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Row12.com - A Community of Sports Writers and Fans!                                               ***Attention Writers***
 
2012 Heisman Trophy Preview
By Matt Horkman

Montee Ball, RB, Wisconsin
2011 Stats: 2,229 yards (306 receiving) & 39 touchdowns (6 receiving)

Why he’ll win: Wisconsin marches to their third consecutive Rose Bowl, while the spotlight shifts from QB Russell Wilson (now starting in Seattle) to Ball. The Badger running back is coming off a 39-touchdown season, which tied Barry Sanders’ FBS record.

Why he won’t: The Badgers are good, but Wilson -- not Ball -- made them fun to watch last season. The excitement fades as the Badgers lean more on their running game and a swarming defense.

Prediction: Running behind one of college football’s nastiness offensive lines, Ball produces another All-American caliber season, but fails to match the 39 touchdowns from last year. More important, Wisconsin loses to Michigan in the Big Ten championship, thus ending Ball’s Heisman campaign.

Matt Barkley, QB, USC
2011 Stats: 3,528 passing yards, 41 touchdowns (2 rushing), & 7 interceptions

Why he’ll win: After a two-year bowl ban, USC returns to the center of college football’s stage. The Trojans enter the season as the No. 1 ranked team in the polls and tear through the Pac-12 en route to two showdowns with Oregon -- one of which for the Pac-12 championship. Winning both games delivers Barkley the Heisman trophy.

Why he won’t: USC might be the most talented team in the Pac-12, but the recruiting penalties from the previous two years leaves their depth weaken. In addition, Barkley can’t overcome the scrutiny that most preseason Heisman frontrunners receive.

Prediction: In returning to USC for his senior year, Barkley follows the trail left behind by Andrew Luck. Like Luck, Barkley plays consistent and cements himself as the No. 1 overall pick in the 2013 NFL Draft. However, he fails to wow voters and finishes second in the Heisman voting.

Landry Jones, QB, Oklahoma
2011 Stats: 4,463 passing yards, 31 touchdowns (2 rushing), & 15 interceptions

Why he’ll win: Nobody plays defense in the Big 12, which allows Jones to throw for 4,000-plus yards and 30-plus touchdowns. Oklahoma wins the Big 12 championship with only one loss and they sneak into the BCS championship game.

Why he won’t: Forcing the football is a problematic trait for Jones, who threw 15 interceptions last season. He’ll throw nearly double the amount of interceptions that Barkley throws and voters don’t take turnovers kindly, even if Oklahoma finishes ahead of USC in the BCS standings.

Prediction: Led by Jones, the Sooners march out to a 9-0 start and find themselves No. 1 in the polls. The Oklahoma quarterback emerges as the Heisman frontrunner, but late-season drama occurs when the Sooners lose two of their final three games. The losses shake-up college football’s landscape, knocks Oklahoma out of the national title picture, and ends Jones’ Heisman quest.

Marcus Lattimore, RB, South Carolina
2011 Stats: 1000 yards (182 receiving) & 11 touchdowns (1 receiving)

Why he’ll win: Leading the Gamecocks to an upset over Alabama or LSU in the SEC championship elevates Lattimore’s candidacy. Running rampant over the SEC sends a strong message, as the conference reigns supreme over all others.

Why he won’t: The odds aren’t good. The Gamecocks face strong opposition from Georgia in the eastern division and overcoming Alabama or LSU is no small task.

Prediction: A victory over Georgia on October 6 boosts South Carolina’s standing in the polls. Lattimore emerges as a legitimate contender after performing well on the big stage, but his momentum comes to a crushing halt after South Carolina drops the following two games to Florida and LSU. The two conference losses end up knocking the Gamecocks out the SEC championship.

E.J. Manuel, QB, Florida State
2011 Stats: 2,817 yards (151 rushing), 22 touchdowns (4 rushing), & 8 interceptions

Why he’ll win: Manuel leading Florida State back to prominence by winning the ACC championship, and possibly playing for the national title, would have the college football world buzzing. Never underestimate a good story.

Why he won’t: We’ve heard this story before. In fact, it was just last season that many prognosticators picked Florida State to emerge from the ACC. They were barely an ACC championship contender, let alone a national championship threat.

Prediction: In late September, Clemson travels to Doak Campbell Stadium for a showdown with the Seminoles. The game draws a national audience, as both teams are undefeated, and ranked in the top 10. The experts pick FSU. Manuel plays well, but Clemson still wins. His hype fades, as a result.

Aaron Murray, QB, Georgia
2011 Stats: 3,149 passing yards, 37 touchdowns (2 rushing), & 14 interceptions

Why he’ll win: It’s not how your start. It’s how you finish. Georgia’s a sneaky national championship pick for this reason. The Bulldogs finish on a six-game winning streak and play Alabama in the SEC championship. Murray leads the Bulldogs to an upset earning a place in the BCS championship game.

Why he’ll lose: I like Georgia. I like them a lot, but Alabama always comes ready to play. Nick Saban’s defense rattles Murray and the Bulldogs fall to Alabama.

Prediction: The dominos begin to fall into play. South Carolina knocks off Georgia early, but the Bulldogs finish 11-1 and find themselves playing Alabama for the SEC championship. Murray struggles. Bama wins. Heisman candidacy is over.

Denard Robinson, QB, Michigan
2011 Stats: 3,349 yards (1,176 rushing), 36 touchdowns (16 rushing), & 15 interceptions

Why he’ll win: After years of mediocrity, Michigan gives Alabama all they can handle in the opener, but fall short. Nevertheless, they lose only one more game (at Nebraska), as Robinson runs wild through the Big Ten, including a convincing performance against Wisconsin in the Big Ten championship.Denard Robinson

Why he won’t: While he’s exciting to watch, Robinson’s a reckless player. An extended injury would end any hope of a New York invite.

Prediction: Robinson stays healthy, throws for 2,500-plus yards, and adds another 1,500 yards rushing. His performances against Ohio State (in Columbus) and Wisconsin put him in a two horse race against Barkley. Michigan goes to the Rose Bowl. They bring a Heisman trophy winner with them. 

De’Anthony Thomas, RB, Oregon
2011 Stats: 2,235 all-purpose yards & 18 touchdowns (9 receiving)

Why he’ll win: Coming off a strong Rose Bowl performance, Thomas is capable of 2,500 all-purpose yards and a 25-touchdown campaign. Those are Heisman-worthy numbers, but only if Oregon’s star playmaker leads his team to victory over USC. In fact, he may have to do it twice.

Why he won’t: Thomas lacks a true position as Chip Kelley likes to employ him all over the field. This has both pros and cons. He’ll be able to produce statistics in various ways, but he’s also not likely to touch the ball a lot.

Prediction: The Ducks knock USC off in their first meeting, but fall to them the second time. The Trojans end up in the BCS Championship and the Ducks get an at-large bid to a major Bowl. Thomas isn’t invited to the ceremony, but he positions himself as one of next season’s frontrunners.

Logan Thomas, QB, Virginia Tech
2011 Stats: 3,482 yards (469 rushing), 30 touchdowns (11 rushing), & 10 interceptions

Why he’ll win: Thomas lives up to his comparisons to former Heisman winning QB Cam Newton. The Virginia Tech star leads the Hokies to an ACC championship win over Clemson, and with one loss, sneak into the national championship game.

Why he won’t: We’re talking about a raw player that’s mostly unproven on the national stage. Games against Clemson and Florida State are important, but another hiccup in the ACC championship would put to rest any Newton comparisons.

Prediction: Building on last year’s late-season surge, Thomas leads Virginia Tech to an ACC championship. The junior quarterback creates a buzz and cements himself as next year’s Heisman frontrunner.

Sammy Watkins, WR, Clemson
2011 Stats: 82 receptions, 1,219 yards, & 12 touchdowns

Why he’ll win: The Tigers run the table and play for the national championship. Watkins actually tops last season's performance. He’s especially clutch in Clemson’s final two games versus archrival South Carolina and in the ACC championship against Virginia Tech.

Why he won’t: His two-game suspension hurts, and frankly, I’m only including him on the list because I didn’t want all quarterbacks and running backs. In today’s era, wide receivers simply don’t win the Heisman trophy. 

Prediction: Despite the suspension, Watkins has another sensational year, but his Heisman candidacy doesn’t gain any ground. He enters 2013 on the Heisman radar, though both De’Anthony and Logan Thomas create a bigger buzz.

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