Here’s a snapshot list of who we think has the best shot of actually winning the Heisman this season. This is NOT the predicted order of the voting. We’ll go into more detail on the issues surrounding these individuals later.
The Big 3
1. (tie) Reggie Bush of USC; Chris Leak of Florida: We kept going back and forth on these two and decided to split the difference. Bush occupies one of the great Heisman legacies–the position of USC tailback. However, he shares the spotlight with last year’s Heisman winner, Matt Leinart. Leak has built a solid resume (very important in Heisman circles) and now has a great coach to put him in position to put up huge numbers. However, he will be captive to the fortunes of his team (despite our ranking them No. 2, the Gators are not a fait accompli to go undefeated).
3. Vince Young, Texas: He’s a fourth-year junior quarterback on a traditional power that will be ranked in the top 10 most of the season. In other words, he’s pretty well in tune with The Heismandments.
The Next Group
4. Reggie McNeal, Texas A&M: He’s fairly well known and is coming off a good season. Like Leak, his Heisman fortunes will be wedded to his team’s performance.
5. Adrian Peterson, Oklahoma: The second Heismandment states that the winner of the Heisman must be a junior or senior. But, Peterson was the beneficiary of so much attention last season that he may be able to break through it. However, we have an inkling that it will be much tougher for him this season without Jason White.
6. Matt Leinart, USC: Like Peterson, he is going up against a Heismandment (No. 9) and is going to have a hard time breaking through. Like Jason White, he will earn a pat on the back on his way to a top 3 showing in the voting, but it’s a longshot for him to win it. There are many reasons, among them the presence of Bush in his backfield, the possibility of his stats suffering due to sitting on the bench during blowouts and the distinct chance of a Leinart overdose on the part of the Heisman voters. The one thing that could push him through to another trophy is USC’s run at a historic third-straight championship. If the Trojans get there, Leinart may get most of the credit.
7. Brady Quinn, Notre Dame: He is a junior quarterback playing for Notre Dame. Say no more. If he has a great year and leads the Irish back, he’s a very strong candidate.
8. Drew Tate, Iowa: Can challenge using the same formula as 2002 Heisman runner up Brad Banks. Except unlike Banks at the same juncture, he’s already a known name.
The Real Longshots
9. Maurice Drew, UCLA: This exciting back will likely have more all-purpose yards than Bush and will get a chance to upstage the Trojan tailback at season’s end. Still, he’s going to need the Bruins to have a dream season to really have a shot.
10. Lawrence Maroney, Minnesota: He could lead the nation in rushing, but it’s next to impossible for a Golden Gopher to win the Heisman.