Here’s an early Heisman Watch for 2008, to be adjusted as time passes. This is not a projection of the eventual order of the voting, but a list of who has the best chance of actually winning the trophy:
1. Chris Wells, Ohio State–The clear front runner right now after showcasing his skills to the tune of 146 yards and a 65-yard touchdown against LSU that came while everyone in the country was still watching. He’s got speed, power and a stiff arm befitting a Heisman winner. He’s an elite junior running back, a prime NFL prospect, coming off a 1,600-yard season, who plays for a traditional power that will be gunning for a national title in 2008. He’ll get a chance to launch his campaign early with a marquee matchup in the Coliseum against USC and big games against Illinois and Michigan to close it out. In short, he’s set up perfectly for a run at the Heisman.
2. Pat White, West Virginia–He’s been around seemingly forever, but this is his senior year and he has a chance to go down as one of the winningest quarterbacks in NCAA history. Has any quarterback ever led his team to four 11-win seasons?
3. Chase Daniel, Missouri–Being a Heisman finalist this year will be a big boon to his candidacy next year. Howerver, it will be tough for the Tigers to duplicate their success.
4. Stafon Johnson, USC–Johnson was USC’s best running back last season, averaging almost seven yards per carry and, if given the shot, he could take full advantage of the love affair Heisman voters have traditionally had with Trojan tailbacks.
5. Steve Slaton, West Virginia–Slaton disappeared last year, in part due to injury and in part to the emergence of Noel Devine. If for some reason Devine has off-the-field issues or gets hurt (not a stretch by any means), Slaton’s numbers could once again be worthy of Heisman consideration.
6. Colt McCoy, Texas–His sophomore slump is out of the way, so now it may be time for McCoy to bounce back. He’s not flashy, but he’s the clear leader of the Longhorns.
7. Marlon Lucky, Nebraska–If and when Nebraska ever returns to the college football elite, you can be sure there will be a player given the credit for helping to make it happen. If it happens this year, it will be because of new coach Bo Pelini and, most likely, the production of Lucky.
8. Matthew Stafford, Georgia–The Dawgs are gunning for a national title, so Stafford will be in the spotlight. If he can put together a big season, he’ll be a serious candidate.
9. Ryan Perrilloux, LSU–The spread system run by Gary Crowton is a perfect fit for Perrilloux, who showed flashes of brilliance for the Tigers this season. Many have questions about his maturity, but there is no doubting his talent.
10. Percy Harvin, Florida–Harvin is the most exciting player in college football, but he would probably need to have 1,000 yards both rushing and receiving to have a shot, as he does not return punts or kicks at this time. Think he can’t do it? He had 764 rushing yards and 858 receiving yards despite missing two games due to injury.
So where is Tim Tebow?
It’s not that Tebow can’t finish as high as No. 2 in next year’s Heisman, it’s just that he can’t win it. Heismandment No. 9 says no more two-time winners and I am confident it will apply here to Tebow. As it stands, there is already talk from Urban Meyer of heading to a two-quarterback system. Tebow may still be the best player in college football next year, but his stats may not come close to what he did this year and that’s one reason why–Tebow fatigue being another–he won’t win the Heisman.