This is getting old: Yet again, there is a solid chance of a back-to-back Heisman Trophy winner, this in the form of Alabama running back Mark Ingram. Two years ago, things looked good for Florida’s Tim Tebow. Last year, it was Oklahoma quarterback Sam Bradford.
Lest we not forget, the only two-time Heisman winner was Ohio State running back Archie Griffin, who took home the hardware after both the 1974 and ‘75 seasons.
Now, Tebow is with the Denver Broncos and Bradford is in St. Louis with the Rams. Ingram’s 2009 competition at running back—Stanford’s Toby Gerhart (Minnesota) and Clemson’s C.J. Spiller (Buffalo)—are off to the NFL. So, is the coast clear for the Alabama star to repeat? Not so fast.
While considering the Heisman prospects, the 2010 season is heavy on quarterbacks, with at least four legitimate candidates—Washington’s Jake Locker, Boise State’s Kellen Moore, Arkansas’ Ryan Mallett and Stanford’s Andrew Luck—not to mention a slew of other players who could emerge as the season progresses. NFL Scores
FIVE MEN TO BEAT
Mark Ingram, RB, Alabama
2009 stats: 271 carries, 1,658 yards, 17 touchdowns
Reasons he could hoist the hardware: Forgetting the fact that Ingram won the Heisman after the 2009 season, the powerful, physical runner had the stats and led his team to the Bowl Championship Series title. He finds holes and plays for one of the best teams in the country.
Potential Drawbacks: Repeating is hard to do. Alabama could be challenged by Boise State, Iowa, Texas, and a few others, for the title. There are some newcomers to the Heisman race and he’ll be up against Oregon State’s Jacquizz Rodgers, for one, as the nation’s top back. It’s been 35 years since Griffin won repeat Heisman Trophies, and for good reason.
Best Chances to Impress Voters: To be fair, Ingram will be under the biggest microscope of all and he’ll be expected to perform at a Heisman level weekly. Still, there are key games to which the voters will be paying close attention, beginning Sept. 11 when the Crimson Tide host Penn State. A vicious four-game stretch follows with meetings at Arkansas on Sept. 25, at home against Florida on Oct. 2, at South Carolina on Oct. 9 and at home against Mississippi on Oct. 16. After a game at Tennessee and a bye, Alabama travels to LSU on Nov. 6 and by then Ingram may have already won over the Heisman voters—or lost them.
Jacquizz Rodgers, RB, Oregon State
2009 stats: 273 carries, 1,440 yards, 21 touchdowns; 78 receptions, 522 yards
Reasons he could hoist the hardware: You can’t ignore Rodgers’ production, nor his statistics, and if he can keep it going he won’t be ignored. Oregon State is a solid program and Rodgers is its best offensive weapon. Meanwhile, the Beavers will be breaking in a new quarterback with Sean Canfield gone, giving Rodgers even more of the workload and an even bigger chance to shine.
Potential Drawbacks: Oregon State may spend yet another season in the shadow of Oregon, and other Pac-10 teams like Stanford and USC. Seems people forget the Beavers and ‘Quizz could be overlooked and underrated yet again.
Best Chances to Impress Voters: The Beavers and Rodgers face a grueling schedule, kicking off with TCU on Sept. 4. A few weeks later, Oregon State travels to Boise State on Sept. 25 to face what many feel is the best team in the country. It won’t get any easier when the season enters the final stretch, with a three-game string of powerful opponents, beginning on Nov. 20 at home against USC, followed by Stanford on Nov. 27, before hosting the Civil War on Dec. 4 against cross-state rival Oregon.
Ryan Mallett, QB, Arkansas
2009 stats: 225 of 403 passing, 3,624 yards, 30 touchdowns, seven interceptions
Reasons he could hoist the hardware: With great technique, strength and accuracy, Mallett, who was limited in spring ball while healing a broken foot, sat out 2008 after transferring from Michigan yet still wrested the starting job. Last season, he edged out Tim Tebow in the SEC in total offense. This year he could lead the Razorbacks to a division title atop a relatively weak SEC West.
Potential Drawbacks: Arkansas still hasn’t earned the national respect it had years ago and Mallett is not yet a household name. Also, with competition from Moore and Ingram, whose teams have their eyes on a national title, Mallett could be on the outside looking in.
Best Chances to Impress Voters: If Mallett is to establish himself as a legit Heisman hopeful, his first big shot on the national scene will be the Razorbacks’ home game against Alabama on Sept. 25. The next month, he’ll face a nasty rivalry against Mis
sissippi on Oct. 23. Later still, if he has performed up to expectations and Arkansas is in the hunt, the finale on the road against LSU on Nov. 27 could go a long way in securing Mallett a place on the final ballots.
Kellen Moore, QB, Boise State
2009 stats: 277 of 431 passing, 3,536 yards, 39 touchdowns, three interceptions.
Reasons he could hoist the hardware: First, Boise State is a preseason favorite to start the year at No. 1 in the polls and, last year, impressed everyone except the Bowl Championship Series committee when it came down to setting the title game. Second, his 2009 statistics were more than impressive, highlighted with a 161.7 passer rating, second only to Tebow. This year, his entire offense will be experienced, explosive and stocked for success.
Potential Drawbacks: Boise State is among the best programs in the country, yet has been underrated because of its weak WAC schedule. That argument is not completely unfair as Boise State does not consistently face the level of competition as Alabama, Florida, Texas, Oklahoma, Oregon… you get the idea. And if Boise State slips even a little, say, out of the top five in the national polls, Moore will be the forgotten man.
Best Chances to Impress Voters: As stated above, Boise State will not face the most difficult schedule of nationally ranked teams, but the season opener at home against Virginia Tech on Sept. 6 will be among Moore’s few chances to blow away the voters. Weeks later, Boise State will host Oregon State on Sept. 25 before moving into its relatively soft conference schedule.
Torrey Smith, WR, Maryland
2009 stats: 61 receptions, 827 yards, five touchdowns
Reasons he could hoist the hardware: Smith is the top offensive weapon on the Terps and is expected to put up big numbers as a wideout, return specialist and taking the handoff on reverses. Last year he posted a 25.7-yard average on kick returns and scored twice. He’s a threat and everyone knows it. But with only a handful of other dangerous offensive players on the roster, Smith will have plenty of chances to shine.
Potential Drawbacks: The Terps will be running a major quarterback battle and will therefore be breaking in a new starter behind a rebuilding offensive line. Those factors could put a big dent into Smith’s numbers and hopes to win the Heisman as an underdog.
Best Chances to Impress Voters: If Smith is going to have a shot, he will have to count on the offense to help him, as well as shine in a handful of key games, beginning with the season opener against Navy on Sept. 6 and a trip to West Virginia on Sept. 18.
Smith will also have to impress at Clemson on Oct. 16, at Miami (Fla.) on Nov. 6 and Nov. 20 against Florida State if he wants to be remembered by the voters. NFL Odds
FIVE MORE TO WATCH
Jake Locker, QB, Washington
Coming from a relatively weak but improving program, Locker has garnered as much attention for his performance last year as for his decision to return to the Huskies for one more season under head coach Steve Sarkisian. The two of them have a plan to return the Washington program to glory and Locker wanted to be a part of it. Last season, he hit 230 of 394 passes for 2,800 yards and 21 touchdowns against 11 interceptions. He was also a threat on the ground, gaining 388 yards and scoring seven times on 112 carries. Locker is a rising star and appears headed to the top of next year’s draft if he maintains his numbers and winning ways. Things are tough right off the bat with the season opener at BYU on Sept. 4. Locker will also look to beat USC in Pasadena on Oct. 2, a Pac-10 contest that will be followed by conference games against Oregon State (Oct. 16), Stanford (Oct. 30), at Oregon (Nov. 6) and at Cal (Nov. 27).
Andrew Luck, QB, Stanford
The sophomore will look to step out of the shadows with tailback Toby Gerhart gone to the NFL (Minnesota Vikings). The Cardinal is Luck’s team now, and the strong-armed and athletic quarterback is a threat both passing and running. Last year, Luck hit 162 of 288 passes for 2,575 yards and 13 touchdowns against just four interceptions. He also ran the ball 61 times for 354 yards and a pair of scores. Luck will get a chance to wow the voters with a three-game stretch beginning with trips to Notre Dame on Sept. 25 and Oregon on Oct. 2 and back at home against USC on Oct. 9. Stanford beat Notre Dame and USC last year on its way to an eight-win campaign. By the time Stanford hosts Oregon State on Nov. 27, we will know where Luck stands as far as the Heisman is concerned.
John Clay, RB, Wisconsin
While there will be several talented players in the Big Ten—Penn State running back Evan Royster and a host of quarterbacks—Clay could rise to the top if he can continue the statistical trajectory he established last season when he rushed for 1,517 yards and 18 touchdowns on 287 carries. He can also grab headlines with strong performances in two key consecutive games—at home against Ohio State on Oct. 16 and at Iowa on Oct. 23.
Tyrone Carrier, WR, Houston
He may be small, but Carrier is also quite dynamic on an improving Cougars team. Last year, he brought in 91 receptions, gained 1,029 yards and scored seven times. He also brought back four kick returns for touchdowns. If Carrier can get some support out of quarterback Case Keenum and running back Bryce Beall, he could get some darkhorse notice when the Heisman voters consider the nation’s best performers. He can start by outperforming everyone on the field at UCLA on Sept. 18 and—even more important—with a decisive showing at Texas Tech in the Cougars’ finale.
Noel Devine, RB, West Virginia
Devine was a one-man wrecking crew who gained 1,465 yards and scored 13 times on 241 carries for the Mountaineers. He also hauled in 20 passes for 149 yards and a score. Devine is looking at a breakout season with West Virginia growing more impressive by the year. If he wants a shot at Heisman attention—and he’ll need to do it every week—he better start at home against Maryland on Sept. 18 and then on the team’s road trip to LSU on Sept. 25. Home games against Big East rivals South Florida (Oct. 14) and Cincinnati (Nov. 13) will provide Devine with two more opportunities to shine against top competition before the finale against Rutgers (Dec. 4). NFL Spreads
** Aaron Klein contributed this story for the Football Action 2010 Annual College Preview