We released the 2012 CBSSports.com Preseason Heisman Watch on Monday. Since then, we've followed that up with an in-depth look at the Heisman chances of each of the top 10 candidates.
Jones is quietly on his way to becoming one of the all-time NCAA passing leaders. Through three years as a starter for the Sooners, he's thrown for 12,379 passing yards and 93 touchdowns. He had the unenviable task of replacing 2008 Heisman Trophy winner Sam Bradford, but he's done a commendable job of living up to his standards.
The 2010 season seemed like the precursor to great things for Jones, as the then-sophomore threw for 4,718 yards and 38 touchdowns. But his junior year was a bit of a disappointment--his yards, completion percentage, efficiency rating and touchdown total all fell. Jones' fortunes seemed to mirror those of his preseason No. 1 team, which also didn't live up to expections.
But it's important to remember that because Jones plays for a traditional Heisman power like Oklahoma, the potential for a serious run at the trophy always exists. Add to that his general name recognition, his team's high ranking and the system in which he plays and all the ingredients for a Heisman campaign are there.
We know that Oklahoma's offense is quarterback friendly. It allowed a major talent like Bradford to throw and run for 55 touchdowns in one remarkable season. While no one thinks Jones is as good as Bradford, he's shown enough proficiency in the OU system to be just as productive. This is, perhaps, a minor hurdle for Jones' Heisman hopes, since anything less than 45 touchdown passes is likely to be yawned at by the voters.
However, Jones has a good shot at putting up eye-popping numbers (assuming his receivers are up to the task). And if the Sooners rebound into national title contention he'll remain in the upper tier of candidates the entire season.
Oklahoma's schedule offers some promising opportunities for Jones. Two early-season byes means he'll be out of the spotlight for a good month, but things get rolling in October with games against Texas and Notre Dame. Any win over the Irish is helpful when it comes to winning the Heisman [Beano Cook once noted that to win the award you either have to play for, or beat, the Irish]. November brings a revenge matchup with Baylor and then a trip to West Virginia, which is a chance for Jones to showcase his skills in a different region of the country.
To win the Heisman, Jones doesn't necessarily need to lead Oklahoma to an undefeated season, though that is the most obvious path. But if the Sooners do lose along the way, he'll have to make up for it by producing a season that is head and shoulders above the rest of the candidates and on par with what Bradford did in 2008. That's certainly a possibility.
Finally, Jones needs to forge an identity beyond what his statistics tell us. He needs to show he has stronger intangibles that he's been given credit for. Coming through with some highlight-worthy clutch plays, or a come-from-behind win or two would go a long way toward letting Heisman voters know that he's not just another automaton in the Oklahoma system.
If Jones has that in him, he could end up as Oklahoma's third Heisman-winning quarterback in the last 10 years.
Read what Aaron Murray has to do to win the Heisman here.
Read what EJ Manuel has to do to win the Heisman here.
Read what Geno Smith has to do to win the Heisman here.
Read what Knile Davis has to do to win the Heisman here.
Read what De'Anthony Thomas has to do to win the Heisman here.
Read what Clemson's Tajh Boyd has to do to win the Heisman here.