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Heisman Trophy Pac-12 Candidates: Matt Barkley, De'Anthony Thomas, And Everyone Else

Apr 14, 2012; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Southern California Trojans quarterback Matt Barkley (7) gestures in the 2012 spring game at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee/Image of Sport-US PRESSWIRE
Apr 14, 2012; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Southern California Trojans quarterback Matt Barkley (7) gestures in the 2012 spring game at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee/Image of Sport-US PRESSWIRE

In the next post in this series (Part I dealt with what would have happened if a Heisman winner picked a different school, Part II dealt with a player who should have one or two of them on his mantle, but instead has to live with the shame of being the first pick in the NFL Draft), we look at Heisman contenders you get to play with on your video consoles this season in the Pac-12.

And realistically, unless someone else has an out-of-this-world season, we're looking at only two guys who could nab this: Matt Barkley from USC (the favorite to win it all anyway) and De'Anthony Thomas from Oregon. Perusing through the list of potential candidates, it's easy to see flaws in anyone else's candidacy.

Let's eliminate Robert Woods and Marqise Lee out of habit. If Barkley doesn't win the Heisman, neither of them are winning it either. Both of them are great pass catchers and might have better credentials down the road, but they don't really do much else.

Keenan Allen catches a lot of passes and will deserve a lion share of credit if Cal's offense returns to old form, but with no other proven wide receivers, it's likely the Bears will be going run-first this season given their current personnel, which will minimize his production compared to his spectacular sophomore campaign.

Kenjon Barner is probably out of it unless Oregon goes undefeated again, but even LaMichael James could do no better than third in the banner season for the Ducks.

John White actually might be a better choice than Barner, because Utah's focal point will be their running back (Oregon does too much sharing between quarterback and featureback to really give fans an idea of who deserves the credit).

Athlon suggested Marquess Wilson as the dark horse candidate behind Barkley, but Wilson has the same troubles as Price. I like Marquess a lot. But there's no possible way he's second on this list. For a WR to make this list he has to be more than a possession receiver. Tim Brown and Desmond Howard are the last two wideouts to win the award, and they both hailed from the powerhouses of college football, plus they returned kicks and punts. Michael Crabtree comes the closest to fitting Wilson's profile, and he finished fifth.

If there's any realistic dark horse, I like Keith Price a lot. His first season under center was a great success. But there are question marks surrounding the rest of his team, his run game is a total mystery, his defense is not going to magically heal, and it's hard to imagine him getting his team to a title game or a Rose Bowl without playing out of this world. But if he somehow is able to do that? Price has to enter this discussion almost immediately.

So realistically, barring some dramatics, we're down to Thomas and Barkley. If anyone's going to nab this award at a skill position, it's the Black Mamba. 2,235 all-purpose yards and 18 touchdowns as a freshman is absolutely staggering to consider. 16 yards per touch as a frosh is too terrifying to even consider. To contrast, Reggie Bush had 2,330 all-purpose yards and 15 touchdowns as a junior and 2,890 all-purpose yards and 19 touchdowns in his Heisman campaign. A sophomore leap is not out of the question for Thomas, who figures to see more touches with James gone and more big-time plays if he can stay healthy.

Barkley is still the prohibitive favorite at this point, but being the favorite at this point is going to be a huge block against him. The last two quarterbacks to win (Cam Newton and Robert Griffin) put up absolutely spectacular numbers and pushed Andrew Luck casually out of the way. He might have to really try and hit 40 touchdowns or 4,000 passing yards, or not hand that ball off to Curtis McNeal too much. Without that running ability, Barkley's passing is going to have to carry him all the way to the Heisman stand.

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