With the college football season just around the corner, Big Ten fans are hoping to see a season as exciting as 2011.
Fantastic finishes, exciting matchups and electric player performances seemed to be the regular last year, which has left fans hungry for more in 2012.
While the Big Ten has struggled to keep up with the SEC when it comes to the BCS and developing 1st round picks, there are several players that the national media has their eyes on as potential Heisman Trophy winners this year.
The Big Ten hasn’t been home to a Heisman Trophy winner since 2006, when Ohio State’s Troy Smith hoisted the award. The upcoming season, however, could see the Big Ten’s 15th Heisman winner in history.
Here are my top four Big Ten Heisman candidates for the 2012 season:
4) Le’Veon Bell – RB – Michigan State
- Rushing – 948 yards, 13 TD’s, 5.2 YPC
- Receiving – 35 catches, 267 yards, 0 TD’s
Bell is a hard-nosed runner who has the power to run through the defense or the quickness to run around them. This isn’t a sexy pick, especially based on last year’s stats, as he ranked 57th on the national rushing list in 2011.
However, without Kirk Cousins running the show at the quarterback position, someone will have to carry the weight of the Michigan State offense.
Bell probably won’t be in the national Heisman spotlight, but his stats for this season will be towards the top of the rushing categories, giving him a chance for recognition if the Spartans have a good season and he produces a signature moment.
3) Taylor Martinez – QB – Nebraska
- Passing – 2,089 yards, 13 TD’s, 8 INT’s, 126.5 QB Rating
- Rushing – 874 yards, 9 TD’s, 4.6 YPC
Athletic quarterbacks seem to be the regular in the Big Ten, and Martinez is no exception. He is unbelievably talented, and if he can put it all together has the chance to have a magical season for the Huskers.
Martinez struggles with his accuracy, only completing 56% of his passes a season ago, but he is intelligent and athletic enough to tuck the ball and run when he is in trouble.
Martinez is an intriguing player in Bo Pelini’s offense, and his ability to make exciting big plays makes him one of my favorites for the Heisman Trophy in the Big Ten. He’s going to need some work, though.
2) Denard Robinson – QB – Michigan
- Passing – 2,173 yards, 20 TD’s, 15 INT’s, 139.7 QB Rating
- Rushing – 1,176 yards, 16 TD’s, 5.3 YPC
There is no question about it: Robinson is the most electrifying player in college football.
So why is he number two on this list? Accuracy.
Robinson is probably one of the most athletic and fastest college football players in the history of the game. He is elusive, quick, strong, and plays with a lot of heart. The only question about the Michigan standout has been his throwing ability.
He has all the talent in the world, and could very easily be holding the Heisman Trophy come this winter, but his accuracy through the air has got to be better in 2012 than in 2011.
Robinson threw for over 2,000 yards and rushed for 1,000 more last season. If he can limit his interception number, improve his accuracy from a modest 55% last season, and if he can have an impressive performance against Alabama in the opener, there is no doubt the Robinson will be in the national spotlight and be a serious contender for the Heisman.
1.) Montee Ball – RB – Wisconsin
- Rushing – 1,923 yards, 33 TD’s, 6.3 YPC
- Receiving – 306 yards, 6 TD’s
While many Big Ten fans would put Robinson at the top spot as the favorite in the Big Ten for the Heisman, it’s hard to argue that Montee Ball deserves to be the front-runner in the conference.
Ball capped a phenomenal 2011 season by tying the NCAA FBS record of 39 total touchdowns in a single season, a record set by the great Barry Sanders in 1988. Ball finished fourth in the Heisman Trophy voting a season ago and is hoping to move up three spots this year.
He is one of those “do it all” backs. He can run through you, around you, and over you. He is also a good receiving back and a constant threat to take it the distance.
Ball finished first in total touchdowns and rushing yards last season, and that was when the Badgers had the dynamic Russell Wilson as the play-caller.
With a lesser quarterback this year, Ball will be relied on even more heavily than last season, and he has the capability to carry the Badgers to another Rose Bowl appearance.
Anyone who flirts with a record set by Barry Sanders is good enough to be at the top of the list.