Wisconsin launched the "This Fall Belongs to Ball" campaign, which linked the back to the Badgers' past Heisman Trophy winners. Arkansas, meanwhile, sent quarterback Wilson and running back Davis on a media tour through New York and Bristol, Conn., and started the Twitter account @ARKTD2012 to push the two stars.
Two weeks into the season, all three are in danger of falling completely out of the conversation.
Ball, who finished fourth in the voting last season, managed just 61 yards in Wisconsin's 10-7 loss to unranked Oregon State, his fewest since becoming the starter in 2010. He has time to increase his stock, but with the way Wisconsin's offense is struggling, averaging 297 yards per game after 469.8 a year ago, his ability to win already seems like a long shot.
It's a similar story for the Arkansas duo. While Davis' problems stem from his lack of production (he's averaged 3.9 yards per carry through two games), Wilson was still on this list a week ago. He left the overtime loss to Louisiana-Monroe at halftime after suffering a blow to the head and is listed as day-to-day for Saturday's matchup with No. 1 Alabama. It's an unfortunate reality for Wilson's candidacy, but he can't win if he doesn't play (only two winners in the modern era have ever missed a game). If he misses one of the Razorbacks' biggest games of the season, it'll be hard for him to get back into the race.
And now, this week's ranking. As a refresher, here's how the Watchman stacked up the contenders after Week 1. And remember: This is how my Heisman ballot would look if the season ended today.
Last week: 23-of-30 passing for 187 yards, six touchdowns and one interception in a 42-29 win over Syracuse.
Season (two games): 46-of-68 passing for 559 yards, 10 touchdowns and one interception.
Watchman's take: Your leader celebrated his 22nd birthday by tying his own school record of six touchdown passes in a game, including three in the fourth quarter, and made the most of the chance to flip some East Coast bias in his favor at New Jersey's MetLife Stadium. Barkley was efficient, completing 76.7 percent his passes. But he wasn't overwhelming, throwing for 27 yards in the first quarter and finishing with just two completions of more than 20 yards against a defense that ranked 98th against the pass last season. Still, he returns to the West with 90 career touchdowns, nine shy of Matt Leinart's record.
Next up: Saturday at No. 21 Stanford
Last week: Idle
Season (one game): 32-of-36 passing for 323 yards and four touchdowns; eight rushes for 65 yards and one touchdown.
Watchman's take: Don't expect the oddly placed bye week to hurt Smith's momentum; after all, he hadn't played a game in eight months before last week's rout of Marshall and looked in mid-season form. Expect more of the same against FCS opponent James Madison. Also, expect to see more of Smith under center. He operated almost exclusively out of the shotgun and pistol formations last season, but Dana Holgorsen and Co. added a package with Smith under center to utilize the QB-sneak against Marshall, and the result was a career-high 65 rushing yards. The wrinkle figures to make Smith that much more dangerous.
Next up: Saturday vs. James Madison
Last week: Seven rushes for 102 yards and two touchdowns; four receptions for 26 yards; two punt returns for zero yards in a 42-25 win over Fresno State.
Season (two games): 10 rushes for 166 yards and three touchdowns; eight receptions for 81 yards and two touchdowns; three punt returns for six yards.
Watchman's take: The opportunistic Thomas touched the ball just 13 times against the Bulldogs, but averaged 9.4 yards on those plays, including a 39-yard touchdown run on the Ducks' opening drive and a 51-yarder in the second quarter. In a scene that's certain to play out multiple times this season, Fresno State wanted nothing to do with Thomas in the return game, avoiding him on kickoffs and giving him no room to operate on punts. That resulted in Thomas fielding two punts for zero yards and not returning a kickoff.
Next up: Saturday vs. Tennessee Tech
Last week: 22-of-35 passing for 242 yards, three touchdowns and one interception in a 41-20 win over Missouri.
Season (two games): 37-of-61 passing for 500 yards, six touchdowns and one interception.
Watchman's take: For the second straight week Murray had to rebound from a shaky start, as late into the second quarter he had thrown for just 43 yards and an interception. But once again, he bounced back. Beginning with a drive that started with 1:31 remaining in the half, the junior went 16-of-23 for 209 yards and three scores. The sluggish starts are concerning, but the bottom line is that Murray rallied the Bulldogs to a win in a tough environment in the national spotlight and kept himself in the mix before Georgia enters the meat of the SEC schedule.
Next up: Saturday vs. Florida Atlantic
Last week: 18 rushes for 70 yards and two touchdowns; one reception for zero yards in a 41-7 win over Central Michigan.
Season (two games): 62 rushes for 280 yards and four touchdowns; seven receptions for 55 yards.
Watchman's take: After his taxing Week 1 against Boise State, Bell touched the ball 31 fewer times in the rout of the Chippewas, but he scored just as any touchdowns (two) as in the opener before taking a seat after three quarters. Good thing he got his rest, because Bell could be back to his workhorse responsibilities as the Spartans host No. 20 Notre Dame in Week 3. It's still early, and they have yet to face a ranked opponent, but the Irish have been stout against the rush, holding Navy to 3.7 yards per carry and limiting Purdue to 90 yards.
Next up: Saturday vs. No. 20 Notre Dame
Last week: 9-of-11 passing for 210 yards, one touchdown and one interception; 22 rushes for 71 yards and three touchdowns in a 52-13 win over Miami.
Season (two games): 28-of-39 passing for 379 yards, three touchdowns and one interception; 35 rushes for 125 yards and three touchdowns.
Watchman's take: Klein was simply dominant against Miami. He was nearly perfect through the air, missing just twice and averaging a staggering 23.3 yards per completion as he racked up 281 yards of offense and four touchdowns in the blowout. It's worth noting that with three touchdowns through the air and three on the ground, Klein is well on pace for another season with at least 10 passing touchdowns and 20 rushing scores (he had 13 and 27, respectively, a year ago). The only other quarterbacks to do that in the BCS era, Eric Crouch (2000), Tim Tebow ('07) and Cam Newton ('10), all won the Heisman.
Next up: Saturday vs. North Texas
Last week: 18-of-24 passing for 155 yards, one touchdown and one interception; 27 rushes for 141 yards and three touchdowns in a 31-16 win over UCF.
Season (two games): 32-of-48 passing for 362 yards, three touchdowns and one interception; 44 rushes for 302 yards and four touchdowns.
Watchman's take: Miller has been a force in Urban Meyer's offense, gaining more than 100 rushing yards in the first half for the second straight week and becoming the first Buckeyes quarterback to rush for three scores in a game since Art Schlichter in 1979. The sophomore has been responsible for 69.9 percent of Ohio State's offense, but the postseason ban makes the Heisman a near impossibility for Miller. Houston's Andre Ware (1989) is the only player to win on a team facing such a penalty. The closest anyone has come since was Barkley, who finished sixth in voting last year.
Next up: Saturday vs. Cal
Last week: 13 rushes for 40 yards and one touchdown; two receptions for eight yards in a 48-10 win over East Carolina.
Season (two games): 36 rushes for 150 yards and three touchdowns; five receptions for 29 yards.
Watchman's take: It was a light day for Lattimore, who didn't have a carry after the third quarter in the Gamecocks' rout. In fact, his 13 carries were the fewest he's had in a game he didn't leave injured since totaling seven against Troy on Oct. 20, 2010. But his six-yard touchdown on the opening drive was the 33rd of his career, equaling the school record held by George Rogers and Harold Green. Lattimore could be in for another similarly easy day this weekend against UAB, which ranked 114th in total defense last year and ranks 95th after two games this season.
Next up: Saturday vs. UAB
Last week: 15 rushes for 61 yards; four receptions for 18 yards in a 10-7 loss to Oregon State.
Season (two games): 47 rushes for 181 yards and one touchdown; seven receptions for 49 yards.
Watchman's take: Ball's streak of 21 consecutive games with a touchdown is over, and so is his time as the top back in the race. Ball was smothered by Oregon State, which held him to his lowest output since he had 18 yards versus Iowa on Oct. 23, 2010. The offensive line has long been the Badgers' identity, but this unit looks to be a major detriment to Ball's repeat finalist chances. After losing two All-Americas, the rebuilt line has struggled to open holes for Ball, who is averaging a mere 3.8 yards per carry.
Next up: Saturday vs. Utah State
Last week: 17-of-31 passing for 179 yards and one interception; 13 rushes for 112 yards and one touchdown in a 36-30 loss to UCLA.
Season (two games): 43-of-65 passing for 533 yards, five touchdowns and one interception; 19 rushes for 122 yards and one touchdown.
Watchman's take: He can still run. Martinez tore off a career-long 92-yard touchdown run on a zone-read play in the first quarter en route to his first 100-yard rushing game since last Oct. 8 versus Ohio State. But a week after looking like he had put it all together in his third year as starter, Martinez took a step back in the passing game with a 54.8 completion percentage. He was also sacked twice, including once for a safety when he made the wrong decision on another zone-read. It all results in a big drop for Martinez, who was fifth on this list a week ago.
Next up: Saturday vs. Arkansas State