Big Ten bloggers Adam Rittenberg and Brian Bennett will occasionally give their takes on a burning question facing the league. We'll both have strong opinions, but not necessarily the same view. We'll let you decide which blogger is right.
Today's Take Two topic: Will the Big Ten have a Heisman Trophy finalist in 2011?
Take 1: Adam Rittenberg
Ever since former Ohio State quarterback Troy Smith hoisted the Heisman in 2006, the Big Ten has been noticeably absent from the Downtown Athletic Club. The Big Ten amazingly hasn't produced a Heisman finalist in any of the past four seasons. But the streak will end in December. The Big Ten has enough potential star power at the two most important Heisman positions -- quarterback and running back -- to produce a finalist this year.
Michigan quarterback Denard Robinson and Northwestern quarterback Dan Persa are both nationally known names, and while both players face significant challenges this season, they both have the ability to do special things. Michigan State's Kirk Cousins also has put himself on the national radar, thanks in part to his impressive performance at Big Ten preseason media days. If Cousins guides the Spartans through a very challenging schedule and puts them in the mix for a Big Ten title, he'll get noticed in the Heisman mix. There are other name quarterbacks like Nebraska's Taylor Martinez and Wisconsin's Russell Wilson. The Big Ten also has running backs -- Wisconsin's James White and Montee Ball, Michigan State's Edwin Baker -- who will get national attention if they put up big numbers. And don't be surprised if the Big Ten has some surprise stars, like both Robinson and Persa were in 2010. I'm not saying Big Ten fills up the front row on Dec. 10, but the league will have some representation.
Take 2: Brian Bennett
Picking the Heisman winner in the preseason usually winds up making you look silly. Who was talking about Cam Newton this time a year ago or Mark Ingram in August of '09? So the bottom line is we have no idea.
Still, I have a hunch the Big Ten won't send anybody to New York yet again this year. The Heisman people don't always invite five finalists; there were only four finalists last year and three in 2008. So it depends greatly on what other candidates are doing and how the voting goes. While the Big Ten has a lot of excellent players as you mentioned, I just don't see any slam-dunk Heisman contenders like Andrew Luck. Robinson's numbers will likely go down in a new system, and he only finished sixth last year despite some historic statistical achievements. White and Ball will likely split votes, Persa plays for a program that's overshadowed in its own city and Martinez isn't even considered the strength of his team (the defense is). Heisman voters also love to crown players on BCS title contenders, and I'm not sure if the Big Ten truly has one this year.
So I say no, though I readily acknowledge this prediction could leave me looking silly in December.