2011 College Football Rankings: Top 7 Heisman Trophy Underdogs

Eric BowmanFeatured ColumnistAugust 4, 2011

2011 College Football Rankings: Top 7 Heisman Trophy Underdogs

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    The Heisman Trophy is something all skill players set out to win. At the beginning of the season, it's always clear as to who the favorites are, but sometimes a player comes out of nowhere to win the trophy. 

    Take last year for example: Nobody knew who Cam Newton was until he began turning heads after a few weeks into the season. 

    The list that follows features very talented players that have a small chance of winning the Heisman Trophy. If these guys play up to their full potential and then some, they could very well find themselves in New York at the end of the season. 

    Here are seven underdog Heisman candidates for the 2011 college football season. 

7. Bryant Moniz

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    Bryant Moniz is the quarterback for the Hawaii Warriors. In 2010, Moniz threw for 5,040 yards and 39 touchdowns. He also completed 65 percent of his passes. 

    The veteran quarterback shouldn't have any trouble dominating the Western Athletic Conference once again this season. Luckily for Moniz, he doesn't have to play against the Boise State Broncos, who held him to only 127 passing yards last year. 

    If Moniz can go undefeated in 2011 and have even better stats than he did a year ago, then a Heisman trophy is a possibility. The fact that he plays in the WAC hurts his case, but it doesn't hurt that he and Hawaii are campaigning for the Heisman.  

6. Ryan Tannehill

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    Ryan Tannehill began the 2010 season as a wide receiver for the Texas A&M Aggies. Then head coach Mike Sherman made a great decision and moved Tannehill to the starting quarterback spot during the middle of the season. 

    He threw for over 1,600 yards and 13 touchdowns in only seven starts at quarterback. He also completed 65 percent of his passes.

    With a full season for the Aggies in 2011, Tannehill's numbers will greatly improve. His Aggies are in prime position to pull big upsets in the Big 12, and if Tannehill finds a way to continue to win, a Heisman Trophy could be in his future. 

5. Dan Persa

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    Northwestern Wildcats quarterback Dan Persa is doing his best to make his name known. The senior QB has begun a Heisman campaign that features him on billboards and sending out dumbbells to members of the media.

    Persa went down with an Achilles injury with only a few games remaining in the 2010 season after throwing for over 2,500 yards, 15 touchdowns and completed 73.5 percent of his passes. The 22-year-old also ran for 519 yards and nine touchdowns. 

    A fully healthy season for Persa will do wonders for his stats. He'll have to win games though if he wants to win the Heisman. The Wildcats are a team you shouldn't sleep on this year, but Persa will have to be the one that wins them games. 

4. Michael Dyer

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    Michael Dyer will be the main man at Auburn this season. After a stellar freshman year, the Auburn running back is too good to have a sophomore slump. 

    He ran the ball 182 times and rushed for 1,080 yards but only five touchdowns. Dyer's stats will significantly increase in 2011 because Cam Newton is no longer behind center. 

    Dyer averaged six yards per carry, and that's something that won't change in 2011. The Tigers will be counting on Dyer quite a lot this season, and there is a good chance he produces at a very high level. Perhaps even Heisman like. 

3. Knile Davis

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    It took Knile Davis five starts last year to really get it going. Despite his early struggles, Davis still finished 2010 with over 1,300 rushing yards and 13 touchdowns. Davis also averaged six and a half yards per carry. 

    With Ryan Mallett having left for the NFL, the Arkansas Razorbacks will heavily rely on the legs of Davis. He will help make the transition for Tyler Wilson much easier because of his ability to make defenders miss and get into the secondary. Davis had two rushes last season that went for 70 yards or more. 

    Davis won't falter in the early portion of the 2011 season, which means he could very well rush for close to 2,000 yards this year. He'll need a season like that if he wants to win the Heisman, and the Razorbacks will also need to win the tough SEC West. 

2. Geno Smith

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    The Big East is very weak this year, which means Geno Smith has a chance to tear it apart. The quarterback for the West Virginia Mountaineers is coming off a solid 2010 season, and he is expected to do even better in 2011.

    Smith threw for over 2,700 yards ad 24 touchdowns last year. He also completed 65 percent of his passes.

    With a pretty decent schedule, Smith has a chance to own the Big East and put up some impressive numbers. He'll need to throw for well over 3,000 yards, 30 plus touchdowns and win a lot. 

    His toughest game is against LSU in Week 4, and if he finds a way to win that game then his Heisman campaign will begin. The 6'3", 210 pound quarterback has the skills to really shine in 2011.   

1. Taylor Martinez

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    Taylor Martinez broke onto the scene in 2010 as a dual threat quarterback for the Nebraska Cornhuskers. He threw for over 1,600 yards and 10 touchdowns, and he ran for over 900 yards and scored 12 touchdowns. 

    The sophomore split time at quarterback last season and also missed a few games. He'll need to be the starter all season long if he wants to be considered for the Heisman. Martinez must improve his passing skills in order for the Cornhuskers to have success in 2011.

    Nebraska makes the move to Big Ten this season, and if Martinez wants to have a shot at the Heisman he will have to throw for over 2,000 yards and rush for over 1,000. If Bo Pelini is right about his quarterbacks improvement, then watch out for Martinez in 2011. 

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