|Strike a pose|
|The race is on for the Heisman Trophy, which is awarded to the nation's best player. (Getty Images)|
The 2012 preseason is finally upon us.
Training camps are underway. The first top 25 poll has been released. Every outlet imaginable has put out a preseason All-American team.
All that's left to speculate on is the race for the most prestigious award in sports.
As with almost everything else in college football, the procedure for determining the Heisman winner can be a bit quirky. Each fall, the Heisman Trust asks 925 voters from six different geographic regions to select the player they deem to be the 'most outstanding' for that season. This subjective criteria has, not surprisingly, produced some rather controversial results over the years, leading some detractors to downplay the validity of the process. Nonetheless, the hunt for the Heisman and the drama surrounding it remains as appealing and enduring (and exasperating) as the race for the team title itself.
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That's because the Heisman is yet another way for college football fans to claim bragging rights. Your team might miss out on a conference title, or squander a national championship, or lose to its rival, but your favorite player can still be called up to that podium at season's end to take his place alongside an elite group of college football legends. More often than not, the Heisman winner is the player who best captures the zeitgeist of a particular season. He's the guy we all remember, that grainy, galloping blur on an old highlight reel. In some cases, he can define an era.
This counts for something. The Heisman appeals to our sense of college football history and tradition, which is why most of us still care who takes home the bronze statue.
When it comes to putting together an accurate preseason Heisman list, however, all that matters is what the voters think. I created HeismanPundit.com because I discerned a pattern in past voter behavior that I thought could help determine the players with the best chance of winning the trophy going forward. And so the 10 Heismandments were born. Have a look at them and you'll see the philosophy that governs the 2012 CBSSports.com preseason Heisman Watch.
Since it is a Presidential election year, it's appropriate to use the following analogy to help understand how the Heisman race works: If you are a governor or Senator in a big state like California, Texas, New York or Florida, you've got a built-in advantage when it comes to running for the White House. Your name recognition is greater, you reside in or near major media markets, you have an easier time fundraising, and the act of making decisions on behalf of a large population enhances your experience and overall prestige. You obviously need political talent -- and luck -- to win the presidency, but your task is made easier by having all those advantages. Conversely, if you are a politician from a state like South Dakota, or Kansas, you've got to work a lot harder to become a viable candidate. In most cases, it will either take extraordinary luck, or skill, to rise to the top of the pack.
It's the same in the Heisman race. If you are a successful player for one of the elite traditional powers -- the USCs, the Ohio States, the Oklahomas -- you are more likely to be regarded as a major candidate by the voters. If you play for a non-elite, non-power team, you've got to overcome more obstacles to be taken seriously.
Does this mean you must play for a traditional power, or a national-title-contending team to win the Heisman? No. Even one-term governor and former peanut farmer Jimmy Carter became president. Look at Robert Griffin III's win last year for a prime example of how an upstart candidacy can catch fire. But it's not a common occurrence. Is it fair? No, but it's reality.
With all that in mind, here are the 10 players with the best chance of actually winning the Heisman heading into 2012. The most effective way to look at this list is to imagine all of the players having huge statistical seasons while leading their teams to an undefeated season. All those things being equal, who would the voters pick and in what order and why?
This list balances my educated guess of the likelihood of these players performing at a Heisman-worthy level with the built-in advantages they already possess with the Heisman electorate. Can a player not on this list win the Heisman or come close? Sure. But a lot would have to happen that would be impossible to predict with any certainty at this point, which is why we'll be adjusting this list as the weeks go on. Players coming and going depending on the circumstances.
Check out more coverage from Chris Huston on the Heisman Watch page