We now know who’s leaving early for the NFL, so it’s time to cobble together our list of the players who currently have the best shot of winning the 2012 Heisman Trophy.
Too early? Too bad. We’ve got another seven-and-a-half months to go until the season starts and we know you all can’t get by on recruiting and spring football alone.
This is just the first rollout of a series of lists. We’ll have revisions after spring ball and then a final Watch List heading into the season.
1. Matt Barkley, USC — Barkley returns for his senior year as the front runner for the 2012 Heisman. He’s got perhaps the best receiving corps in the history of college football catching his passes, so you know his numbers will be stellar. However, he must beat the expectations game or voters could eventually turn on him like they did Andrew Luck.
2. Denard Robinson, Michigan — Four of the last six Heisman winners have been dual-threat quarterbacks and it is this style that has the most potential to wow the voters. The story with Robinson will be how he turned around a storied program. If the Wolverines challenge for national honors, he’ll be a strong Heisman candidate.
3. Montee Ball, Wisconsin — Ball is the leading returning vote getter from last season, when he took fourth in the Heisman balloting. Because of this, it is very tempting to just make him the front runner, but one has to take into account the tremendous standard he set for himself last season by scoring 39 touchdowns. He’s bound to have a drop off of sorts and just how much he drops off will determine his eventual standing in the race.