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Michigan quarterback Denard Robinson has a chance to make a statement on Saturday against No. 2 Alabama. If he can play well against one of the best defenses in the nation, he will be able to stay in the Heisman Trophy race, and No. 8 Michigan will be able to stay in the national championship race. Photo by The Associated Press
Heisman Trophy watch
The preseason favorite for the Heisman Trophy is USC’s Matt Barkley, who may be the best quarterback in college football, and he may have the best talent surrounding him in the nation, giving him an advantage over the rest of the field.
With a pair of 1,000 yard wide receivers, All-American caliber receivers on the bench waiting for their shot, and a pair of 1,000 yard running backs, Barkley has the supporting cast to win this award with ease. And he also has a head coach in Lane Kiffin that loves to rack up stats and awards.
Barkley is sitting in a great position, but this is not a one-man race.
Quarterback Denard Robinson could make an early season statement this Saturday when No. 8 Michigan travels to No. 2 Alabama. If Robinson can light it up against Alabama, who has one of the best defenses in the nation, then Michigan will make the statement that they are national title contenders, and that Robinson will be in the Heisman race when the season comes to an end. But a loss, especially if Alabama routs them, will be crushing to both Michigan and Robinson.
Robinson’s strength is the opposite of Barkley’s. Where Barkley beats teams with his arm and gets the ball to his playmakers, Robinson is Michigan’s playmaker. In 2010 he set the NCAA Division I single season record for rushing by a quarterback when he ran for 1,702 yards. With a new coaching staff last year, a portion of the load was taken off of Robinson’s shoulders, as he threw less passes and had less rushing attempts than the 2010 season, but if Michigan is going to compete for a championship, they are going to have to rely heavily on him.
West Virginia quarterback Geno Smith will also be in the mix, and moving from the Big East to the Big 12 will help him out a lot because West Virginia will have a tougher schedule. If he can reproduce his season from last year, when he threw for 4,400 yards and 31 touchdowns, he will be in the running, especially because he will have opponents of the likes of Texas, Oklahoma, and Oklahoma St, instead of Pittsburg, Syracuse, and a hand full of other middle of the road teams.
The Heisman race is usually stacked with quarterbacks, but running backs will have their say. Wisconsin’s Montee Ball may be the best back in the nation, and he is 18 touchdowns away from the Division I career record.
Oregon running backs Kenjon Barner (Riverside Notre Dame HS) and De’Anthony Thomas (Crenshaw HS) might be able to work their way into the Heisman race with highlight runs. LaMichael James, who rushed for 1,805 yards and 18 touchdowns last year, is now playing for the San Francisco 49ers, so Barner and Thomas will divide his 247 carries.
Barner, who ran for 939 yards and 11 touchdowns on 152 carries, will more than likely carry more of the running load, but Thomas will see the ball a lot more this year, as he will be more of a factor in the running and passing game.
Last season Thomas rushed for 595 yards and 11 touchdowns on 55 carries, which is a whopping 10.8 yards per rushing attempt, and he also led the team in receiving, with 46 receptions for 605 yards and nine touchdowns. He finished with 2,235 all-purpose yards, and he returned two kickoffs for touchdowns, giving him 20 on the season.
Between Barner and Thomas, Oregon is going to put up a lot of points and have a lot of highlight runs, which could put one or both of these players in the Heisman race.
At wide receiver, USC’s Robert Woods (Serra HS) and Marqise Lee (Serra HS) have not been mentioned in the Heisman race, but they are going to put up big time numbers, and Barkley is not going to get all of the credit for that.
Last season Woods was a finalist for the Fred Biletnikoff Award, which is given to the best wide receiver in the nation, after he caught 111 passes for 1,292 yards and 15 touchdowns. Lee, a freshman last year, was right behind him, with 1,143 yards and 11 touchdowns on 73 receptions. Seeing that Kiffin likes to get his key players big time stats, both of these players can see their numbers increase.
Can anybody stop the SEC?
The SEC has won the last six BCS national championships, with Alabama and Florida both winning the title twice, and Auburn and LSU winning it once. LSU also won the title in 2003. Last season featured two SEC teams in the title game, as Alabama knocked off LSU.
Not surprisingly, Alabama and LSU are ranked No. 2 and 3 respectively, Georgia is No. 6, South Carolina is No. 9 and Arkansas is No. 10. That gives the SEC five teams in the top 10, and whichever one of those teams can run the table, they will be in the championship game.
USC is the best hope to knock off the SEC, but do not count out Oregon. The BCS championship game looks like it will pit the champion of the SEC against the champion of the PAC 12. Oregon and USC have light non-conference schedules, but they may face each other twice. Once during the regular season at the Coliseum, and once in the PAC 12 championship game.