Success, stats and schedule are the talking points for any Heisman candidate, and these Magnificent Seven hopefuls are worthy of the preelection billboard treatment
This is an article from the Aug. 20, 2012 issue
Wisconsin RB, Sr.
CAMPAIGN PLATFORM: Touchdown machine
Wisconsin has a new coordinator, QB, fullback and three first-time starters on the line. But the offense remains explosive, the best in the Big Ten, and will make the Badgers a national factor for the entire fall.
What's next after tying Barry Sanders's TD record (39) and finishing third in FBS in rushing (1,923 yards)? He will put up worthy numbers, but it's unrealistic to think he will duplicate his 2011 stats.
A trip to Nebraska and Michigan State at home could be tricky, but another Big Ten title-game berth is likely. Last year that game helped get Ball to the Downtown Athletic Club dance.
Oklahoma QB, Sr.
CAMPAIGN PLATFORM: Underrated record-setting passer
With Jones playing behind a line that has 102 combined starts and in front of some talented backs, his Sooners have the foundation for a run at a national title, but a go-to receiver will need to emerge.
Another 4,000-yard season seems a given for the Sooners' alltime leader in yards (12,379) and TD passes (93), though he has to cut down on his picks (15 in '11) to become the third Heisman winner of the Bob Stoops era.
September (vs. Kansas State) and October (vs. Texas and Notre Dame) offer big tests, and a strong stretch drive against ranked West Virginia, Oklahoma State and TCU could punch Jones's ticket to New York City.
South Carolina RB, Jr.
CAMPAIGN PLATFORM: Six yards and a cloud of dust
As the face of a team primed to contend for an SEC East crown, Lattimore is the conference's best shot at claiming a fourth trophy in the last six years. He'd be only the second runner since 2000 to win the award.
He averaged 23.2 carries in '11 before a season-ending knee injury, but the emergence of dual-threat QB Connor Shaw should lighten his workload. If he's 100%, Lattimore's a threat for 1,500 yards.
Lattimore faces two defenses that were 25th or better against the rush last season (Georgia and LSU), but they come in consecutive weeks. Those games will make or break his candidacy.
Oregon RB, Soph.
CAMPAIGN PLATFORM: Electric all-purpose monster
The Ducks are the class of the Pac-12 North, and Thomas's highlight-reel skills will be fully exploited in Chip Kelly's lethal spread. Fellow burner Kenjon Barner will get his touches too, which will keep Thomas fresh.
He scored rushing (seven TDs), receiving (nine) and on kick returns (two) while amassing 2,235 total yards as a freshman. He should have no problem blowing those figures away.
Oregon doesn't see a preseason-ranked team until November, giving Thomas time to pad his stats. His chances, as with Barkley's, largely rest with his showing in the Pac-12's game of the year at the Coliseum.
Michigan QB, Sr.
CAMPAIGN PLATFORM: Nation's premier dual-threat QB
Michigan is back. Shoelace even got a shout-out from President Obama in January. He has the weapons around him to keep defenses honest. Now if he can just show an improved passing touch.
Another 2,000-yard passing, 1,000-yard rushing year is within his grasp, and voters love dual-threat QBs. But his completion percentage (a seven-point slip in '11) must improve if he wants to win the hardware.
Robinson can seize the lead with a big day against Alabama in the opener. If he remains steady against Notre Dame and the conference slate and gets the Wolverines to the Big Ten title game, he'll be tough to beat.
West Virginia QB, Sr.
CAMPAIGN PLATFORM: Lights up scoreboards
As the Mountaineers showed in their 70-point Orange Bowl eruption, they'll fit right in with the rest of the pass-happy Big 12, where Smith gets a bigger stage to prove he's among the nation's elite passers.
Dana Holgorsen's QBs have thrown for more than 5,000 yards in three of five seasons, and with the return of two 1,000-yard receivers (Stedman Bailey and Tavon Austin), Smith should become the fourth.
He'll face only one defense that ranked better than 60th against the pass in '11. But Smith's candidacy hinges on a brutal stretch against Texas, Texas Tech, Kansas State, TCU, Oklahoma State and Oklahoma.