Sunday, September 30, 2012

Your Way-Too-Early 2012 Heisman Predictions

Yeah. We just finished week 5. Some teams haven't played more than one game yet. But everyone wants to know.

Who will win the Heisman?

Last year, it wasn't much of a debate. Robert Griffin III had thrown one more touchdown pass than incompletion. RG3 battled with LaMichael James and Andrew Luck until the end, but eventually beat out the NFL's best architect/quarterback combo by a hefty 280 total voting points.

This year, it's a bit different. Preseason favorite Matt Barkley had two bad games in a row, and other program-reviving candidates have emerged. Here are your way-too-early 2012 Heisman predictions:

1. Geno Smith, QB, West Virginia (Sr.)
Looks like West Virginia and this Miramar (FL) product were a perfect fit in the pass-heavy Big 12 after all.

Riding the momentum from his seven touchdown, 401 yard performance last year in West Virginia's 70-33 throttling of Clemson in the Orange Bowl, Smith has put up better-than-RG3-type numbers through for 8th-ranked WVU through his first four games:

20 touchdowns, 0 picks, 83% completion rate.
Oh yeah. He also completed 45 of 51 passes for only 656 yards and 8 touchdowns against Baylor last week.
Dana Holgorsen loves to chuck it, and Smith has shown he's more than comfortable in the air-raid offense in his second year. If that serves as any indication, he'll continue to put up the gaudy stats he currently is. The experience factor should also help with voter familiarity, as he is coming off a year where he threw for over 4300 yards and 31 touchdowns.
And if you look at recent Heisman history, a record with one or fewer losses and big-time stats = Stiff-Arm Statue. (See Sam Bradford-'08, Mark Ingram-'09, Cam Newton-'10)
His schedule won't be easy though, as the Mountaineers travel to face Texas in two weeks and have to host K-State, TCU, and Oklahoma. Keep an eye on the Oct. 20th match-up against the Wildcats and Collin Klein. Based on what he's done so far, he's almost guaranteed to finish in the top 3. A good showing against Klein - another top-5 Heisman candidate - could do enough to convince voters he should win the award.

2. Collin Klein, QB, Kansas State (Sr.)
Speak of the devil.
No, he doesn't have eye-popping stats, but Klein is the Eric Crouch-type candidate of this year's crop. Already with a signature victory against Oklahoma this season, Klein just needs to keep playing 'Snyder-ball' offense, killing the clock by making good decisions running the option. However, a loss could seriously damage his stock, as his stats will not hold up against the other candidates with one or two-loss record. K-State will have to go through Texas, West Virginia, TCU and Baylor in the rugged Big-12 this season. Should he win all those games, it will be an interesting race between him and Geno Smith.

3. E.J. Manuel, QB, Florida State (Sr.)
This highly-recruited, once-enigmatic signal-caller has now become a star.
After learning behind the Vikings' Christian Ponder for a couple of years, Manuel now looks very comfortable for Jimbo Fisher and has become more dynamic than Ponder ever was. And he's doing it for a top 5 team. After accounting for 482 yards while assisting FSU's 35-point explosion against Clemson in the 2nd half two weeks ago, Manuel played solid against a scrappy USF team to improve the 'Noles to 5-0. He's not Cam Newton, but to him the comparisons will come due to his size and the remarkable athleticism in that 6'5" frame. Of the top three candidates, he has the best team and likely the easiest path to the BCS National Championship Game. Manuel's main mission? Avoid disappointment. Yes, FSU fans -- I know, it's happened 3 years in a row. But aside from Clemson, the ACC is weak this season. Still, he has to avoid trap games. Miami, Virginia Tech, and Florida are all potential candidates to upset FSU in the regular season. If E.J. can keep FSU's record unblemished and continue to spread the ball out to all the freak athletes on his roster, an appearance in the National Championship game would look awful good to voters.

4. Aaron Murray, QB, Georgia (Jr.)
Has anybody realized Georgia has a top-five team and the best quarterback in the nation's toughest conference? I have.
Murray is headed toward his 3rd straight great statistical season, this time with his best team yet. After coming out on top in a 51-44 shootout against Tennessee last week, Murray has completed better than 73% of his passes in 3 straight outings. The main thing Murray has going for him is that he's a proven commodity. After two straight 3000 yard seasons in the SEC, college football is now familiar with him. The only reason I can't expect Murray to win the award is because of the NFL's college football's powerhouse -- Alabama. I could see Murray leading the 'Dawgs past South Carolina this week and Florida on October 27th. But should they meet 'Bama in the SEC Championship Game, there's no way he can pull it off. The Tide is too strong.