Who are some Heisman candidates from the non-AQ conferences? The usual suspects, no doubt.
Kellen Moore, QB, Boise State. Moore finished fourth in the Heisman balloting last season and returns for his senior season with a new receiving corps. Titus Young and Austin Pettis are gone, but plenty of players returning have seen game action. Among them are Tyler Shoemaker, Geraldo Boldewijn (formerly Hiwat), Chris Potter, Kirby Moore, Aaron Burks and Mitch Burroughs. Despite the relative newcomers, Moore has an ability to elevate the players around him. He has thrown for more than 10,000 career yards with 99 touchdown passes and just 19 interceptions. If he has another good year and the Broncos are in the hunt, he should make it two seasons in a row to New York.
Case Keenum, QB, Houston. Despite being labeled a "system quarterback," Keenum was in the discussion last year for the Heisman as he embarked on a quest to become the NCAA career passing leader. Unfortunately, his season ended in Week 3 after he tore his ACL. Keenum returns after being granted a sixth season and resumes that quest. Keenum stands 3,486 yards from breaking the NCAA passing mark of 17,072 yards set by Timmy Chang of Hawaii in 2004. Keenum also needs 28 touchdown passes to break the NCAA career mark of 134 set by Graham Harrell of Texas Tech from 2005-08. Those numbers are well within reach when you consider that Keenum threw for more than 5,000 yards in 2008 and 2009, along with 44 touchdown passes in each season. The bigger question is whether he can remain healthy.
Ronnie Hillman, RB, San Diego State. This is a long-shot candidate, to be sure, but Hillman should be on everyone's radar after a breakout 2010 season. Hillman ran for 1,532 yards and 17 touchdowns as a true freshman, reminding everyone of a certain other outstanding San Diego State running back. He is a preseason all-Mountain West selection and will try to build on his terrific first year. But he may find tougher sledding. With major question marks at receiver, teams could try to load the box to stop Hillman, daring Ryan Lindley to beat them with the pass.