Contary to what many people believe, Heismans can be won or lost very early in the season. The first few games can definitely go a long way toward eliminating the pretender candidates. Here’s my list of the September games that could impact the race the most in 2009:
Georgia at Oklahoma State–The OSU trio of Zac Robinson, Kendall Hunter and Dez Bryant gets a chance at first blood. If any of the three are to mount a Heisman run, it has to start with a big game here when everyone is watching.
BYU vs. Oklahoma–An interesting matchup. Max Hall has the type of opportunity Ty Detmer had in 1990 to make a name for himself against a marquee opponent. Meanwhile, Sam Bradford can show he’s still as effective as ever even with a new offensive line.
Maryland at California–Jahvid Best has a chance to get off to a fast start in the Heisman race with a productive game against a decent team like the Terrapins. However, if he is bottled up, he’ll have a lot of ground to make up later on.
Ole Miss at Memphis–Normally not a noteworthy matchup, but this one is on Sunday and will get more attention that usual. Jevan Snead has a chance to show he is a serious Heisman contender.
Notre Dame at Michigan–If any team can easily facilitate a darkhorse Heisman campaign, it is Notre Dame. If Jimmy Clausen is to have a breakout season and enter the Heisman conversation, then it all starts here on the big stage.
USC at Ohio State–Any number of USC offensive weapons could make a splash in this game, but the most likely outcome is that Terrelle Pryor will indicate whether he can be taken seriously as a Heisman candidate or not.
Tennessee at Florida–This one will get a bunch of attention. I have a feeling that the Vols won’t mind losing too much as long as they can stop Tim Tebow cold and keep it respectable. If Tebow has a big game here, though, he’ll be the early front runner.
West Virginia at Auburn–Noel Devine has the flash and name recognition to mount a serious Heisman campaign, but he’ll need to run wild against the Tigers to draw early attention.
Illinois at Ohio State–This game could serve notice that Juice Williams is a legitimate Heisman candidate. It could also further cement–or erode–Terrelle Pryor’s candidacy.
California at Oregon–This game could be LaGarrette Blount’s coming out party. Or, it could be a track meet featuring the speedy Mr. Best.