance at becoming the dark horse candidate to win the Heisman.

Joseph Randle, Oklahoma State

34 of 50

    Sept. 29 (vs. TX)

    The Longhorns defense will be fun to watch, but so too will the Pokes offense (again). Wes Lunt is the new starter, but Randle is a touchdown machine.

    However, look for the Longhorns to slow the game down by running the ball when they have the ball, and the defense will be key on Randle throughout this one.

Denard Robinson, Michigan

35 of 50

    Oct. 20 (vs. MSU)

    Most may look at the season opener against Alabama, but his Heisman will not be lost if the Wolverines lose that game.

    That is a bunch of malarkey since his Heisman fate will be decided in games against Nebraska, Ohio State and Michigan State.

    The Buckeyes and Spartans have sensational defenses, but the rivalry game against MSU is vital. Not only has “Shoelace” never beaten MSU, but this matchup will likely decide who plays in the Big Ten title game.

    Always questioned as a pure passer, Robinson will be running for his life in this game and the Maize and Blue faithful can only hope he can go off when it matters most.

AJ McCarron, Alabama

36 of 50

    Nov. 3 (at LSU)

    Whether Alabama wins or loses against the Bayou Bengals in early November, McCarron needs to perform well.

    Struggling the first time around did not cost his team a victory, but it would have helped if the Tide offense could have mustered enough offense to not attempt four field goals.

    The second time around in the BCS National Championship Game, McCarron looked like a completely different player because quite frankly he was.

    Alabama saw a young star in front of their very own eyes as McCarron threw for 234 yards against the best defense on the planet (minus its own).

    The array of accurate throws he made was magnificent to witness, but he will need to back it all up again or else he likely won’t get an invite with so many other All-American candidates at the quarterback position.  

Sammy Watkins, Clemson

37 of 50

    Sept. 22 (at FSU)

    Sammy Watkins became just the third freshman to be named an All-American and many believe he is the most athletic, gifted player in the entire country.

    If Tajh Boyd can find him at will when Watkins comes back (if he does get suspended, most say there is no doubt including Dabo), there is a chance that he gets an invite to New York.

    However, that would only occur if he goes bonkers against nearly of his opponents and that includes a talented Seminoles secondary led by Xavier Rhodes.

Tyrann Mathieu, LSU

38 of 50

    Nov. 3 (vs. Bama)

    LSU defeated the Crimson Tide in Tuscaloosa when we thought it mattered most, but we learned that was not the case.

    Tyrann Mathieu went off in the SEC title game against Georgia, but he struggled mightily against the Tide in the BCS National Championship Game.

    Plus, the little Twitter war the “King” had against Alabama’s quarterback A.J. McCarron certainly makes this game all that more intriguing. Simply put, these were the best two teams in the country last season and many believe they will be right there once again.

    A defensive player has not won the Heisman since 1997, when Charles Woodson won it and Mathieu might have the best opportunity to give every offense performer a run for his money if he were to get by the Tide.

Knile Davis, Arkansas

39 of 50

    Oct. 6 (at AU)

    The Razorbacks may not suffer an early season loss to Alabama, but if they lose twice before November then we should not expect much from Knile Davis in terms of appearing in NYC for the Heisman ceremony.

    Davis was arguably the hottest back in the country two seasons ago heading the stretch, but suffering a devastating season-ending ankle injury cost him all of the 2011 season.

    Auburn’s defense was 94th against the run last season (189 YPG) and 81st in total defense (408 YPG), but they have nearly everybody back in 2012.

    Look for a slugfest in this SEC West battle, but if Arkansas were to slip up, then we could be looking at an Arkansas team that goes from BCS and SEC contenders to pretenders. 

Braxton Miller, Ohio State

40 of 50

    Sept. 29 (at MSU)

    Certainly some fans and voters may be against having Braxton Miller win the Heisman let alone get voted to NYC, but if the Buckeye passer is the best country next season then we need to vote as such.

    Ohio State was absolutely dreadful when passing the ball last season (115th), but there should be improvements made with Urban Meyer around.

    A ton of young receivers may surprise us every weekend, but it is in Miller’s hands on whether he has any shot at becoming a superstar in 2012

Rex Burkhead, Nebraska

41 of 50

    Oct. 6 (at OSU)

    The Buckeyes will likely rank among the 10 best in the country in total defense and they will load the box against Rex Burkhead.

    An All-American caliber of a back, Burkhead will face eight- and nine-man fronts in 2012 until Taylor Martinez lets the nation understand that he can dissect them to death.

    Certainly that is a lack of a respect at the moment, but the Huskers’ receiver need to step up his game (should improve vastly). Burkhead is not just a hard-nosed runner, but he is a sensational pass-catcher for his position.

    Still, the Big Ten schools do not get nearly as much hype as the SEC (for the obvious reasons), so teams like Nebraska need to run the table or come darn near close if they expect any Heisman front-runners.

Aaron Murray, Georgia

42 of 50

    Dec. 1 (SEC Championship)

    The Bulldogs will be hungry in 2012 because everything is lined up for them to return to the SEC title game in consecutive seasons.

    They obviously must win the SEC East before even thinking about challenging for a BCS title, and certainly they would not have a Heisman contender if  they suffer more than one loss.

    Aaron Murray is the strongest candidate on his team, but running the table would have to be a must if UGA expects to have an invitee to NYC let alone a Heisman winner anytime soon. 

Collin Klein, Kansas State

43 of 50

    Sept. 22 (at OU)

    The Wildcats were knocked unconscious against Oklahoma last season and another tough loss would end any hope for Collin Klein’s Heisman campaign.

Marcus Lattimore, South Carolina

44 of 50

    Oct. 6 (vs. UGA)

    The previous week Marcus Lattimore and his squad could be looking ahead to the top-ranked team in the country.

    LSU’s defense is sensational and it's as good as it gets, but the pivotal matchup against UGA should be thrilling.

    This not only has BCS title implications, but the SEC East and potential BCS ifs will be on the line. Also, the Heisman will have a large say in this game with Aaron Murray of UGA going up against SC’s Lattimore.

    Lattimore is a beast and then some against the Bulldogs defense though. UGA has arguably the best group of linebackers out there, but the guys has been insane through two seasons.

    Sixty-seven touches for 382 yards and three TDs in just two career games against UGA is simply absurd!

    If Lattimore were to have anywhere near the caliber of a game that he has already given us, the Heisman voters better pay close attention. If his team loses and Lattimore struggles though, he may have to kiss that invite to New York bye-bye.

Geno Smith, West Virginia

45 of 50

    Oct. 6 (at TX)

    Sure, Geno Smith and the Mountaineers can win the Big 12 with just a lone loss against the Longhorns.

    However, the Texas defense will rank among the best in college football in 2012 and his performance will decide just how high he ranks in the Heisman race.

EJ Manuel, Florida State

46 of 50

    Nov. 8 (at VT)

    EJ Manuel could have a huge season coming up for him in Tallahassee thanks to a schedule that any ranked team would fall in love with.

    Staying healthy is vital since FSU lost three of their four games without Manuel in the starting lineup. Manuel has not thrown an interception in his last 121 passing attempts, which just goes to show how talented he is.

    Throw in one of the most talented receiving corps in America, and the Seminoles could finally return to the promise land.

    That is if he can find a way to get past a tremendous Hokies defense on what should be an electrifying Thursday night that nobody will want to miss.

Landry Jones, Oklahoma

47 of 50

    Nov. 17 (at WV)

    Last year’s albatross in Stillwater was an unforgettable night for the mighty Boomer Sooners. Against Oklahoma State, the program and mainly Landry Jones were atrocious.

    Humiliation would be an understatement and they need to prove they can win on the road against arguably the most explosive offense in the country.

    Jones has to cut down on the interceptions and will need to carry his team to victory regardless of who he has catching passes for him.

Tyler Wilson, Arkansas

48 of 50

    Sept. 15 (vs. Alabama)

    The Crimson Tide absolutely obliterated Tyler Wilson a season ago and even with a new Alabama defense, things may not change a whole lot in 2012.

    There seems to be some hatred on the Razorbacks, but they clearly have the best QB-RB duo in the country and their receiving corps are easily among the top 10 in the nation.

    That offensive line has not been able to rise to the occasion in their biggest of games (mainly vs. Bama I am talking about). Wilson is one of the toughest kids in the game and he better be able to stand up and make throws while getting smoked in the pocket.

    If he has an awful game against an awfully impressive defense, his Heisman hopes could be gone before October rolls along.

Montee Ball, Wisconsin

49 of 50

    Sept. 29 (vs. Nebraska)

    The Badgers are favored to get back to the Big Ten title and many are suspecting that they will land in Pasadena again.

    The main reason is because one of the best players in the entire country has returned to Madison in Montee Ball.

    Coming off a total of 39 TDs, Ball is primed to take the Badgers back to the promise land. Pasadena is just that, but they have lost two in a row and Wisconsin will get a few tough challenges that may prevent them from reaching the “Grand Daddy of them all” for a third consecutive season.

    The Huskers are my dark horse in the Big Ten because they have all of their top pieces returning and many are sleeping on such a talented team that has a great schedule.

    Nebraska get the Badgers at night in Lincoln and we know the crowd will be in frenzy mode.

    If Wisconsin loses, it may come to a late season matchup with the Buckeyes (Nov. 17) just for Ball to stand a chance at perhaps even getting invited depending on how many times he reaches paydirt. 

Matt Barkley, USC

50 of 50

    Nov. 3 and Nov. 30 (vs. Oregon, Pac-12 Championship)

    The USC Trojans are likely headed for the No. 1 ranking and they have a few heavyweight matchups that could help put Matt Barkley ahead of the entire nation.

    Those games would include Utah (Oct. 4), Washington (Oct. 13), Notre Dame (Nov. 24) and Oregon (Nov. 30). However, it very well may come to that likely second game against the Oregon Ducks that decide the Trojan signal-caller his Heisman fate.

    Win or lose against Oregon in the first contest, a virtuoso performance in the Pac-12 could lift Barkley into the category of legends.

    Many are already discussing himself as potentially the most successful USC quarterback to ever play if he could accomplish a few tough tasks: Pac-12 title, bonkers stats, BCS title and that coveted Heisman.

    Note: On the record for USC losing to Oregon in the regular season but defeating them in Eugene for the Pac-12 title

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