The top 5 Heisman candidates for the 2011 college football season

Stanford Cardinals quarterback Andrew Luck (12) completes this first half pass against the Virginia Tech Hokies during the 77th Annual Discover Orange Bowl at Sun Life stadium in Miami on January 3, 2011. UPI/Michael Bush

The 2011 college football season is still a couple of months away but seeing as how we’ve reached the dead days of the sports calendar, I figured it would be okay if we took a look at this year’s Heisman candidates. Below are five players I believe have the best shot at claiming this year’s Heisman hardware.

1. Andrew Luck, QB, Stanford
What to Like: Barring injury or a Jake Locker-type senior campaign, Luck could run away with this year’s Heisman. He was runner-up for the award in 2010 and was named the Pac-10 Offensive Player of the Year. Most pundits believe he’ll be the top signal caller in college football this year and he’s the main reason why Stanford will be rated high in the preseason polls.
What Not to Like: He lost his top two receivers (Doug Baldwin and Ryan Whalen), his head coach (Jim Harbaugh), and his offensive line (which allowed only five sacks last season) is undergoing a reloading phase. Can Luck overcome all that change in one offseason?

2. Landry Jones, QB, Oklahoma
What to Like: Jones led the nation in completions last season and put up monstrous numbers in Oklahoma’s pass-happy offense. He completed 65% of his passes while racking up 4,700-plus yards and 38 touchdowns. With WR Ryan Broyles and nearly all five starters on his offensive line returning, Jones shouldn’t miss a beat.
What Not to Like: Losing all-purpose back DeMarco Murray hurts, but the biggest worry with Jones is whether or not he can handle the expectations of Oklahoma being the top-ranked team at the start of the season. All eyes will be on the Sooners every week and just one slip up could cost OU a national title berth and Jones a shot at the Heisman.

3. Marcus Lattimore, RB, South Carolina
What to Like: After rushing for 1,197 yards and 17 touchdowns as a freshman, South Carolina fans can’t wait to see what Lattimore will do for an encore. His performance last year placed him among the nine SEC players who have rushed for at least 1,000 yards as a freshman, which is a list that also includes Georgia’s Herschel Walker and Florida’s Emmitt Smith. With Lattimore set to again be the workhorse in Steve Spurrier’s offense, you can expect big things out of this sophomore in 2011.
What Not to Like: Quarterback Stephen Garcia is one jaywalking charge away from being kicked off the team for good. If Garcia flubs up again or can’t beat out sophomore Connor Shaw for the starting job this summer, then Lattimore might have too much pressure on his shoulders this season. If SC becomes too one-dimensional, Lattimore’s production will likely suffer.

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Week 6 forecast: Will Sparty stop Denard Robinson? Will South Carolina pull the upset?

AUBURN, AL - SEPTEMBER 25: Marcus Lattimore  of the South Carolina Gamecocks rushes against the Auburn Tigers at Jordan-Hare Stadium on September 25, 2010 in Auburn, Alabama. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

College football season continues to be awesome. It seems like every week I sit down to write my picks (which also continue to be awesome) there are a handful of games that are can’t miss.

I don’t know if that’s because there’s an increasing number of good teams in college football, or if all the cupcakes teams were feasting on at the beginning of the season beefed up their records artificially. Either way, I like being excited on a Friday night for what I’m about to see the next day, and I’ve been like that for a few weeks now.

This week is no different, in fact, it’s about as big as any weekend of the season. And maybe that’s artificially inflated for myself living in Michigan and seeing about 50% of my Facebook “friends” switch their profile picture to something Michigan or Michigan State related. It’s half exciting and half terribly annoying (example: New friend request from John Doe. Hmm, John Doe doesn’t ring a bell, I wonder what he looks like. Oh, he looks just like Denard Robinson. Strange. Ignore. (Not true, I never ignore. My ego can use all the friends it can get, virtual or not.)).

Enough parentheses, let’s get to the games. Read the rest of this entry »

National title picture could change today … Or stay exactly the same

Boise State Broncos quarterback Kellen Moore (11) (R) fakes a handoff in their NCAA football game against the Virginia Tech Hokies in Landover, Maryland, September 6, 2010.  REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst (UNITED STATES - Tags: SPORT FOOTBALL)

By the end of the day today, we could have a whole new look at the national title picture. Then again, you could say that any week in college football.

This time, however, there’s actually a chance that things could get jumbled up. The top team in the country, Alabama, is facing by far its stiffest test of the season as it travels to Fayetteville to take on Ryan Mallett and Arkansas. No. 3 Boise State will play in its second — and probably last — “showcase” game of the year when it plays host to Oregon State.

We know that if Boise State loses, a lot of the debate about who deserves what will go away, at least until we have to sort through a handful of one-loss teams at the end of the season (but we’ll save that for later). If the Tide lose and the Broncos win, is Boise all of the sudden in the driver’s seat for a spot in the title game? Probably not, actually.

It’s a big slate today, so find a spot on the couch by the mid-afternoon games and settle in for some good football. Read the rest of this entry »

Apparently Turner Gill spent two weeks preparing for Georgia Tech

DETROIT - DECEMBER 5:  Head Coach Turner Gill of the Buffalo Bulls looks on against the Ball State Cardinals during the MAC Championship game on December 5, 2008 at Ford Field in Detroit Michigan. (Photo by: Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)

Lost among the major Week 1 storylines in college football was Kansas’ loss to FCS (I-AA) opponent North Dakota State in coach Turner Gill’s debut.

The Jayhawks not only lost to NDSU, but looked absolutely awful doing it, scoring just three points and getting held below 100 yards rushing. But today, Gill went a long way toward erasing a lot of the early doubt Kansas fans might have had after that loss, as the Jayhawks knocked off No. 15 Georgia Tech, 28-25.

It’s another reminder that we shouldn’t pay too much attention to what we see in Week 1, or at least not do too much prognosticating based off of it. Many teams hold a lot back when playing lesser opponents, as basic plays, along with a higher talent level is usually enough. That obviously didn’t work for Kansas a week ago, and Gill deserves a lot of the blame for not having his team ready for its opener. But it looks like the Jayhawks aren’t going to be the pushover Week 1 seemed to have shown us.

In other early-game news, Marcus Lattimore is the kind of running back that can make even Steve Spurrier a run-first kind of coach. The South Carolina true freshman carried the ball nearly 40 times today against Georgia, and each one was more punishing for the Bulldog defenders. If Stephen Garcia can get things figured out, South Carolina could contend in the SEC this season.

– Virginia Tech clearly has a little bit of a Boise State hangover, as it struggled with James Madison through the first half, leading 13-7 (that’s since gone to 16-7). The Hokies run game, which was supposed to be its strong point, is struggling again, as super sophomore Ryan Williams is being held under four yards a carry. This, of course, is bad news for Boise State, as some will use any poor outing by the Hokies as a reason to punish the Broncos.

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