|There are a number of capable candidates to break Johnny Manziel's quest for back-to-back Heismans.|
If Johnny Manziel serves any kind of suspension this season for his involvement in selling autographs for money, it would undoubtedly ruin his chances of winning back-to-back Heisman Trophies. Entering the season, which player is best positioned to unseat Manziel and win college football's most prestigious individual award?
Focus on dark horses, not favoritesLikely someone who is NOT getting much attention as we begin the season. The last thing you want to be anointed is "Heisman Trophy Favorite." So, with that in mind, the names that roll off most people's tongues include Johnny Manziel, Jadeveon Clowney (the South Carolina defensive end many favor as the best player in the country), and quarterbacks AJ McCarron from Alabama, Tajh Boyd from Clemson and Braxton Miller from Ohio State.
So ... keep an eye on these names: USC WR Marqise Lee and Baylor RB Lache Seastrunk. BUT, my dark horse guys to really take note of: Quarterbacks Marcus Mariota of Oregon, Brett Hundley of UCLA, and Teddy Bridgewater of Louisville (and Louisville has a real shot at an undefeated regular season). How about the Heisman residing at the school that gave us Johnny Unitas? It could easily happen.
Mariota is next dual-threat QB breakout starOregon QB Marcus Mariota has an excellent chance of taking home the Heisman Trophy. He put up outstanding numbers during his redshirt freshman campaign and I believe he will post even better stats in 2013. Like Manziel, he's a dual-threat quarterback who is capable of producing highlight runs and throws on a weekly basis.
Despite the departure of Chip Kelly, the Oregon squad is positioned to compete for a national title. A late-season tilt against Stanford could provide the perfect stage for Mariota to produce his "Heisman moment."
Miller is highly hyped player on highly hyped teamOhio State QB Braxton Miller is a perfect fit for Urban Meyer's version of the spread and again is going to put up big numbers in the offense. Unlike last season, when there were questions about Miller's ability to fit the system, Miller is heading into this season as a highly hyped player on a highly hyped team. Ohio State is going to have a big season; frankly, if the Buckeyes lose more than once, it will be shocking. In short, Miller is going to put up big numbers -- with a few highlight-reel plays each week -- on a team that will contend for the national title. That is a recipe for winning the Heisman.
Meyer set to get most out of Miller's diversified abilitiesBraxton Miller is the best positioned to wrestle the Heisman Trophy away from Johnny Manziel this season. The Buckeyes' star flew under the radar in 2012 despite totaling 3,310 yards of total offense, including 1,271 rushing yards with 13 rush touchdowns. Urban Meyer will maximize Miller's talents by using the same playbook that propelled Tim Tebow to a pair of BCS titles and the Heisman Trophy at Florida. With Ohio State set to contend for a national title behind a number of attendees from an unbeaten squad, Miller will have the national spotlight to sway voters over the course of the season. Most importantly, he will show off an improved game as a runner/passer that could help him post the kind of numbers that will make fans take notice of his diversified talents.
McCarron can unseat Manziel if 'Bama beats A&MAlabama's AJ McCarron figures to be the 2013 Heisman candidate most capable of unseating Johnny Manziel for the honor. That might require a head-to-head road win over Manziel's Texas A&M team on Sept. 14, and if Manziel were to be ineligible for that game, McCarron's Heisman resume frankly wouldn't look quite the same. Working against McCarron will be the dominance of the Alabama running game, which will allow other quarterback candidates to ring up flashier statistics. But if Manziel misses Texas A&M's first game or two and McCarron maintains a zero in the loss column, he can stay on the inside rail in this race.
Process of elimination reveals true candidateThe Heisman Trophy race is as much about who can't win it as who can, disqualifying the two best players in the game today. A pure defender isn't going to strike the pose, so South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney is out. A wide receiver is dependent on too many moving pieces -- quarterback and offensive line play -- so Marqise Lee of USC is out of the mix. Louisville quarterback Teddy Bridgewater is the best quarterback in the nation, but doesn't play a schedule that will garner much respect. Oregon running back De'Anthony Thomas won't get enough touches. By process of elimination, that leaves the best players on the presumptive favorites to win the BCS title: Ohio State quarterback Braxton Miller and Alabama running back T.J. Yeldon. Backed by the relentless SEC drumbeat and possessing a set of skills far superior to Mark Ingram or Trent Richardson, Yeldon becomes just the second Heisman Trophy winner in the illustrious history of the Crimson Tide.
QBs on national-title contending teams are favoritesOhio State and Alabama should each be in the national championship picture this season. Each of their quarterbacks are my picks for top Heisman candidates.
Ohio State's Braxton Miller is an incredible athlete, and he should be very good in Ohio State's offense because of the fact that he can both run and is an effective passer. The Buckeyes have a very good chance of being an undefeated team this year, and Miller will be a big part of that.
Alabama's AJ McCarron has a good chance to be a three-time winner of the national championship. Last year, McCarron had 30 touchdown passes and just three interceptions. Those numbers are hard to discredit. He can stretch defenses. He has an above average arm. He is very smart and doesn't make mistakes. I think that he is better than recent Alabama quarterbacks.