2012 Preseason Heisman Watch: Robinson, Barkley, Lattimore Lead Loaded Class

Denard Robinson

Dual threat if there ever was one, Denard Robinson spent the better part of the last three seasons electrifying Wolverine fans up and down the field and around the country. Last season saw the junior rush for more than 1,000 yards while passing for more than 2,000 for the second straight season, the only player in NCAA history to reach those levels in two consecutive years. Those things alone place Robinson squarely in the Heisman conversation coming into the 2012 season.

Clearly, the stats are there to support a Heisman campaign, however, as has been the case in the past, concerns linger about Robinson’s ability as a complete passer. If he aspires to a Tim Tebow-like season (and the Heisman that could come with it), he must bring his production as a passer to a level that is commensurate with the best quarterbacks in the country. Robinson’s career 4:3 touchdown to interception ratio will simply not cut it if Robinson hopes to contend for the trophy this season.

Matt Barkley

Matt Barkley has been through a lot as USC’s quarterback. In 2011, the bowl-ineligible Trojans prospered from Barkley’s experience, finishing 10-2 as Barkley broke the Pac-12’s single-season passing touchdowns record and all the other things seemed to melt away. Faced now instead with hype and expectation similar to that of the USC-dominated mid-2000s, Barkley is the media’s preseason favorite for the award.

A junior season of 3,500 yards and 39 touchdowns will do that for any quarterback, let alone one also expected to lead a national title contending team of Trojans. Difficult games await USC in the deepening Pac-12, but if USC can stay in the national title race all season, Barkley is likely — at the very least — to stay in the Heisman conversation all year.

Marcus Lattimore

Few running backs enter their sophomore season with as much hype as Marcus Lattimore did in 2011. Coming off a 1,000-yard freshman rushing season against SEC defenses, Lattimore readied to contend for a Heisman trophy as a sophomore at South Carolina. It all seemed in place until the South Carolina running back tore his ACL against Mississippi State midway through his season.

Suddenly, Lattimore was out of the conversation and out of the national consciousness, but 2012 is a new year, and the back who electrified the SEC as an 18- and 19-year-old for 1,197 yards rushing and 17 touchdowns is back again to light Gamecocks opponents up. His 818 yards and 10 touchdowns in seven games in 2011 isn’t exactly Heisman-winning pace, but playing under the bright lights of SEC football, Lattimore’s production is sure to put him in the conversation all season.

Montee Ball

In a conference prideful of the way its defenses make teams fight for every yard, Montee Ball certainly was worth his weight on the gridiron in 2011. Wisconsin’s star running back torched defenses for nearly 2,000 yards rushing and 39 combined rushing and receiving touchdowns — tying the all-time FBS record.

Though it will be difficult to match his record-breaking junior season, anything that approaches his 2011 output against an even stouter Big Ten crop of defenders will easily position Ball for a second selection as a Heisman finalist. Finishing fourth in last year’s Heisman balloting and then dropping the Rose Bowl to Oregon was probably not the finish Ball envisioned, but if the Badgers can continue an unprecedented run of success in 2012, expect Ball to stay on the national consciousness all season.

Geno Smith

Sure, 4,300 yards and 31 touchdowns in any FBS conference is impressive, but in Geno Smith’s case, those impressive numbers came against a Big East conference who’s national profile hasn’t often warranted its stars being recognized on a national and Heisman level in the last decade. Smith will play his last season with West Virginia in a new conference and get the chance to prove his worth all over again.

West Virginia moves to the Big 12 this year, and although not necessarily known for its defense (Cowboys, Wildcats, Sooners and Bears seem more of the offensive mind these days), the conference is certainly visible in a way the Big East often is not. With a stat line like the one he put up in 2011, the senior quarterback might just be able to give the Mountaineers not only with a chance for a return trip to the BCS, but also a shot at personal achievement — in this case, well-deserved consideration for the Heisman trophy.

Others to Watch

Landry Jones

Helmer of by no means bad, but underwhelming, Oklahoma teams in back-to-back years, senior quarterback Landry Jones has seen his preseason Heisman hype dissipate the last two years. Both years saw 4,400 or more passing yards, but no invite to NYC. Could more of the same in 2012 change that?

Tyler Wilson

If it’s possible, Tyler Wilson’s junior season as Arkansas’s quarterback — all 3,600 yards, 24 touchdowns and 11 wins — was largely forgotten in the all-SEC title game bonanza. Though Arkansas again enters the season outside of the seemingly BCS-ensued preseason SEC top-two, Wilson certainly has a shot at some Heisman attention his senior season.

De’Anthony Thomas

From the moment De’Anthony Thomas hit the field during his first game as a Duck, it was clear he was a spark plug in the Duck mold — fast, efficient and great to watch. Racking up an even 1,200 yards of combined rushing and receiving in 2011, the freshman was a factor all over the field. Could he be even more in 2012?

AJ McCarron

A national champion quarterback has rarely been as unheralded as A.J. McCarron. Perhaps the perception belied the fact that Crimson Tide faithful widely lauded McCarron for his work in the title game despite the lack of eye-catching statistics. The junior’s 2012 season might have a little more attention turned its way.

Jadeveon Clowney

The honor of SEC Freshman of the Year hasn’t exactly turned into Heisman glory down the road for recent recipients, but that a defensive lineman received the honor is stark enough of a fact that Clowney should register on Heisman pundits radars all season. Many expect big things of the South Carolina sophomore, and delivering on them could spell some national attention.

2012 BCS AQ Conference Profile: Big 12

BCS Know How is taking you through the six automatic-qualifying BCS conferences in preparation for the 2012 season. Our easy-to-digest previews continue with the Big 12, the conference of change. Scroll down to see our profiles of the other conferences.

Conference: Big 12 Conference (Big 12)

Active Since: 1996

Current Member Schools: Iowa State Cyclones, Kansas State Wildcats, Kansas Jayhawks, West Virginia Mountaineers, Baylor Bears, Oklahoma State Cowboys, TCU Horned Frogs, Texas Tech Red Raiders, Oklahoma Sooners, Texas Longhorns. (10)

Bowl Affiliations: Fiesta Bowl (BCS), Holiday Bowl, Alamo Bowl, Pinstripe Bowl, Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl, Meineke Car Care of Texas Bowl, Cotton Bowl. (7)

2011 Results:
Conference Champion — Oklahoma State
Conference Runner-up — Kansas State
BCS Bowl Results: 2012 Fiesta Bowl — Oklahoma State 41 vs. Stanford 38
Overall Bowl Record: 6-2
Heisman Vote Recipients: Baylor QB Robert Griffin III (Heisman Trophy Recipient)

2012 Outlook: If there is one conference that embodies the churn rate of college football conference affiliation these days, it might as well be the Big 12.

After losing two schools before the 2011 season, the conference lost two more this offseason, as Missouri and Texas A&M vacated the conference for the SEC’s greener pastures. In replacement, the Big 12 recruited West Virginia and TCU to replace the two, keeping the league at a solid 10 teams.

But whereas some conference additions around the country have little chance in their first years in town, the Mountaineers and Horned Frogs look able to compete right away. The Mountaineers bring a tradition of Big East dominance, having visited the BCS three times as Big East representatives, and coming away victorious each time. The Horned Frogs, though not of AQ breeding, have two BCS bids of their own in last two years, claiming a Rose Bowl victory in 2011.

The immediate attention might be focused on the newbies, but traditional powers are here to play as well. Oklahoma looks reinvigorated and many have fingered the Sooners as conference favorites. Kansas State, who had a surprising run to the Cotton Bowl last year look to ride quarterback Colin Klein to national prominence once again. And Oklahoma State, who just missed out on a chance at a national title shot, is back to prove it wasn’t all a fluke.

All in all, though it might be difficult to keep track of what teams actually belong to this conference, the Big 12 looks as strong as ever in 2012.

Heisman Hopefuls: Oklahoma QB Landry Jones, West Virginia QB Geno Smith, Oklahoma State RB Joseph Randle, Kansas State QB Colin Klein, Oklahoma WR Kenny Stills

BCS Know How’s 2012 Predictions:
Conference Champion — Oklahoma Sooners
Conference Runner-up — West Virginia Mountaineers
BCS bids: Oklahoma — Fiesta Bowl; West Virginia — Sugar Bowl
Heisman Finalists — West Virginia QB Geno Smith

Heisman Watch Week 10: Luck, Moore, Jones Shake Off Roadblocks to Bolster Trophy Hopes

Trent Richardson

Richardson and Alabama had the chance Saturday night to prove to the nation that not only were the Tide the best team in the country, but that Trent Richardson could also be viewed as the best player in the country.

And although Richardson recorded 169 total yards on the ground and through the air, the spotlight shone brightest on the LSU defense, which was able to contain the back all night. Richardson’s performance bent, but did not break the Tiger defense, and because of that, his performance likely did little to cut into Andrew Luck’s Heisman lead.

Richardson and Alabama have a few games remaining on the schedule, but barring unforeseen circumstances, Alabama will not be able to play in the SEC Championship Game, the only other place the spotlight would be nearly as bright on Richardson, and therefore will have to do wonders to begin to break into the conversation at the top of the Heisman race.

Landry Jones

For all the talent any quarterback has, his receivers are always an important factor in just how well a signal caller can perform. On Saturday, Landry Jones and Oklahoma saw both sides of that, as Sooner receivers made plays around the field, helping Jones maintain a strong performance throughout the day and left the junior in the thick of the Heisman race.

Jones finished the day strong with 255 passing yards and two touchdowns while leading Oklahoma easily by Texas A&M, although the Sooners did get out to a slow start.

But wideout Ryan Broyles went down in the third quarter with a knee injury, leaving the Sooners without one of their stars and Jones without his go-to target and one of the best statistical receivers in FBS history. With Broyles out for the season Jones will unfortunately be without a major weapon, and the quarterback will have to persevere if Oklahoma is to continue to be in the midst of the national conversation.

Russell Wilson

Two straight losses had Russell Wilson’s Heisman hopes faltering, but a classic Wisconsin badgering of a Big Ten opponent proved Wisconsin is still one of the best offensive teams in the land and Wilson can still lead an effective attack.

Wilson finished a efficient 15 of 20 for 205 yards and two touchdowns while rushing for another score along with 76 yards on the ground.

Of course, the star of the day was not Wilson, but running back Monte Ball and his career-high 223 yards on the ground, but Wilson’s leadership shone through against a lacking Purdue attack, an intangible that is key to the Heisman race.

Andrew Luck

Slow to start in the cold and the rain, Andrew Luck and Stanford made the most of the second half, as the senior led the Cardinal past Oregon State while throwing for three more touchdowns on the day. Luck did throw an interception, just his fifth of the season, but his 206 yards in chilly Corvallis was more than enough to bring the Cardinal past the Beavers.

Luck, like Jones, lost a receiver on the day to injury as senior Chris Owusu fell victim to a concussion on a hard hit in the second quarter, but like Jones, Luck persevered, bringing the Cardinal to a dominating second-half performance.

For Luck, not much was gained and not much lost on the weekend, however, next weekend’s looming meeting with Oregon, a matchup likely to decide the Pac-12 North division, will be a chance for the senior to bolster his Heisman hopes beyond the already sky high status of his candidacy.

Kellen Moore

Moore and Boise State didn’t look their best out of the gate late Saturday night, but the senior worked through the surprisingly game UNLV attack, and ended his night with yet another impressive statistical performance.

In the Broncos’ 48-21 victory over UNLV, Moore passed for 219 yards and five touchdowns as Boise continues its undefeated run through the 2011 season. In the process Moore also broke the record for wins in a career in FBS history, passing former Texas quarterback Colt McCoy.

Moore and Boise next opponent might be the most daunting remaining on the schedule. TCU will present Boise with tough matchups up and down the field, and the challenge could give Moore the chance to show his ability to lead his team no matter the opponent. A strong performance against the Horned Frogs could prove vital for Moore’s hopes of making his way to another Heisman Trophy presentation in New York City this year.

Watching the Heisman Watchmen Week Nine: Luck, Richardson a Unanimous 1-2 Combination

Last we wondered if the Heisman race had turned into a two-man race, despite a few other names landing among the top two in many polls around the country.

This week we actually get a pretty clear message from the voters, namely that Trent Richardson and the prohibitive favorite, Andrew Luck, are head and shoulders above the rest of the field.

Luck and Richardson lead all five watch lists monitored, and seem destined for New York. Who else will join them? Kellen Moore appears at No. 3 in all rankings, while Case Keenum, Landry Jones and others scatted the lower portions of the watch lists.

Off to the races!

Heisman Pundit Heisman Poll

1. Andrew Luck
2. Trent Richardson
3. Kellen Moore
4. Case Keenum
5. Landry Jones

ESPN Experts Poll

1. Andrew Luck
2. Trent Richardson
3. Kellen Moore
4. Case Keenum
5. Landry Jones

CBS Sports Heisman Watch

1. Andrew Luck
2. Trent Richardson
3. Kellen Moore
4. Case Keenum
5. Brandon Weeden

Sports Illustrated Heisman Watch

1. Andrew Luck
2. Trent Richardson
3. Kellen Moore
4. Landry Jones
5. Case Keenum

BCS Know How Heisman Watch

1. Andrew Luck
2. Trent Richardson
3. Kellen Moore
4. Landry Jones
5. Russell Wilson

Consensus

1. Stanford QB Andrew Luck (25)
2. Alabama RB Trent Richardson (20)
3. Boise State QB Kellen Moore (15)
4. Houston QB Case Keenum (7)
5. Oklahoma QB Landry Jones (6)

Others Receiving Votes: Oklahoma State QB Brandon Weeden (1); Wisconsin QB Russell Wilson (1)

Again a first-place vote is worth five points, a second-place four, and so on until a fifth place vote is worth one point.

Any other suggestions of Heisman Watches to add? Let me know!

Heisman Watch Week Nine: Luck’s Night Overshadows Competition

Trent Richardson

Richardson and Alabama had the weekend off, but the game of the Crimson Tide’s season, and a game that could do a lot to either hurt or help the tailback’s Heisman hopes, now looms in the not-all-too-distant future.

The LSU-Alabama showdown everyone has been circling since day one of the season will also play a part in deciding the next few weeks of this Heisman race. If Richardson is to excel, his stock could be solidified to the point where he would guarantee a spot in New York, at least. If Richardson comes up short against the Tigers — well, then, his hopes at the trophy might be shot for this year. You might want to tune in.

Landry Jones

For everything Landry Jones lost in his bid to claim a shot at the Heisman Trophy last week in a resume-crashing loss to Texas Tech, his performance against a top-10 ranked Kansas State team certainly did wonders to begin to rebuild his candidacy.

Jones passed for 505 yards and five touchdowns Saturday, bouncing back from Oklahoma’s loss to Texas Tech last week and showing he (and receiver Ryan Broyles) can still dismantle Big 12 offenses from the top down.

Jones’s road to the Heisman Trophy will be a tough one, but his performance Saturday certainly helps maintain his spot in this race. Another couple showings like this — especially against Oklahoma State later this season — and Jones could find himself in the thick of things.

Russell Wilson

Wilson had yet another chance to register a “Heisman moment” by completing a comeback Saturday, but falling short for a second week, Wilson’s candidacy seems to be slipping.

Another solid performance out of Wilson, but with the Badgers hitting kinks at the worst-possible time, Wilson will certainly need more than “solid” to stay in the hunt for the trophy. Wilson threw for 253 yards and three touchdowns, but that might not be enough moving forward.

Wilson and the Badgers still have a fair shot at running the table the rest of the way, and  playing in the inaugural Big Ten Championship game, which would certainly help Wilson’s resume, but for now, his candidacy is on shaky ground.

Andrew Luck

For weeks, all Andrew Luck could hear was the sound of people doubting his Heisman candidacy, and even his NFL consensus No. 1 overall pick status, because of the lack of “quality” opponents the senior had faced.

That talk will probably simmer down after a Saturday night to remember for Luck and a national audience that watched Luck and Stanford take on USC in Los Angeles and play in a triple-overtime game. In leading his team to thrilling victory, Luck showed that he is for real, and that the hype is probably worth the time spent.

Though obviously bolstered by overtime statistic boosting, Luck’s 330 yards and three touchdowns were impressive nonetheless, especially considering the way Luck guided his team through the seven-period affair with the leadership he’s been so heralded as having.

Important games remain, but as we pass the midway point of the season, it’s Luck and then everyone else.

Kellen Moore

Moore had the week off, as Boise State gets a break in the middle of the season before embarking on five consecutive games to close the 2011 season.

Among those games are all-important match ups with TCU, Wyoming and San Diego State, with whom the Broncos will likely battle to claim the Mountain West conference title.

Moore will have the chance to best wow the critics against TCU, but once again he will have to fight against the non-AQ conference and “system quarterback” stigmas that are always seemingly attached to his name. Can statistical performances on par with what he’s been providing give Moore enough in this race? Or will he need Case Keenum-esque numbers from here on out?

We’ll soon find out.

Watching the Heisman Watchmen Week Eight: Wilson Slips, Richardson Picks Up the Slack

Russell Wilson had the chance to make a big impact with a nationally televised game against a ranked foe Saturday, but unable to bring his team to victory, Wilson sees his national Heisman support stumble slightly.

Trent Richardson is there to pick up some of the support, seeing a widespread increase in his standing around the country.

With Andrew Luck holding steady atop many of the races, is this already a two-man race? Or do Kellen Moore, Robert Griffin, Wilson and others still have what it takes to catch these two?

Off to the races!

Heisman Pundit Heisman Poll

1. Andrew Luck
2. Trent Richardson
3t. Kellen Moore
3t. Robert Griffin III
5. Case Keenum

ESPN Experts Poll

1. Andrew Luck
2. Trent Richardson
3. Kellen Moore
4. Tahj Boyd
5. Russell Wilson

CBS Sports Heisman Watch

1. Trent Richardson
2. Robert Griffin III
3. Andrew Luck
4. Kellen Moore
5. Tahj Boyd

Sports Illustrated Heisman Watch

1. Andrew Luck
2. Trent Richardson
3. Russell Wilson
4. Robert Griffin III
5. Kellen Moore

BCS Know How Heisman Watch

1. Andrew Luck
2. Trent Richardson
3. Kellen Moore
4. Russell Wilson
5. Landry Jones

Consensus

1. Stanford QB Andrew Luck (23)
2. Alabama RB Trent Richardson (21)
3. Boise State QB Kellen Moore (12)
4. Baylor QB Robert Griffin III (9)
5. Wisconsin QB Russell Wilson (6)

Others Receiving Votes: Clemson QB Tahj Boyd (3); Oklahoma QB Landry Jones (1); Houston QB Case Keenum (1)

Again a first-place vote is worth five points, a second-place four, and so on until a fifth place vote is worth one point.

Any other suggestions of Heisman Watches to add? Let me know!

Heisman Watch Week Eight: Luck, Moore, Richardson Lead Important Victory Marches

Trent Richardson

Scoreless in the first half and leading an Alabama squad that could not break away from Tennessee — tied 6-6 at half — Trent Richardson’s day was looking like a hit against his Heisman hopes and possibly a hit against Alabama’s legitimacy as a BCS contender.

But a strong second half, keyed by two Richardson touchdowns and plenty of scoring led the Tide easily by the Volunteers, and gave Richardson just enough on the day to keep right in the thick of things in the Heisman race.

Richardson finished the day with 77 yards and two scores, helping to lead Alabama over Tennessee, 37-6 — a serviceable day by all accounts. He and the Tide have next weekend off before the looming showdown with BCS No. 1 LSU at home. A strong performance there could do wonders for a Heisman profile, and Richardson will surely be looking to take advantage.

Landry Jones

Taken out of context, Landry Jones’s performance late Saturday night was probably the best quarterback showing of the day. But in context, it all seems a little different.

Unable to capitalize on the opportunity to make a comeback against an unranked opponent at home, Jones’s 412 yards and five touchdowns will be viewed as too little, despite the gaudiness of the numbers. The Sooners fell, and they fell hard, and so will Jones’s Heisman stock.

That’s not to say Jones is out of the race completely, but his climb to New York City will a tough road, one which would require some impressive numbers down the stretch. As it is in the BCS, losing is often more important than how you lose.

Russell Wilson

Everything seemed set up perfectly for Russell Wilson late Saturday night. Trailing on the road, the senior quarterback brought Wisconsin all the way back from a deep deficit in the fourth quarter to tie the game. Then with four seconds left and a seemingly impossible Hail Mary play before overtime, Wilson looked like he would complete his comeback, and get his first real Heisman moment.

But a Kirk Cousins bomb was tipped in the endzone and somehow ended up in the hands of Michigan State’s Keith Nichol, handing Wisconsin its first loss and ending Wilson’s hope at completing the comeback. Without the glory of that moment, Wilson had a somewhat off day, throwing two picks to go with his two touchdowns and 233 yards passing. He also broke out a key 22-yard touchdown run late in the game that seemed to be the start of the comeback he and the Badgers needed, but it prove all for naught.

Wilson is in no way out of the race, but his sub-par performance against the Spartans on Saturday certainly has his stock falling. If Wisconsin survives the rest of its schedule unblemished and makes its way to the Big Ten Championship Game (possibly facing the Spartans once again) Wilson will be sure to be in the midst of the race, but he will need some bounce back performances in the coming weeks to ensure he remains in the conversation.

Andrew Luck

A rather ho-hum day from Andrew Luck in Stanford’s absolute pounding of Washington on Saturday night, as Luck passed for 169 yards and two scores. Luck’s presence was certainly not needed on the night, as Stanford bested the Huskies in most aspects, especially during the Cardinal’s 28-point second quarter.

Luck did nothing at all on the night to hurt his candidacy, but certainly didn’t do anything spectacular to help it, either. While his place as the frontrunner in this race is secure for now, he will certainly have to submit more impressive stat lines down the road to stay on top.

Kellen Moore

Yet another historic day for Moore and Boise State, as the seni0r tied the all-time record for career victories by a FBS quarterback, equaling the 45 that former Heisman contender and Texas quarterback Colt McCoy recorded as his time as a Longhorn.

Moore was proficient on the day as well against the Air Force defense, passing for 281 yards and three touchdowns while leading the Broncos to a 37-26 victory on the night.

Efficient as ever, Moore completed 23 of 29 passes, although he was picked once during the game.

Moore and Boise also have next weekend off, but will travel to UNLV on Nov. 5, where Moore will look to break the all-time wins record and contribute yet another strong stat line to his already impressive season resume.