Admit it. Going into the 2009 college football season you couldn’t have imagined someone besides Colt McCoy or Tim Tebow holding up the Heisman Trophy in New York City four months later.
And who in their right mind would have predicted that Cam Newton – fresh off a stint in JuCo – would take home the hardware in 2010?
Or that RGIII – the quarterback of perennial Big XII cellar dweller Baylor – would have the type of season that made voters ignore a 9-3 record in the regular season?
And last year might have been the craziest of all when Johnny Manziel – the redshirt freshman QB with a first year head coach who didn’t even have the starting job wrapped up until the middle of fall camp – would take the SEC by storm en route to winning the 2012 Heisman Trophy.
The point is, the last four Heisman Trophy winners weren’t the preseason favorite. In fact, you could make the argument that all four were darkhorses at best entering the season.
Which makes the question of ‘Who will win in 2013?’ that much more intriguing. I surely don’t have the answer, but I’ll gladly make the case why each of these 10 preseason favorites WON’T win be joining college football’s most exclusive fraternity this December.
It’s impossible not to believe that at some point this fall, Clemson will pull a Clemson and fall face first and have one of those inexplicably disappointing performances we’ve come to expect from the Tigers. Winning the Heisman is hard enough but for a guy from the ACC to get the kind of respect and draw attention away from guys in the SEC, it will require the kind of dominating season that helped Newton and RGIII put together to have a chance. As special of a talent as Boyd is, it’s unlikely he will take the nation by storm and distance himself enough from the others to get the votes needed.
There’s no questioning the talent that Bridgewater has, but the question will be will he have a stage to show it off? Lousiville won’t join the ACC until the 2014 season. While that should help the Cardinals chances to run the table this season, it means playing a schedule with potentially zero top 25 teams on it. Add that to the fact that despite being an extremely accurate passer with an NFL future, Bridgewater’s highlight package lacks the type of explosive, jaw-dropping type of plays that it takes to get votes. To win the Heisman in this day and age, you better be able to wow the voters with your feet as much as your arm.
Rarely does a defensive player make his way into the Heisman discussion but Clowney is a rare talent. While it’s easy to believe he is primed for the type of dominant season that Ndamukong Suh put together in 2009 for Nebraska, you have to wonder if anything less than complete and utter domination every single week will be considered a disappointment. While Clowney will have the stage and hype all season that Suh didn’t get until late in that 2009 season, the standard to which Clowney will be held is almost unfair.
For a wide receiver to even be considered for the Heisman they have to be one helluva talent. Lee has the tools (and the stats) to back it up, but if Calvin Johnson, Michael Crabtree and Justin Blackmon weren’t able to bring home the hardware with the types of seasons they each put together, is it realistic to think Lee can? Even if USC is at the top of the rankings in late November (and with Lane Kiffin in charge that’s comical to think about) Lee isn’t likely to be the guy.
As if there being only one two-time winner in the history of the award wasn’t enough, do we even need to mention Manziel’s offseason? Nah. Too easy. Manziel showed that he is one of the most electrifying guys to ever play the game last season and he knows how to turn it on when the lights are on. Even with a month to scout him last year, Bob Stoops and OU had no answer for Manziel. For Johnny to win back-to-back Heisman’s though, he’ll need to take his game to the next level and prove that last season was no fluke. Anything resembling a sophomore slump or failing to reach the same numbers as a year ago will hurt him in the eyes of voters – who will likely be sick of the Johnny Football hype machine by late-November.
McCarron is the kind of efficient winner that helped guys like Jason White and Matt Leinart win the Heisman. You can all but guarantee he will be near the top of the charts nationally in efficiency, passer rating and all that at the end of the season. The challenge for McCarron will be convincing voters that he is the best player in his own huddle. Between T.J. Yeldon and a handful of talented playmakers, people will question if McCarron is the reason for ‘Bamas offensive success or simply the guy tasked with not driving the car off the road.
The Big Ten has gotten a bit of a reputation in recent years for being slow and behind the times, and rightfully so. But even as more teams install spread offenses, the “three yards and a cloud of dust” stigma has remained making it hard for Big Ten players to gain credibility nationally. Miller will have plenty of opportunities to perform on the big stage but no matter how well he plays, the question of how he would perform against teams from the SEC will arise. Miller and Ohio State should be favored in every game on their schedule but can he show the consistency and gamebreaking ability needed to make people ignore that he doesn’t play in the SEC?
If Murray were a couple of inches taller he might be enjoying the kind of preseason hype that former Georgia signal caller Matthew Stafford and fellow Peach State QB Matt Ryan did entering their final seasons before being taken first overall in the NFL Draft. Murray, though, doesn’t have the prototypical NFL frame and while he is a big time college player who will undoubtedly put up big numbers this year, he’s struggled to establish himself as the top QB in his own conference behind the likes of Newton, Manziel and McCarron. While it’s certainly possible this could be Murray’s year, it’s hard to imagine this year being any different.
Even without Chip Kelly’s departure, Thomas is poised for a huge season. The question with Thomas will be is his frame durable enough to take the pounding of being THEE guy? The last two years, defenses were forced to focus on not just Thomas but guys like LaMichael James and Kenjon Barner. Thomas’ return abilities will give him more opportunities to flash his ability but surviving the season as the guy every team is gunning for and scheming around will be the biggest test. The highlight reel and the hype will keep him in the conversation all season but the success of Oregon backs from the last couple years will create a standard that isn’t entirely fair for him to live up to.
Yeldon will likely be the top running back for the top team in the country. Yeldon’s got two things working against him, however. The first: he shares a huddle with another guy on this list who is more accomplished and recognizable. The second, is Yeldon even as good as the last three backs that came before him, only one of which brought the Heisman back to Tuscaloosa. That’s what Yeldon will have to prove this year. And while it’s entirely possible that he is the best of the bunch, the way Saban likes to rotate his backs – along with McCarron’s arm and outside threats – means it will be difficult for Yeldon to put up the type of numbers needed to win the Heisman.