A wide open Heisman race? Who are we kidding?
The 2010 runner-up, Stanford's Andrew Luck, is back. The last winner from a non-BCS school was Ty Detmer in 1990. Since 1995 the Heisman has been distributed to only 11 schools. In the span, the Big Ten, SEC and Big 12 each have four trophies. The best way to win it remains having the right college football DNA.
• Play for a BCS conference school. Since Detmer won, that's been the case.
• Play for a top five school. Since 2000, eight winners have at least played in the BCS championship game.
• Lately, play for an Alabama school. Time to give the rest of the country a chance. Mark Ingram (Alabama, 2009) and Cam Newton (Auburn, 2010) are headed to the NFL.
• Be a skill player, preferably a quarterback or running back. Since 1997, Charles Woodson is the only winner who hasn't played one of those positions.
• Don't be Reggie Bush. All of the above takes into account that Bush's 2005 victory has been vacated and that Newton's could someday be in question.
Here's to "cleaner" times. Breaking down the 2011 Heisman race insanely early ...
1. Andrew Luck, QB, Stanford: It's Luck's to lose after becoming the second consecutive Heisman runner-up from Stanford. He'll have the team, the schedule and the buzz behind him to make another trip to New York. The media will, if it hasn't already, fall in love with a guy who turned down NFL millions to come back and get his degree. Oh, and the Cardinal will start the season in the top 10, too.
2. LaMichael James, RB, Oregon: The nation's leading rusher has his quarterback and three of the five starting offensive linemen back. After rushing for 1,731 yards as a sophomore, is a 2,000-yard season out of the question?
3. Kellen Moore, QB, Boise State: The most realistic non-BCS candidate, perhaps, since Marshall Faulk in 1992. In his team's only loss last season, Moore might have been at his best -- 20 of 31, 348 yards, two touchdowns. Don't blame the Nevada loss on him.
4. Landry Jones, QB, Oklahoma: Thrown into the fire after the Sam Bradford injury, Jones has emerged as one of the most productive quarterbacks in the country. In the last two seasons, he has thrown 64 touchdown passes in 27 games.
5. Brandon Weeden, QB, Oklahoma State: You know the story: Former top choice of the Yankees becomes the triggerman for Oklahoma State's most productive offense in years. With his best receiver back (Justin Blackmon) and nine other starters back on offense, look for Weeden to make a serious run at the Heisman.
6. Michael Dyer, RB, Auburn: Logic would tell you that more of the offense will be on this sophomore after the departure of Newton. A year removed from being the No. 1 prep running back, Dyer is ready to break out. With all the talk about Newton and Nick Fairley, wasn't it Dyer who won the national championship game in the fourth quarter?
9. Ryan Broyles, WR, Oklahoma: Broyles led the nation in catches (131) and catches per game (9.36). Bob Stoops started tap dancing the day this smallish (5-foot-11, 183) receiver decided not to go to the NFL.
10. Terrelle Pryor, QB, Ohio State: Motivation has to be a factor. After the gold pants/Sugar Bowl fiasco, TP should be jazzed about becoming the Big Ten's best quarterback. He hasn't, yet. Going into his senior season, Pryor has never been first-team All-Big Ten. Downside is the five-game suspension to open the season.
The next level (alphabetical order)
Michael Floyd, WR, Notre Dame: A third-round draft projection from the NFL motivated Floyd to come back and prove he is the best receiver in the country. Both ND (four wins in a row to end the season) and Floyd are going to have plenty of motivation.
Marcus Lattimore, RB, South Carolina: The Cocks got to the SEC title game with him as a freshman. With three of his starting offensive linemen returning, Lattimore should become a 1,500-yard runner in '11.
Darron Thomas, QB, Oregon: DT and James most likely will split votes. It doesn't matter if the Ducks contend for another championship.
The long shots
Montee Ball/James White, RBs, Wisconsin: Ball is a rising junior who ran for 996 yards. White ran for 1,052 yards as a freshman sensation. If they split time in 2011, they'll also split votes. Half a Heisman?
Ryan Tannehill, QB, Texas A&M: There's a reason the perception of Mike Sherman and A&M football changed in the second half of the season -- Tannehill taking over for Jerod Johnson and throwing for more than 1,600 yards.
The designated defensive candidates
Vontaze Burfict, LB, Arizona State: Coach Dennis Erickson once called him the next Ray Lewis. Erickson also benched Burfict last season because of his problem with personal fouls. If he can keep it clean, Burfict can legitimately get an invite to New York.
Cliff Harris, DB/KR, Oregon: The designated Charles Woodson candidate for 2011. Harris scored five touchdowns last season -- four on punt returns, one on a pick-six.
Other non-BCS candidates
Ronnie Hillman, RB, San Diego State: Boy, are the Aztecs going to miss Brady Hoke. Reason 2: Under Hoke, Hillman ran for 1,500 yards as a freshman All-American.