Well now that the 2011 season is in the books it is time to look ahead to the 2012 season. Wait, what? There’s still more games? Oh, because I was under the impression LSU had already played Alabama and beat them so…you know, didn’t think those two playing each other again was worth mentioning. And I suppose there are a few other trivial bowl games that no one knows about or cares about. So let’s be honest, 2011 for all intents and purposes is over. Let’s look ahead to 2012.
So the first thing on everyone’s mind is going to be the Heisman race. RG3 was not on a lot of radars before the season started, but he did get mentioned from time to time. In fact, most Heisman winners aren’t on most people’s radars before the season. For whatever reason those who seem likely to win it before the season starts never do, so they are really the most unlikely to win it. With that in mind, here are the people every other sports writer is going to tell you have the best shot at the Heisman next year.
1. Matt Barkley. In fact, he will be the Andrew Luck of 2012. He will be the consensus #1 NFL draft pick and unanimous decision before the season starts to win the Heisman. This of course means he won’t win it, but everyone is going to tell you he is the favorite.
2. Montee Ball. Tied Barry Sander’s record for rushing TD’s this year. Looks to be the top RB prospect next season. Obviously doesn’t have a chance.
3. Tyrann Mathieu. He was a finalist this year, and if he doesn’t get suspended next year should be the top defensive player. Won’t come close.
4. Landry Jones. Going to be an elite QB on an elite team next season. No shot.
5. Trent Richardson. Finalist from this year. Powerful running back. Heisman will run away from him.
Now these are going to be the favorites the media will push down your throats. Of course, some of these guys may go to the NFL still for all we know. But hey, it’s early. At any rate, we know Barkley is coming back and we know he will be the media pick to win it. So with that in mind, who out there is barely on the radar and therefore more likely to win the award?
Seeing as how the Heisman award always goes to an offensive player (no, not rude ones, but those who score points) we can count out the defensive guys right now. Just don’t bother. Ok, the Heisman always goes to someone in the SEC, Pac-12, Big Ten or Big 12. Now that we’ve narrowed down the field, who from these conferences has a great shot that few will be talking about?
1. DeAnthony Thomas (Oregon). Oregon scores. A lot. This kid is pretty fast, pretty explosive and had a great Rose Bowl game. Look for him to be a big part of the offense and put up some big stats in a pretty weak Pac-12. Then again, Darron Thomas and Lamichael James may stay in Oregon, so you could really say any of those three.
2. Tyler Wilson (Arkansas). This QB showed he can play. Only losses this year came to LSU and Alabama. They may be the team that rises out of the SEC West next year, which means the leader of the team will probably have some great numbers and a great case for the Heisman. Might be a popular choice though, so we’ll see when preseason time comes.
3. Sammy Watkins (Clemson). Easily the best Freshman in college football last year. Explosive all purpose kind of guy who can really make an impact. If Clemson starts out 8-0 again and finishes strong, he will be a big reason why.
4. Colin Klein (Kansas State). This QB is very much like Tim Tebow. Not a fantastic, talented player, but he gets the job done and is very physical. If Kansas State has another 10 win season, credit it to Klein, and that might make him a Heisman contender.
5. Chris Polk (Washington). The RB started pretty strong but faded a bit as did Washington late in the season. Still, very talented guy who is capable of a break out year.
You will hear some other names tossed around early in the season. I guarantee you Denard Robinson will get mentioned early on. That’s because against piss poor non-conference competition he always puts up insane numbers. But once conference play rolls around he cools off. You will hear preseason buzz around Aaron Murray as well. And after the Orange Bowl I can guarantee Geno Smith will have his name tossed around. David Wilson also had a good bowl game and might get some attention.
And since predictions way too early are what we do here, I’m going to throw out my prediction. The Heisman voting in 2012 will finish thus:
1. Brock Osweiller, QB, Arizona State (Todd Graham is the new coach, this will be a pass happy offense)
2. Matt Barkley, QB, USC
3. Montee Ball, RB, Wisconsin
4. Sammy Watkins, WR, Clemson
5. Trent Richardson, RB, Alabama
You heard it here first. Ok, with that out of the way, what kind of preseason rankings are we talking about here? Well, I will put together my combined preseason rankings when people start to release them. However if I had to take a stab at it, here’s what I think the preseason rankings may look like:
6. South Carolina
7. Kansas State
9. Virginia Tech
Might not be in that order, but you get the idea. As far as conferences go, in case any of you are lost, TCU will leave the MWC and join the Big 12. Texas A&M and Missouri will leave the Big 12 and join the SEC. West Virginia is really trying to leave the Big East for the Big 12. Fresno State, Nevada and Hawaii will leave the WAC for the MWC. A bunch of random no name teams will join the WAC. Pitt and Syracuse will be in limbo, still playing in the Big East, but headed to the ACC in 2013. And that’s where we stand as far as that goes.
All in all I think 2012 has the makings of a great season. Lots of coaching changes and rebuilding, lots of teams with something to prove, lots of preseason hype…should be a good one. Hopefully it has a better ending than the 2011 season.