2010 Heisman Trophy Race: Five Dark Horse Candidates

Matt RudnitskyCorrespondent IOctober 4, 2010

2010 Heisman Trophy Race: Five Dark Horse Candidates

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    NEW YORK - DECEMBER 12:  Running back Mark Ingram #22 of the Alabama Crimson talks to the media during a press conference after being named the 75th Heisman Trophy winner at the Marriott Marquis on December 12, 2009 in New York City.  (Photo by Chris Trot
    Chris Trotman/Getty Images

    With the college football season already five weeks old, quite a few players have established themselves as the Heisman front runners.

    Denard Robinson may be running away with the award with his ridiculous mass of total yards, but he has some worthy company at the top.

    Easily in the conversation for the award is last year's winner Mark Ingram, as well as Terrelle Pryor, Ryan Mallett, and Andrew Luck.

    But despite most of the attention going to these players, there are a few other stars that have been quietly gathering impressive statistics, building their own very legitimate Heisman candidacies while much of the world dismisses them as serious threats.

    These five players are dark horses to win the Heisman—don't be surprised if they earn invitations to New York.

Kealoha Pilares, WR, Hawaii

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    HONOLULU - SEPTEMBER 2:  Kealoha Pilares of the University of Hawaii Warriors  scores a touchdown during secondhalf action at Aloha Stadium September 2, 2010 in Honolulu, Hawaii. (Photo by Kent Nishimura/Getty Images)
    Kent Nishimura/Getty Images

    Kealoha who?

    Pilares, a WR in the high-flying Hawaii system that produced Colt Brennan’s record-setting season (in which current Miami Dolphin Davone Bess put up video-game-like stats), is flying under the radar with otherworldly receiving numbers.

    Take his numbers last week into perspective:

    Eighteen receptions, 217 yards, two TDs.

    Absolutely unreal.

    If he stays on his current pace, he’ll produce staggering numbers of 101 receptions, 1,773 yards, and 23 TDs.

    His team, system, and position will assuredly keep him from winning the award, but if he puts up this gaudy stat line and a few others drop off, he could certainly merit an invite to the ceremony.

Ben Chappell, QB, Indiana

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    BLOOMINGTON, IN - NOVEMBER 01:  Quarterback Ben Chappell #4 of the Indiana Hooisers passes the ball downfield during the game against the Central Michigan Chippewas at Memorial Stadium on November 1, 2008 in Bloomington, Indiana.  (Photo by Andy Lyons/Get
    Andy Lyons/Getty Images

    This fifth-year senior is putting up ridiculous passing numbers and is getting almost no recognition.

    His subpar team will definitely prevent him from finishing first in the race, but at this pace, he could easily earn an invite to the ceremony.

    On pace for 4,110 yards, 36 TDs, and three INT with a 71.6 completion percentage, Chappell has arguably the best passing numbers in college football.

    The fact that he has played one less game than many of his peers puts him slightly lower down on the passing yards list for now, but he is averaging 342.5 passing yards per game.

    This should certainly garner him some Heisman discussion.

Cameron Newton, QB, Auburn

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    AUBURN, AL - SEPTEMBER 25:  Quarterback Cameron Newton #2 of the Auburn Tigers against the South Carolina Gamecocks at Jordan-Hare Stadium on September 25, 2010 in Auburn, Alabama.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
    Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

    The former backup to Tim Tebow at Florida has gotten some Heisman recognition, but with Michigan’s Denard Robinson and Ohio State’s Terrelle Pryor cornering the market of attention for dual-threat quarterbacks, Newton hasn’t been hyped as much as he should be.

    Newton is currently the most efficient quarterback in the nation, with an astounding QB rating of 191.44.

    Now let’s take a moment to compare that to the QB ratings of the last few Heisman winners who were quarterbacks:

    2008: Sam Bradford: 180.84

    2007: Tim Tebow: 164.17

    2006: Troy Smith: 161.91

    2004: Matt Leinart: 156.54

    Newton compares favorably with all of them, and when you combine his efficiency with his 17 total touchdowns and 474 rushing yards, you’ll see why he deserves to be discussed as a Heisman favorite.

    If Cam can excel in upcoming games against Arkansas, LSU, and Alabama, the nation certainly won’t continue overlooking him.

Kellen Moore, QB, Boise State

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    BOISE, ID - SEPTEMBER 25:  Quarterback Kellen Moore #11 of the Boise State Broncos looks for a receiver against the Oregon State Beaversat Bronco Stadium on September 25, 2010 in Boise, Idaho.  (Photo by Otto Kitsinger III/Getty Images)
    Otto Kitsinger III/Getty Images

    A year removed from a 3,536-yard season with an astounding 39:3 TD-INT ratio, Moore is on pace for a similarly incredible 33 TDs and three INT.

    Moore is always talked about as a bottom-tier candidate, but it seems like no one takes his chances seriously because of his team’s cupcake schedule.

    But after dominant performances against Virginia Tech and Oregon State, he deserves to be talked about in the same sentence as the top candidates and not cast off as an afterthought.

LaMichael James, RB, Oregon

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    EUGENE, OR - OCTOBER 2: Running back LaMichael James #21 of the Oregon Ducks celebrates as he scores a touchdown in the second quarter of the game against the Stanford Cardinal at Autzen Stadium on October 2, 2010 in Eugene, Oregon. (Photo by Steve Dykes/
    Steve Dykes/Getty Images

    LaMichael James is certainly on the Heisman radar, but the fact that people seem to put Mark Ingram ahead of him consistently is absolutely absurd.

    Ingram is a great player, perhaps the best player, on the best team in the nation, but the fact that he missed two games will almost assuredly put his stats a clear notch below James’.

    Ingram is averaging an astounding 7.9 YPC, but James is averaging 8.0.

    At his current pace, James would account for 1,709 rushing yards and 17 TDs, even better than Ingram’s numbers of 1,658 yards and 17 TDs last year when he won the award.

    James has a pretty big head start on Ingram to be the top running back in college football, and if he can simply keep up with Ingram the rest of the way, he’ll have a great chance to win the Heisman Trophy.

    Matt Rudnitsky is a student at the University of Michigan and a writing intern at Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter at https://twitter.com/Mattrud