Orange Bowl

Heisman Breakdown

 
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Bell took over for the Spartans with 210 yard rushing and 2 TDs against Boise State.
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Big 10

Montee Ball, RB Wisconsin
Why He Will
Only Barry Sanders had ever put up the numbers Montee Ball accounted for last season, and that still wasn’t enough for the Wisconsin running back to bring home the Heisman hardware. As the only returning finalist from 2011, he’s one of the early favorites to make the New York trip again in 2012. If he can come even remotely close to replicating last year’s success, he should be in consideration on numbers alone. What will put him over the top would be how far Wisconsin can go. Russell Wilson stole some of the spotlight from Ball last year, but now that Wilson is in the NFL, it’ll be up to Ball to carry the Badgers to a national title game. He’s well on his way to rewriting the college football record books, but it’s hard to imagine his illustrious collegiate career being complete without its most prestigious award.
Why He Won’t
History isn’t on Ball’s side. Since 1990, only two returning Heisman finalists have actually gone on to win the award the following year (Danny Wuerffel, 1996 and Ricky Williams, 1998), and just two of the last twelve winners was not a quarterback (Mark Ingram, 2009 and Reggie Bush, 2005*).  He has the talent to be associated with the nation’s best, but numbers alone do not a Heisman make.

Denard Robinson, QB Michigan
Why He Will
As one of the most dynamic quarterbacks in college football, Robinson has the ability to beat you through the air or on the ground. In 2010, he became the first player in NCAA history to throw for 2,500 yards and rush for 1,500 yards in a single season. Those numbers dipped a bit last year, but it was also the Michigan signal caller’s first season in Al Borges’ system. With a firmer grasp on the offense in 2012, those numbers should go up and we could see Robinson accomplish things few others in FBS history have.
Why He Won’t
The schedule isn’t kind to the Wolverines this season. Robinson will be pitted against some of the top defenses in college football, with games against three top-10 defenses from a year ago in Alabama, Michigan State, and Illinois. Those opponents could capitalize on Robinsons’ gunslinger mentality, and as the turnovers pile up his name will slide further and further down the ballot.

Le’Von Bell, RB Michigan State
Why He Will
One of the best kept secrets in college football, Bell could be poised to have a monstrous junior campaign.  He split carries with Edwin Baker last season, but will be the guy in an offense looking to lean heavily on the run in 2012. On just 182 carries, Bell scorched opposing defenses for 948 yards and 13 touchdowns. For a little perspective, Marcus Lattimore (widely regarded as one of the best running backs in the nation and a Heisman hopeful in his own right) ran for 818 yards and 10 touchdowns on 163 carries. If given a full workload it’s tantalizing to think what Bell could accomplish, particularly with a Michigan State defense that could give him a lot of short fields to work with. Oh yeah, and the Spartans play both Michigan and Wisconsin this season, giving him the opportunity to outperform Heisman frontrunners Denard Robinson and Montee Ball.
Why He Won’t
Kirk Cousins is gone, as are with the Spartans top three pass catchers from last season. While that means more carries for the talented back it also means defenses will be keying in on Bell. He’s never had the pressure of running an offense or even the responsibility of being a feature running back. It remains to be seen how Bell will respond mentally to what’s expected out of him this season.


Big 12

Geno Smith, QB West Virginia
Why He Will
Geno Smith put up some astounding numbers last season, shredding the West Virginia record book to the tune of 4,300 yards and 31 touchdowns. Now, with a year’s experience in head coach Dana Holgorsen’s "Airraid" offense, there’s reason to expect even more out of Smith in 2012.  He’ll have the weapons around him to get it done, too. The Mountaineers return two of the most talented receivers in the game, Tavon Austin and Stedman Baily, who accounted for nearly 2,500 yards and 20 touchdowns combined. Smith has the pieces in place and plays in the system that could see him put up even gaudier numbers this season.
Why He Won’t
West Virginia is in a whole new ball game, coming from a Big East that sent four other teams to a bowl game last season to a Big 12 that sent eight. Smith will be up against a different level of competition, schools with better defenses that he’s never faced before. The Mountaineers’ regular season schedule has five preseason top-25 teams, and it’d be hard to give the Heisman to the quarterback of a team with two or more losses. And while Tavon Austin gives Smith one of the best weapons in the game to play with, the wide out has generated some Heisman buzz in his own right and could take some of the limelight away from his quarterback.

Landry Jones, QB Oklahoma
Why He Will
As Oklahoma’s all-time leader in passing yards and touchdowns, Jones seemingly finds himself on this list every year. Coming into the 2011 season, Landry Jones was considered an early Heisman favorite after forgoing the NFL draft to play his junior year at Oklahoma. Despite 4,400 yards and 29 touchdowns, many thought he took a step back because he didn’t win "the big ones." As a senior and four-year starter he’ll be the unquestioned leader on a very good Oklahoma team that has depth and experience on the offensive line and at receiver.  It’s a period of transition in the Big 12, and Oklahoma has the steadiest footholds of any team in the conference. If Jones can lead the Sooners to a Big 12 championship and a possible BCS title berth, it’ll be hard for voters to say no.
Why He Won’t
Oklahoma looked lost without top receiver in Ryan Broyles last year, losing two of their final three regular season games after he went down with a torn ACL. Now that he’s gone for good, will there be more chinks in Landry Jones’ armor? How much of his success hinged on Broyles big play ability? In the four games without Broyles last season, the Sooner quarterback completed fewer than 60 percent of his passes, and threw six picks to just one touchdown. Those aren’t Heisman-winning numbers.

Collin Klein, QB Kansas State
Why He Will
In his first year as a starter, the "Tebow of the Midwest" accounted for 40 total touchdowns and an FBS quarterback record 27 scores on the ground. Despite the jaw-dropping rushing numbers, what really puts Klein in this group was how he developed in the pocket as the season progressed. He tossed a touchdown in each of the final five contests and totaled 926 yards through the air (as opposed to 992 yards over the first eight games). He’s got a big, durable frame that enables him to be a physical runner and one of the best dual-threat quarterbacks in college football if he takes even more steps forward as a passer this season.
Why He Won’t
Klein carried the Wildcats’ offense last season, literally. He had 317 carries on the season, third most in the FBS and 74 more carries than any other quarterback in college football. That workhorse type pounding is more than a signal caller should make, and Kansas State has made it clear they’ll utilize the backs more in the ground game. While he did improve his air attack last season, he won’t be able to put up the same kind of numbers some of the other quarterbacks in the running will.

 

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