For those who didn't check out yesterday's discussion on the half-dozen quarterbacks who could win the Heisman, go back and read this.
Here's the cliff notes: Just one of the last 19 Heisman Trophy winners has come from a team that was ranked outside the top 10 in the AP poll at the end of the regular season.
So team success --- and the mere possibility of team success --- is just as important as skills and stats in trying to figure out who might come home with the Heisman in December.
As a result, the list of quarterbacks and today's list of running backs is not meant to be an outright ranking of abilities. Rather, it's simply a guess at the chances of (a) Guys to enjoy strong years; (b) Players to have those strong years for teams at least contending for a spot in a BCS game; and (c) The chances each player will get a hefty share of the credit for that success.
1. Mark Ingram, Alabama. He's the incumbent winner, he's playing for a team many believe should be ranked No. 1 and he has more name recognition than anyone. If he comes close to matching his 1,658 yards and 17 touchdowns from a year ago, Ingram will surely be in the Heisman discussion. He already has the best head start of anyone.
2. Ryan Williams, Virginia Tech. Sure, Darren Evans could pilfer carries and eat into Williams' numbers. But Trent Richardson rolled up more than 700 yards last year and it didn't hurt Ingram. More likely than anything, Williams' candidacy depends on following one of the oldest rules in the book: "Don't flop, individually or as a team, in a high-profile opener." The Hokies will run. And run. And run. Williams had 1,655 yards and 21 touchdowns as a freshman, and he'll be a household name if Virginia Tech beats Boise State and can remain in the top five much of the season.
3. Jacquizz Rodgers, Oregon State. Rodgers' chances could crumble based on team success alone; the Beavers, never known for being a great team in September, play Texas Christian and Boise State in the first three games. If anyone can overcome a stumble or two, though, it's the electrifying Rodgers, who will make the sort of runs folks will remember even if Oregon State doesn't play particularly well around him at times.
4. Dion Lewis, Pittsburgh. The diminutive sophomore scampered for nearly 1,800 yards and collected 17 touchdowns a year ago, and the Panthers should contend for a Big East crown. The nonconference schedule is dicey (at Utah, Miami, at Notre Dame) and could derail Lewis' chances regardless of how good he is. But if the Panthers stay relevant and Dave Wannstedt makes sure Lewis keeps getting the ball, then the Panthers will have a legitimate Heisman possibility on their hands. Would he be the best in the Big East? That depends on the output of ...
5. Noel Devine, West Virginia. From a Thursday night game, three Friday night contests and a trip to Louisiana State, Devine will enjoy plenty of significant platforms to show off his speed. He had 1,465 yards and 13 touchdowns a season ago, and with West Virginia breaking in a new quarterback (again), he'll be the center of the Mountaineers' offense. The non-LSU part of the nonconference schedule (Coastal Carolina, at Marshall, Maryland, UNLV) is friendly enough to give Devine a decent chance to get off to a good start.
6. LaMichael James, Oregon. As good as the running backs have been in Eugene since Chip Kelly installed his offense upon arrival in 2007, the quarterbacks (Dennis Dixon and Jeremiah Masoli) are the maestros who have made it work. James is exceptional --- he ran for 1,546 yards after stepping in for gridiron pugilist LeGarrette Blount early last season --- but it'll be curious to see how much credit he earns nationally for whatever success the Ducks can piece together.
Six more also considered: John Clay, Wisconsin; Montel Harris, Boston College; DeMarco Murray, Oklahoma; Bernard Pierce, Temple; Evan Royster, Penn State; Jordan Todman, Connecticut.