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HeismanPundit/CBSSports.com Heisman Straw Poll: USC's Matt Barkley No. 1

By Chris Huston | College Football Writer

USC senior quarterback Matt Barkley captured nine of 11 first-place votes to take the top spot in the 2012 preseason edition of the HeismanPundit/CBSSports.com Heisman Straw Poll released on Monday.

The weekly survey of actual Heisman voters from across the country placed Barkley on 10 of 11 ballots. His 29 total points put him well ahead of the pack, establishing him as the clear Heisman favorite heading into the season. The fourth-year starter threw for 3,528 yards and a Pac-12-record 39 touchdowns as a junior.

"Everything sets up perfectly for him," one voter said of Barkley, who placed sixth in the Heisman vote in 2011. "He has experience, a well-known name, two great receivers to throw to, an experienced offensive line, a school with a great Heisman tradition and a memorable story sweetened by him enduring the NCAA post-season bowl ban.

"(The Heisman) is his to lose."

Wisconsin senior running back Montee Ball, who placed fourth in last year's Heisman vote, was a distance second in the balloting with 12 points. He's coming off a remarkable junior season in which he rushed 1,923 yards and an NCAA-record-tying 39 touchdowns.

"Ball has a chance to put up some big numbers once again if he can stay healthy," noted another voter on the panel.

West Virginia senior quarterback Geno Smith was third with six points while Michigan senior quarterback Denard Robinson was fourth with five points.

Senior quarterbacks EJ Manuel of Florida State and Collin Klein of Kansas State each garnered a first-place vote to pull into a tie with sophomore running back De'Anthony Thomas of Oregon for fifth place. Manuel and Klein were the only players besides Barkley to merit a first-place vote from the panel.

Running back Marcus Lattimore of South Carolina, wide receiver Robert Woods of USC, quarterback Logan Thomas of Virginia Tech and quarterback Aaron Murray of Georgia also picked up some support.

Heading into its seventh season, the former Heismanpundit.com Heisman Straw Poll has been reborn as the HeismanPundit/CBSSports.com Heisman Straw Poll. It has been the most accurate Heisman poll in the country the last five seasons, with the final 2011 poll correctly picking the top seven finishers. It is made up of 11 Heisman voters from across the country. They vote for three players each week. Tabulations are made on a 3-2-1 basis (just like a real Heisman ballot), with three points awarded for a first-place vote, two points for a second-place vote and one point for a third-place vote.

Each week's poll will be released on Tuesdays throughout the season at CBSSports.com and at HeismanPundit.com.

The 2012 Preseason HeismanPundit/CBSSports.com Heisman Straw Poll, 8-27-2012
Player, total points (first place votes in parentheses)

1. Matt Barkley, QB, USC -- 29 (9)

2. Montee Ball, RB, Wisconsin -- 12

3. Geno Smith, QB, West Virginia -- 6

4. Denard Robinson, QB, Michigan -- 5

5. (tie) EJ Manuel, QB, Florida State -- 3 (1)

Collin Klein, QB, Kansas State -- 3 (1)

De'Anthony Thomas, RB, Oregon -- 3

8. (tie) Marcus Lattimore, RB, South Carolina -- 2

Robert Woods, WR, USC -- 2

10. (tie) Logan Thomas, QB, Virginia Tech -- 1

Aaron Murray, QB, Georgia -- 1

About the Voting Panel

The 11 members of the panel include: Mike Bianchi of the Orlando Sentinel, Tom Dienhart of The Big Ten Network, Michael Lev of the Orange County Register, Bruce Feldman, Dennis Dodd and Bryan Fischer of CBSSports.com, Dick Weiss of the New York Daily News, Lenn Robbins of the New York Post, Jenni Carlson of The Oklahoman and Dave Hackenberg of The Toledo Blade. Chris Huston, CBSSports.com Heisman analyst and publisher of HeismanPundit.com, coordinates and also votes in the weekly poll.

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