Matt Leinart, QB, Southern Cal.
Why he’ll win: Leinart was spectacular in his first year
as a starter last fall with 38 touchdowns and just nine
interceptions. The Trojans’ running game is loaded, so
defenses can’t lock in on the pass. Southern Cal’s
defense is one of the nation’s best, meaning Leinart will
have the ball in his hands plenty.
Why he won’t: The NCAA denied Mike Williams’ attempt
at reinstatement, and none of the other Southern Cal receivers
appear to have stepped up as of yet. Case in point is the fact that
running back Reggie Bush had almost twice as many receiving yards
than any wide receivers in the Trojans’ opener.
Our Call: As much as Michigan fans might hate to hear it,
Leinart is probably the favorite to win this thing. USC has a
seemingly easy schedule, meaning Leinart should clean up.
Jason White, QB, Oklahoma
Why he’ll win: Well, if experience is the key, White has
no competition — it seems like he’s been at Oklahoma
since the forward pass was invented. And he won the award last
year. The Sooners return most of their starters from last year,
meaning White’s looking at another year of ridiculous
Why he won’t: White is about as brittle as a Saltine
— he’s had reconstructive surgery on both knees and is
always a threat to go down with a season-ending injury. Plus,
it’s almost unheard of to win the award twice.
Our Call: The odds that White will get hurt are probably better
than the odds that he’ll repeat as Heisman winner …
but it’ll be next-to-impossible to slow the Sooners’
offense. If he stays healthy (IF!), he’ll be a finalist.
Darren Sproles, RB, Kansas State
Why he’ll win: He legitimately could have won it last year
— he had 1,986 rushing yards and 18 total touchdowns —
so the voters will probably have that effort in mind. Plus,
he’s the only true threat on the Wildcats’ offense now
that do-everything quarterback Ell Roberson has moved on.
Why he won’t: He’s the only true threat on the
Wildcats’ offense now that do-everything quarterback Ell
Roberson has moved on. That means everyone will be locked on to
Sproles and defenses will stack up to stop him.
Our Call: Sproles will put up some big numbers, but
Roberson’s departure puts more heat on the running back
— probably too much heat for him to win the Heisman.
David Green, QB, Georgia
Why he’ll win: The Bulldogs have a chance to be good
— real good. And, typically, the best player on the best team
gets into the Heisman chase. Greene will get a chance to throw the
ball, and the Bulldogs will put up points. He’s on the verge
of several career passing records at Georgia.
Why he won’t: It’s unclear how good Greene actually
is. He had 22 touchdowns and eight interceptions in his sophomore
year, but came back with a miserable 13 touchdowns and 11 picks
last year. Plus he banged up his knee last season, leading to the
paltry numbers, and it’s always possible that injury could
Our Call: Greene’s not going to win. He might be a
contender if he stays healthy and Georgia keeps winning, but White
and Leinart will put up way better numbers, so Greene is on the
outside looking in.
Why they’ll win: The Sooners usually feature a dominating
defense, but this year their offense, which averaged 42.9 points
last year and returns eight starters, will carry them. They have
Heisman winner Jason White, one of the nation’s top receivers
in Mark Clayton and two dominant backs in Kejuan Jones and Adrian
Why they won’t: They say that last year’s
devastating finish fueled them during the summer. Before ending the
season with two losses, they were being compared with the greatest
teams of all time. Then suddenly, they looked totally lost.
Our Call: To win the national title, the Sooners must beat
Texas, Kansas State and Nebraska, and then win the Big XII title
game. They’re so overwhelming, they can do it.
Southern Cal Trojans
Why they’ll win: It’s possible that the Trojans have
already cleared their biggest obstacle in Virginia Tech. The only
remaining battles are Cal at home and, perhaps, Oregon State on the
road. Their defense is fast, and on offense they have
Heisman-candidate Matt Leinart and three top running backs.
Why they won’t: For the second consecutive year, the
Trojans lost a ton of talent. It made little difference last year,
but this time around they may not be so fortunate. Southern Cal.
has lost both of last year’s starting receivers and
four-fifths of its offensive line.
Our Call: Southern Cal. had better run the table or face the
risk of being left out for the second consecutive year. Despite the
loss of receiver Mike Williams, the Trojans will be fine.
They’ll cruise to the title game, but their inexperience will
Why they’ll win: As long as Nick Saban is their coach, the
Tigers will have an excellent defense. Last season, they faced
talented quarterbacks like Georgia’s David Greene, Ole
Miss’s Eli Manning and Oklahoma’s Jason White week
after week and shut them all down.
Why they won’t: Their lucky win at home against Oregon
State sure wasn’t a good sign. They were fortunate to come
out of the ultra-deep SEC with one loss last year, and it would be
a miracle if they can repeat that feat this year. LSU has a month
stretch when it will travel to Auburn, Georgia and Florida.
Our Call: The Tigers are still good, but they don’t know
who their quarterback will be. The entire SEC is itching to get
revenge on the Tigers, and they’ll get their chance.
Miami Hurricanes/Florida State winner
Why they’ll win: These two rivals are now in the same
conference, and will be playing each other for the third time in
nine months. Whichever team wins on Friday will have the leg up.
Both teams are loaded with athletes and have experience in the
Why they won’t: First of all, with hurricane after
hurricane, will these two schools even be able to get a game in?
And if they do, will they be able to play their best week after
week like they’ll need to. Suddenly, the ACC may be the
toughest conference around.
Our Call: If there’s a bunch of one-win teams in the mix
and these two schools are among them, their strength of schedule
can give them the nudge. But between Clemson, Maryland and
Virginia, the road appears too treacherous.