At this time last year, Robert Griffin III was practically unknown and was definitely not being discussed as a potential Heisman winner. After an elite season where he threw for 4,293 yards and 37 touchdowns, along with rushing for 10 touchdowns, Robert Griffin III became the latest Heisman trophy winner. RGIII practically came out of nowhere. His Heisman season began with a big week one game against TCU, as he threw for 359 yards and five touchdowns. Griffin III went on to carry Baylor to a 10-3 record and their highest win total since 1980.
With only 68 more days until the kickoff of the 2012 college football season, it is time to look at this year’s darkhorse candidates to win the 2012 Heisman. Who will become this year’s Robert Griffin III?
5. Casey Pachall – Quarterback – Texas Christian University – Pachall had a tall order last year as he had to take over for all-time TCU great Andy Dalton. During his four years starting, Dalton the best all-time four year record at TCU, finishing his career 42-7 with two BCS bowl berths and a Rose Bowl Championship. Dalton, also went on to set the single-season TD mark with 27 in 2010 as well as the single-season accuracy record at 66.1% completion percentage. His 61.7% career completion mark is also a school record. He became the all-time leader in total offense for TCU with 11,925 yards. His 10,314 passing yards and 71 passing TDs are both school records and his 22 rushing touchdowns are actually good for seventh all-time. Dalton is now in the NFL after being selected 35th overall by the Cincinnati Bengals in the 2011 draft.
When considering who Pachall was taking over for, he had a stellar season in 2011. He threw for 2,921 yards with 25 touchdowns and 7 interceptions, while leading TCU to an 11-2 record with a win over Louisiana Tech in the San Diego County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl. As TCU joins the pass happy Big 12 in 2012, Pachall will look to lead his team to not only a Big 12 Championship but possibly a Heisman trophy as well. Pachall more of a pocket quarterback than anything else and is not likely to rush for a high number of touchdowns. The Horned Frogs have a rather easy out-of-conference schedule with games coming against Grambling State, SMU, and Virginia. We learned last year that a player does not have to lead his team to an undefeated or one-loss season to win Heisman. Even if TCU loses a game or two in the Big 12, Pachall could still win the Heisman.
4. Tajh Boyd – Quarterback – Clemson – Boyd led the Clemson Tigers to an 8-0 start in 2011 with big wins over then #21 Auburn, #11 Florida State and #11 Virginia tech. During those eight games Boyd and the Tigers looked nearly unstoppable as he threw for 2,379 yards with 24 passing touchdowns, 3 interceptions, 4 rushing touchdowns and an average quarterback rating of 159.45. However, it was the last final six games of the season that showed the nation Boyd’s bad side as a quarterback.
3. Logan Thomas – Quarterback – Virginia Tech – Logan Thomas came in last year and took over the starting quarterback job for the Hokies. As a Sophomore, Thomas threw for 3,013 yards with 19 passing touchdowns and 10 interceptions. He also rushed for 469 yards and 11 touchdowns. Thomas and Virginia Tech went 11-3 last year with a loss to Michigan in the Allstate Sugar Bowl. The Hokies only lost one regular season game on October 1 to Clemson. Another loss came in the ACC Championship game again against Clemson.
As a junior, Thomas looks to lead Virginia Tech to not only an ACC title, but a BCS bowl game as well. With 2011’s leading rusher, David Wilson, leaving for the NFL, the offense will be squarely on Thomas’ shoulders. The Hokies’ 2012 rushing attack will be anemic at best, which means the passing offense will have to carry the team. If the Hokies are going to win, Logan Thomas will have to have a great season. Virginia Tech starts their season against an ACC opponent in Georgia Tech. Their out of conference schedule is relatively easy with games against Austin Peay, Pittsburgh, Bowling Green and Cincinnati. The hardest stretch comes with four games against Clemson, Miami, Florida State and Boston College. Thomas has the skill set to be a premier passer and take home the 2012 Heisman Trophy.
2. Ray Graham – Running Back – Pittsburgh – Ray Graham’s season was cut short last year during the eighth game as he suffered a season-ending knee injury. However, prior to injuring his knee, Graham was close to leading the nation in rushing yards. In the first five games of the 2011 season, Graham led the nation with 734 rushing yards, which was 121 more yards than the second best rusher. He was also tied for fifth in rushing touchdowns with eight during those five games.
Pittsburgh went through a rough two-year period with the firing of Dave Wannstedt at the end of the 2010 season. The Panthers picked Miami of Ohio’s Michael Haywood to replace Wannstedt. Haywood lasted all of fifteen days as the Pitt coach before being arrested, released and replaced by Tulsa’s Todd Graham. Graham made it through one season before spurning Pittsburgh for Arizona State. To make matters worse, he informed his players via text message. Finally, on December 22, 2011, the Pittsburgh Panthers hired former Wisconsin Offensive Coordinator Paul Chryst. This is where the story starts to involve Ray Graham.
As previously shown, Ray Graham was having a great rushing season prior to getting injured in 2011. However, Paul Chryst and the Wisconsin Badgers were having an even better year rushing. By the end of the 2011 season, Wisconsin was 8th in the country with 3,298 rushing yards and first in rushing touchdowns with 48. Wisconsin’s Montee Ball led the nation in rushing yards and rushing touchdowns. Chryst’s offenses are often great running the ball. I expect Ray Graham to have a Heisman-type season under Paul Chryst. Pittsburgh’s out-of-conference schedule features games against Youngstown State, Virginia Tech, Gardner-Webb, Temple and Notre Dame. None of the in-conference games pose a major defensive threat to Graham. By the end of the season, Graham could lead the nation in, not only, yards but also touchdowns and could be the reason Pittsburgh wins the Big East.
1. Collin Klein – Quarterback – Kansas State Finally, we come to Collin Klein, my number one darkhorse candidate to win the Heisman Trophy. Anyone who watched Big 12 football in 2011 should already know about Collin Klein. Last year, the Wildcats averaged 31.8 points per game for 34th best in the nation. The reason for the high number of points was Collin Klein. He is a dual-threat quarterback who is more than happy to run if the pocket is collapsing. In 2011, Klein ran the ball 317 times, which was the most of any quarterback in college football. Klein ran for 1,141 yards and 27 touchdowns, along with passing for 1,918 yards and 13 touchdowns in 2011. If Klein continues to improve he could easily surpass 50 total touchdowns in 2012.
The Wildcats provide Klein with plenty of offensive firepower for 2012 as their running back John Hubert and top two receivers, Chris Harper and Tramaine Thompson, all return. Klein will try to frustrate Big 12 defenses all season and should be this year’s Robert Griffin III.
Being in the Big 12, Kansas State has a tough in-conference schedule and has added Miami on September 8 to bolster their out-of-conference schedule. In the Big 12, K-State has to visit Oklahoma on Sept. 22, West Virginia on Oct. 20, Oklahoma State on Nov. 3, TCU on Nov. 10 and end their season by visiting Texas on Dec. 1. If Klein plays up to his potential, Kansas State could be a hard team to stop and run through the Big 12. Furthermore, if Kansas State is going to succeed, Klein will have to have a great season. He is my pick to make it to New York and possibly win the Heisman.
Just missed the cut: Keith Price – Quarterback – Washington, Knile Davis – Running Back – Arkansas, Le’Veon Ball – Running Back – Michigan State, Andre Ellington – Running Back – Clemson and James Franklin – Quarterback – Missouri.