Time for a little early-season Heismania.
The truth is, if someone is going to win the Heisman, they're probably going to be on a top-10 team at the end of the regular season.
A quick look, then, at how this has played out since 1980 (and as a pre-emptive move to hopefully avoid the usual bickering, Reggie Bush was voted the Heisman winner at the time; regardless of what's happened since, that event did occur in December 2005):
AP RANKING OF TEAMS WITH HEISMAN WINNER AT REGULAR SEASON'S END, 1980-2009
No. 1 (10): 1982 Georgia (Herschel Walker), 1983 Nebraska (Mike Rozier), 1986 Miami (Vinny Testaverde), 1992 Miami (Gino Torretta), 1993 Florida State (Charlie Ward), 1997 Michigan (Charles Woodson), 2004 Southern California (Matt Leinart), 2005 Southern California (Reggie Bush), 2006 Ohio State (Troy Smith), 2009 Alabama (Mark Ingram)
No. 2 (1): 2008 Oklahoma (Sam Bradford)
No. 3 (1): 2000 Florida State (Chris Weinke), 2003 Oklahoma (Jason White)
No. 4 (6): 1991 Michigan (Desmond Howard), 1994 Colorado (Rashaan Salaam), 1995 Ohio State (Eddie George), 1996 Florida (Danny Wuerffel), 1999 Wisconsin (Ron Dayne), 2001 Nebraska (Eric Crouch)
No. 5 (1): 2002 Southern California (Carson Palmer)
No. 8 (2): 1981 Southern California (Marcus Allen), 1984 Boston College (Doug Flutie)
No. 9 (1): 2007 Florida (Tim Tebow)
No. 12 (2): 1987 Notre Dame (Tim Brown), 1988 Oklahoma State (Barry Sanders)
No. 13 (2): 1989 Houston (Andre Ware), 1990 (Ty Detmer)
No. 16 (1): 1985 Auburn (Bo Jackson)
No. 18 (1): 1980 South Carolina (George Rogers)
No. 20 (1): 1998 Texas (Ricky Williams)
You'll note that 18 of the last 19 Heisman winners came from teams that wrapped up the regular season in the top 10. Moreover, the last QB before Ware and Detmer to win the Heisman from a team outside the top 10 was Stanford's Jim Plunkett back in 1970.
Unsurprisingly, those numbers distinctly color this look at possible Heisman candidates. This should not be considered a ranking of the best at the position, but rather a look at who has the best potential combination of skills, stats and team success over the course of the season to haul home college football's most hallowed hardware.
1. Terrelle Pryor, Ohio State. Everybody knows who Pryor is, and he plays on a team with as good a shot as anyone of making it to the national title game. Hey, look! Five of the last six Heisman winners played in the national title game. If the Buckeyes go 11-1 or better, Pryor will probably receive an invitation to New York --- at minimum.
2. Kellen Moore, Boise State. It all hinges on Labor Day for the gunslinger behind the BCS-busting Broncos. If Moore can play well and take down Virginia Tech, he'll very much be a factor in the Heisman race. Thanks to a relatively soft WAC schedule, his numbers will be excellent and Boise will probably remain in the top five, barring a shocking stumble or a successful Oregon State upset bid. That's a recipe for Heisman relevance.
3. Ryan Mallett, Arkansas. Good news: He's in the SEC, so his name recognition will be high. Bad news: The Razorbacks aren't as good as Alabama. And even if they are on one late September day, they still have to play Georgia, Auburn and Louisiana State at some point. Team success could be the greatest hindrance in Mallett's candidacy.
4. Jacory Harris, Miami. The ACC's most viable Heisman candidate resides in Florida, but he's not the guy with the massive campaign behind him. Harris' Hurricanes will be lucky to make it through the first five games with less than two losses, but that set of opponents --- Ohio State, Pittsburgh, Florida State, Clemson --- ensures Harris will be a known quantity very early. Should Miami be as good as some (including the Official Dot-Com Diva) believe, Harris will get a ton of credit for it because of the Hurricanes' cast-of-thousands approach to the rest of their skill positions on offense.
5. Ricky Dobbs, Navy. If there's a quarterback who could stay in the discussion without being in the top 10, it's Dobbs. He's already finding grass-roots support, and the service academy angle will at least cause people to consider him. Oh, and he's pretty good, too, and wrapped up his junior year with a surgical dissection of Missouri in the Texas Bowl. Navy probably needs to go 10-2 at minimum and Dobbs might need to come close to his 27 rushing touchdowns from a year ago for this to be even remotely possible. Given Dobbs' abilities and Navy perhaps reaching a talent peak this year, don't count it out.
6. Andrew Luck, Stanford. An efficient quarterback who returns with a nearly intact offensive line in a conference that seems up for grabs after tumultuous offseasons for the two league favorites? That's not a bad Heisman possibility, actually. Sure, Toby Gerhart is gone, but the Cardinal is still in decent shape to make a rare Pac-10 title push. Luck, who threw only four interceptions in 288 attempts last year, will be the guy who makes the offense go this year.
Six more also considered: Matt Barkley, Southern California; Blaine Gabbert, Missouri; Case Keenum, Houston; Jake Locker, Washington; Joshua Nesbitt, Georgia Tech; Christian Ponder, Florida State
Coming tomorrow: A half-dozen running backs who could win the Heisman