Pac-12: Geno Smith

Who is this year’s Johnny Manziel in the Pac-12? In other words, which player could come out of nowhere and win the Heisman from the conference? Well, if we knew, he wouldn't be coming out of nowhere in the preseason, now, would he?

Perhaps it is better that the Pac-12’s elite players are coasting below Mr. Heisman's persnickety radar. After all, front-runner status hasn't been kind to the Pac-12 the past couple of years. Two seasons ago it was Andrew Luck -- a shoo-in from the day he announced his return to take home the Heisman. Last year, it was Matt Barkley who had the unpropitious front-runner title pegged on him.

Luck carried the title much longer in his final season. Barkley, however, quickly gave way to Geno Smith, who in turn gave way to Collin Klein, who in turn fell to Johnny Football.

[+] EnlargeMarion Grice
Cary Edmondson/USA TODAY SportsArizona State's Marion Grice averaged 6.6 yards per carry and had 11 touchdowns last season.
So how about the Pac-12?

Marcusy Football?

Marqy Football?

DATy Football?

Ka’Deemy Football?

Bretty Football?

Not exactly phonetically pleasing.

Within the Pac-12, there aren't many dark-horse candidates. There are some front-runners who immediately come to mind: Oregon’s Marcus Mariota and De’Anthony Thomas, USC’s Marqise Lee, Arizona’s Ka’Deem Carey and UCLA’s Brett Hundley. But none of them are considered national front-runners with Manziel (maybe?) back to defend his title, Braxton Miller coming off a perfect season, AJ McCarron and his ridiculous 30-3 touchdown-to-interception ratio last year and Teddy Bridgewater soaking up his share of hype.

You can make a case for all five in the preseason. Mariota and Thomas will be playing for a top-five team, which always helps garner the necessary attention from the national media, and they should continue to put up video game numbers. Hundley is one of the most exciting players in the league, and with a year of maturity, many are anxious to see just how far he can lead the Bruins. Lee was last year’s Biletnikoff winner and is arguably the top skill player in the country. Carey was last year’s national leader in rushing. Solid credentials for all.

But this is about the sleepers. The guys who are so under the radar they're practically stealth. So who are they?

You have to start with ASU’s Marion Grice, who is going to continue putting up fantastic dual-threat numbers as a runner and receiver. He’s packed on more weight and ASU offensive coordinator Mike Norvell said they've expanded the playbook now that he and quarterback Taylor Kelly are a year into the system. (Probably not a bad idea to keep an eye on Kelly, either).

Stanford’s Kevin Hogan could also be a sleeper. Like the Oregon duo, he’ll be on a high-profile team that is going to get plenty of national exposure with showdowns against Oregon, UCLA, USC and Notre Dame on the 2013 docket. He’s not as flashy as the other players and his numbers might not be as lofty, but he’s asked to do a lot more behind the scenes than a lot of other quarterbacks. That was Luck’s brilliance, as well as his Heisman curse.

The appearance of Manti Te’o in New York last year proved defensive players aren't immune to getting some attention in the spread era. So UCLA’s Anthony Barr and ASU’s Will Sutton certainly deserve to be in the conversation if we’re talking defensive players. Both should be atop the national defensive rankings in sacks and tackles for a loss. But both will have to play well enough to surpass the well-deserved hype of South Carolina's Jadeveon Clowney and overcome the public perception of the Pac-12 when it comes to defense. As I’ve written previously, the Heisman is all about subjectivity and perception. (Full disclosure, I have Clowney No. 1 on my preseason Heisman ballot).

Finally, a guy who I think is really a long shot -- but should be getting more love than he is -- is Oregon State running back Storm Woods. In the Beavers’ first six games against FBS opponents in 2013, they face only one defense that ranked in the top 20 last year in total rushing yards allowed (Utah), and only one other in the top 50 (San Diego State). The opportunity will be there early in the season for Woods to make a name for himself. He’s got four of five offensive linemen coming back (including an outstanding center), an offense that wants to be more balanced, and a quarterback-to-be-named who is a veteran and knows the offense. He’s also really, really good.

It’s probably best not to put all your hopes into one of these guys winning the Heisman. For now, it’s safer to track the conference front-runners. But don’t sleep on these guys, either.

The next Stormy Football is just waiting to breakout.

Matt Barkley going to Gruden Camp

February, 15, 2013
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Jon Gruden’s QB Camp is back -- Spider 2 wide banana! -- and former USC quarterback Matt Barkley is among the players who will be put through the ringer by Gruden.

The series will begin April 4.

Nine of the top quarterbacks in this spring's NFL draft are scheduled to participate:
Last year, Gruden mentored Andrew Luck, Robert Griffin III, Russell Wilson, Ryan Tannehill and others, arguably the most successful class of rookie quarterbacks in NFL history.

The series will also include a trio of non-quarterbacks: Texas A&M offensive tackle Luke Joeckel (Texas A&M); South Carolina running back Marcus Lattimore; and Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te'o.

Each prospect will visit Gruden’s office in Tampa, Fla., -- dubbed the Fired Football Coaches Association (FFCA) -- for a film session. Most of the players will also participate in an on-field workout.

Air dates and times for the entire series will be finalized in the coming weeks.

Pac-12 Heisman tracker

November, 6, 2012
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Just when we were ready to hand the Heisman to Matt Barkley (in the preseason, of course), Geno Smith came along and snatched it away. Until Collin Klein took it from him. And now, we might have another late-season changing of the guard with Oregon's Kenjon Barner coming on strong in recent weeks before blowing up against USC. Such is the fickle nature of the Heisman tracker. Barner is squarely in second place in the ESPN.com Heisman poll, though he has only one first-place vote this week (compliments of yours truly). He has 10 of the 15 second-place votes. Barkley and De'Anthony Thomas have dropped off the radar and Marqise Lee is the only other Pac-12 player receiving votes.

Kenjon Barner, RB, Oregon
  • Week 10 numbers: Carried 38 times for 321 yards (8.4 average) with five touchdowns. Caught two balls for 26 yards.
  • Season numbers: Has carried 179 times for 1,295 yards (7.2 average) with 19 rushing touchdowns. Has 15 catches for 184 yards and a score.
  • What went well: Where to start? The records? The fact that it was on the road at USC? The fact that anyone who watched that game should have been convinced he's the top running back in the country? All in all, a thoroughly dominant and prolific performance.
  • Any questions? Nope. None here. Others, however, still see Klein as the front-runner for now. But it's hard not to imagine Barner didn't punch a ticket to New York with his showing Saturday.
Others receiving votes

Marqise Lee, WR, USC
  • Week 10 numbers: Caught 12 balls for 157 yards and two touchdowns.
  • Season numbers: Has 88 catches for 1,286 yards and 12 scores.
  • Thoughts: While Barner went off and showed the country he's the best running back in the nation, there should be no question about who the best wide receiver is. The loss shouldn't take away from another stellar showing.

Pac-12 chat wrap

October, 18, 2012
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"One, two, three and I come with the wicked, style, and you know that I'm from the wicked, crew, act like you knew, cause I got everybody jumpin' to the voodoo."

Whoops, that's a chat rap. We want the chat wrap (haha, see what I did there). Here's the complete rundown of yesterday's chat, or you can check out the highlights.

Smitty (Corvallis): Who's the best non kicking special teams player we don't know about?

Kevin Gemmell (2:03 PM): That we don't know about... hmmm... well, we all know about De'Anthony Thomas. I'd say Drew Terrell. Very underrated punt returner -- but very good.

Jesse (Salem, OR): With Cody Vaz playing pretty good this past week and reports that Mannion is ahead of schedule. Do think OSU might just rest Mannion until the point Vaz stumbles with Mannion less then 100% or that Mannion is 100%? I think this would be wise. What's your thoughts?

Kevin Gemmell (2:04 PM): I think the second Mannion can return, you get him in. I like what Vaz did last week, but Mannion was the starter for a reason.

Kyle Reichert (Arizona): If Taylor Kelly has a breakout game and can pull the upset tomorrow night in Tempe, do you like his Heisman Trophy case?

Kevin Gemmell (2:05 PM): I had Kelly on my Heisman ballot this week simply to make a point -- that point being that deserved to be on it. If he keeps up the same efficiency against the Ducks (no promises there) than I think he certainly should start getting some looks. He's ahead of every QB in the country except Geno Smith and Nick Florence in efficiency. That in itself is impressive -- regardless of the competition.

Marc (Boston): Why has Jon Embree stuck with Jordan Webb for so long? Seems pointless to give a guy that isn't improving more time. Your thoughts?

Kevin Gemmell (2:08 PM): Embree thinks Webb gives them the best chance to win -- and he's probably right. That's just been a tough situation for all involved. He owes it to the seniors not to throw this season away and look to the future. Those guys have worked too hard not to have the best possible chance to win games.

91_DawgD (Seattle): Kevin, with the UW defense playing good football and Keith Price starting to find his rhythm, do you think Washington is positioned to have a breakout second half of the season? The gauntlet is over!

Kevin Gemmell (2:11 PM): Well, it might not be completely over. They have to face an Arizona team at home, that is coming off the bye and can put up points. And then OSU is much better than we thought in August. I still see them bowling, but the back nine isn't as light as initially projected.

Andy (PICK THIS ONE!): Kudos to you and Ted for making this Pac12 season one of suspense and drama. I am thoroughly looking forward to the second half of the season. Now to the important question, with ASU's depth at backs and the ability to pass to those backs as well as receivers, how do you see that influencing the game Thursday night?

Kevin Gemmell (2:14 PM): Just did a story on the way ASU uses it's backs for the blog yesterday. Very innovative fun to watch. I love creative offense and Norvell and Graham are certainly using them all in a creative way. It could have a major influence on the game, especially the sets with Foster in the slot and Grice running the screen out of the backfield. Foster commands a safety over the top, leaving LBs in one-on-one blocks.

Rett (Oregon): Kevin, You say "Oregon will match up with Bama". Could you explain why? Did all the scouting experts get the recruiting classes wrong and Bama doesn't have the best athletes? Are people completely fooled and Nick Saban is really an idiot who can't coach or develop players? Are the NFL scouts idiots and have 10 Bama Players as prospects as compared to 1 Oregon player (Top 200)? Or is it a complete "eye test"?

Kevin Gemmell (2:36 PM): Happy to. No, Saban is not an idiot. No, NFL scouts aren't wrong. But they aren't always right, either. And for as much as Saban gets credit for being a "brilliant" defensive coach. I think Chip Kelly should get equal credit for being a "brilliant" offensive coach. I think they matchup speed for speed with the offensive skill players and Oregon uses space as well as any team in the country. I'll put De'Anthony Thomas in a one-on-one tackling situations with any player in the country and he'll win most of the time. I think Colt Lyerla gives Oregon a physical presence on offense that can wear down folks and I don't think Alabama is used to seeing the offensive potency Oregon can put out in the SEC. That's how I see them matching up. Defensively, I think Oregon is outstanding. They lost two of their top defensive players and haven't skipped a beat. They are physical and can play fast. I'm not saying it would be an Oregon or Alabama blowout either way. I'm saying Oregon matches up as well as any team in the country with 'Bama.

Pac-12 weekend rewind: Week 7

October, 15, 2012
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Taking stock of the seventh week of games in the Pac-12.

Team of the week: Lose starting QB Sean Mannion to a knee injury? No problem for Oregon State. Backup Cody Vaz, making his first career start, was exceptional, and the defense was opportunistic as the Beavers rolled 42-24 at BYU. Oregon State is 5-0 for the first time since 1939. So, yeah, this is big.

Best game: However you want to view the ending -- and the accurate way is Stanford got screwed by the Pac-12 officials! -- Stanford's 20-13 overtime loss at Notre Dame was great theater. Two good defenses, two struggling offenses, physical football and every point counted. And the rain provided a nice backdrop.

[+] EnlargeStepfan Taylor
Jonathan Daniel/Getty ImagesStepfan Taylor was unable to find the end zone on the final play of the game.
Biggest play: Four of them actually: Four straight-ahead, overtime runs from Stanford RB Stepfan Taylor that didn't -- at least clearly and without a doubt to everyone -- get into the end zone. When Stanford gets a first-and-goal on the 4-yard line, you typically like its chances.

Offensive standout: Vaz completed 20-of-32 for 332 yards with three touchdowns and zero interceptions in the 42-24 victory at BYU. The efficiency rating on those numbers -- 180.6 -- would rate only slightly below West Virginia's Geno Smith for No. 1 in the nation. And the Cougars entered the game with one of the nation's best defenses.

Defensive standout: Stanford outside linebacker Trent Murphy is one of the Pac-12's most underrated players. He rolled up a team-high 10 tackles at Notre Dame, with 2.5 tackles for a loss and 1.5 sacks. He also had three quarterback hurries.

Special-teams standout: Know a good way to crush the hopes and dreams of an underdog? Return the third-quarter kickoff 100 yards for a TD. That is what Arizona State's Rashad Ross did to Colorado after the Buffaloes had rallied late in the second quarter to make it a 3-point game at halftime in Boulder. Ross' dash was the first -- and loudest -- of 31 unanswered second-half points from Arizona State in a 51-17 win.

Smiley face: Hey, how about a weekend with no chokes, with the favorites coming out on top, as well as Oregon State, a highly ranked underdog? Arizona State, UCLA, USC and California each took care of business as favorites, while the Beavers overcame the loss of their starting QB in a road date with a solid BYU team. If Stanford had prevailed instead of falling in overtime at Notre Dame, it would have been an exceptional weekend for the conference. Oregon, at 6-0, is already bowl eligible and Arizona State, Oregon State, UCLA and USC have five wins. At this point in the season, some of those six- and seven-win teams of past years are positioned to win eight, nine or even 10 games.

Frowny face: Stanford had a chance to make a big statement at Notre Dame but it fell just short. While the officiating got the publicity, the Cardinal are going to look at that game tape and slap their collective forehead many, many times. Lots of miscues, mistakes and missed opportunities.

Thought of the week: Maybe we need to give USC a break. Coach Lane Kiffin has decided to win ugly, so be it. Run the ball, play to his defense, etc. Fine. QB Matt Barkley is 30th in the nation in passing efficiency? USC is 48th in scoring offense? Sure, it's surprising. Sure, it doesn't fit our preseason image of the Trojans. Sure, it seems like this team isn't nearly as dominant as many projected. Still, USC is ranked ninth in the coaches' poll and, at 5-1 overall, is in good position in both the Pac-12 and perhaps even nationally. If the Trojans don't lose again, it won't matter if it was pretty.

Questions for the week: Is there a Heisman Trophy candidate in the Pac-12 this year? It appears that Barkley's candidacy is over. If a guy is going to emerge, it might happen Thursday in Tempe. Oregon's one-two punch of Kenjon Barner and De'Anthony Thomas will be on display against a good Sun Devils defense. And what happens if ASU QB Taylor Kelly, presently third in the nation in passing efficiency, is lights out?

Any Heisman hope in Pac-12?

October, 10, 2012
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It appears the Heisman Trophy is Geno Smith's to lose. And for good reason. The West Virginia quarterback's numbers are, well, insane.

He's thrown 24 touchdown passes with zero interceptions. He's completing 81 percent of his throws. His efficiency rating is over 200.

Yowza.

Perhaps he and the Mountaineers fall apart. Don't bet on, though. And pondering that is not why we are here.

Our issue is this: Are any Pac-12 players going to be invited to New York for the ceremony. As in: Just getting nominated is an honor.

According to ESPN.com's Heisman Tracker, four Pac-12 players are still getting attention for the bronze statue, at least as a court to surround Smith when he grasps the trophy.

Oregon's do-everything offensive weapon, De'Anthony Thomas, hasn't done much of late but he's fourth in the voting. His teammate, RB Kenjon Barner, is eighth. USC QB Matt Barkley, the preseason favorite, is not completely forgotten in fifth place. And Barkely's top target, receiver Marqise Lee, is 11th.

It seems like a good bet that at least one of these guys will be in New York for the ceremony.

And it seems like a good bet the guy who does the best on Nov. 3 when Oregon visits USC will be that guy.

 

 
ESPN's Brad Edwards, a numbers guru, provides a nice preview of what the BCS standings would look like if they were released this week, instead of next Sunday.

His conclusion? He writes, "[It] feels like the national title hunt is already down to just three conferences and Notre Dame."

That's the Pac-12, SEC and Big 12 plus the Fighting Irish, who play Stanford on Saturday and USC on Nov. 24.

He projects that if the national title game were played tomorrow, it would be Alabama vs. Oregon.

He also projected that Oregon State would rank ninth, USC 11th and Stanford 12th in the standings.

Oregon fans surely will like the sound of that.

The question then would be if Oregon wins out and stands as the 13-0 Pac-12 champion on Nov. 30, are the Ducks certain to be in the title game?

Maybe. Perhaps even probably. But maybe not, too. Writes Edwards:
The Mountaineers or Irish probably would have a computer edge on the Ducks, so they can't be counted out of the race, but they'll need style points to close that poll gap.

So, Oregon fans, assuming the SEC is going to put its champion in the title game, you probably should root for Notre Dame to lose, and it would boost your standing if that happened to Pac-12 teams, by the way.

And, as cool as Geno Smith is, you might want the Mountaineers to slip, too.

Pac-12 chat wrap

September, 27, 2012
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For those who participated in Wednesday's chat, there won't be any money, but when you die, on your deathbed, you will receive total consciousness. So you've got that going for you.

For those who didn't, you don't get to enjoy this Caddyshack reference. So stop enjoying it. You, sitting at your work computer with the Starbucks, stop enjoying it.

You can, however, read the highlights or catch the complete chat here.
Nick (Boston): Hi Kevin, I think that Stanford Washington game tomorrow night will be really interesting, I think if Price is able to make plays the Huskies can keep it close and have a chance to win the game in the 4th quarter your thoughts?

Kevin Gemmell (2:01 PM): The answer lies in the question. I think Price is going to be on the move quite a bit this week -- given the issues on the offensive line and the aggressive nature of the Stanford front seven. If they can keep contain, it will be a long day for Price. If he can make plays with his feet, he'll force Stanford to move up a safety to spy and adjust and that could keep them in the game.

Beavtastic (Corvegas): What will it take for the Beavs to be 8-0 coming into the Stanford game? I think if the improvements are made on offense, 8-0 is not unreasonable.

Kevin Gemmell (2:03 PM): At this point, I would agree that 8-0 is possible. I think the ASU game the week before could be a trap. If ASU keeps playing the way it does, there is the slight possibility OSU could be looking ahead. Also, keep in mind the Beavers have to play 11 straight weeks now. That could take a toll.

Ben (Clovis, CA): Do you think Jarek Lancaster is getting hosed by the Stanford coaches? The guy could be an all conference linebacker IMO

Kevin Gemmell (2:10 PM): I talked with someone on the staff about Lancaster. I was told they are yet to stop Vaughters in practice. I think Lancaster has the experience, but Vaughters seems to be the better talent. He just needs to get some experience under his belt. With that said, Lancaster is one of the gutsiest players in the conference and one of my all-time favorite interviews. Good, good dude.

Bryce (SF): What does DAT need to do to climb the Heisman rankings? All the talk seems to be about Geno Smith, who hasn't even played a good team yet!

Kevin Gemmell (2:15 PM): More touches, more touchdowns. But I don't call the plays and I'm not going argue with how Kelly and Co. call plays. The Heisman would be sweet. A national championship would be sweeter.

Kirk (Campbell, CA): First year QB's often drop a close game or two on the road, do you think Stanford can beat UW, Notre Dame and Cal away from home to possibly be undefeated by the time they play Oregon?

Kevin Gemmell (2:24 PM): A lot of first-year quarterbacks are asked to do a lot. With the running game support and the defense backing him, Nunes is in a position where he doesn't have to be stellar on a weekly basis. When you look at the USC game, he was OK and made two fantastic plays when he had to -- the scramble for the first down and the touchdown to Ertz. The fact that he pressure isn't on him to throw four touchdowns and 300+ yards every week is a good thing.

Jason (Vancouver, WA): Thoughts on Colt Lyerla being used in Oregon's backfield? He playing running back in high school and was 1st team all-state with 1,600 yards and 20+ tds as a senior. He is like a power DAT to me. I hope they start using him all over the field more.

Kevin Gemmell (2:39 PM): I love it. I love innovative offenses and keeping teams on their toes.

Kevin (OKC): What are your thoughts on the season that Will Sutton is having so far. He was an absolute beast vs Utah. If he keeps playing this way can he get All-American status? Surely at least All-Conference. He outplayed Utah's stud DT the other day.

Kevin Gemmell (2:44 PM): I wrote about Sutton last week before the Utah game and he didn't disappoint. He's playing as well as any defensive lineman in the country right now. Tough for Pac linemen to get the love though. He'll have to really have stellar numbers.

Walter Jr. (New Mexico): Which coach's autobiography would you want to read the most?

Kevin Gemmell (2:46 PM): Interesting question... This might seem like an obvious answer given my job last season -- but I would go with Shaw -- only because if I were a football coach, my philosophies would be in sync with his. I love the pro-style offense, I love the 3-4 defense. I love the grind-it-out approach to the game and he's got a really interesting history as a former player, the son of a coach and the fact that he gave up an NFL job to go with Harbaugh to a non-scholarship program at USD (where he and I first met).

Tyler (Portland, OR): With Matt Barkley's inability to get the passing game going for USC and with Oregon's stellar secondary coverage against Arizona on Saturday and the addition of Colt Lyerla to the running game, do you see the November 3rd meeting in LA going differently than you did at the beginning of the season?

Kevin Gemmell (3:00 PM): I have no problem saying I was wrong. I picked USC to win the title. Things change. And I think Oregon is the best team in the conference right now. That said, I still think that will be a great game, but as of right now I'm leaning toward Oregon.

Johnathan Franklin: Heisman contender?

September, 11, 2012
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The ESPN Heisman vote and Pac-12 blog Heisman tracker don't come out until 7:30 a.m. PT today. But sometimes you just can't wait an extra hour and a half to make a point. So here's something to mull over during your morning joe.

UCLA running back Johnathan Franklin will be on the ballots of at least two of the voters in the ESPN Heisman poll. I'm one of them, and I'll give you a hint about the other -- his name rhymes with thriller. And for some reason, his hair is a hot topic of conversation among blog readers. No more hints.

Yes, it's early in the season. But so far Franklin has all of the credentials that would qualify him as a Heisman finalist -- maybe even a winner.

Consider:

  • [+] EnlargeJohnathan Franklin
    Scott Halleran/Getty ImagesJohnathan Franklin has put up some eye-popping numbers so far this season.
    Franklin leads all FBS backs in rushing through the first two weeks with 431 yards. The second closest is Buffalo's Branden Oliver, who has 349.
  • Franklin is averaging 10-point-freaking-5 yards per carry. Highest among all players with at least 21 carries.
  • He's averaging a ridiculous 215.5 yards per game. The next closest is Oliver with 174.5
  • He has three rushing touchdowns (with a long of 78 yards) and has caught four balls for 63 yards and a score.
  • And he's done it on the road against Rice, and at home against a ranked team -- a ranked Nebraska team -- which traditionally isn't a palooka in the rush defense department.

Obviously, we don't expect Franklin to rush for 200-plus every week. But from what he's shown so far this season, how can you keep him off the ballot?

I've never had an issue revealing how I vote, be it in the conference power rankings, the ESPN Top 25 or the Heisman ballot. Full disclosure, this week I've got:

  1. Matt Barkley
  2. De'Anthony Thomas
  3. Johnathan Franklin
  4. Geno Smith
  5. Braxton Miller

A little homerish with three Pac-12 players in the top spots? I don't see how. Barkley leads the nation in touchdown passes, Thomas is, well, Thomas, and Franklin is the national leader in rushing. All three belong at the top of the ballot, though in what order can be debated.

Expect Franklin to have big numbers again this week when he faces a Houston rush defense that ranks 110th nationally and is allowing 246.5 yards per game. Then he'll get a stiff challenge against a not-so-surprisingly stout Oregon State defense, which has two weeks to prepare for the Bruins and is coming off a victory over Wisconsin. In that game, the Beavers held Wisconsin to 35 yards rushing and Montee Ball -- once on my Heisman ballot, but no more -- to 61 yards.

But as quarterback Brett Hundley continues to grow into his role, chances are the Bruins will continue to lean on Franklin to take some of the pressure off of their rookie quarterback. Which means Franklin could be in for a very big season.

But perhaps the greatest asset working in Franklin's favor is that his team is winning. When you beat BCS conference opponents and ranked teams, your highlights get shown across the country. That's the greatest advertising there is.

There's a reason Franklin's teammates call him Jet. And based on what we've seen so far, he should be skyrocketing up a lot of people's Heisman ballots. Not just the ballots of a couple of Pac-12 homers.

More USC, Matt Barkley plaudits

August, 28, 2012
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USC is ranked No. 1 in the Grantland Rice Super 16 Preseason Poll, which is voted on by members of the Football Writers Association of America.

Oregon is fifth. LSU is second, Alabama third and Oklahoma fourth.

Trojans QB Matt Barkley is officially the leading preseason candidate -- shocker, I know -- for the Heisman Trophy after capturing 9 of 11 first-place votes in the Heismanpundit/CBSSports.com Heisman Straw Poll.

The poll is a weekly survey of actual Heisman voters from across the country. Barkley was on 10 of 11 ballots, which means somebody decided to be quirky and cute with their vote instead of taking it seriously.

Barkley had 29 points. Wisconsin senior running back Montee Ball, who placed fourth in last year's Heisman vote, was second with 12 points, West Virginia senior quarterback Geno Smith was third with six points, while Michigan senior quarterback Denard Robinson was fourth with five points.

Senior quarterbacks EJ Manuel of Florida State and Collin Klein of Kansas State each received a first-place vote to pull into a tie with Oregon sophomore running back De'Anthony Thomas for fifth place. Manuel and Klein were the only players besides Barkley to merit a first-place vote from the panel.
The Heisman Pundit has released its official 2012 Heisman Trophy Watch List, and as you’d expect, it’s the usual suspects from the Pac-12 on the list.

Though in alphabetical order, it’s widely assumed that USC quarterback Matt Barkley is the front-runner with all others playing catch-up before the first snap has been taken. Here’s the list.
The Pac-12 blog entertained which player from the conference we thought would emerge as the Heisman winner in a Take 2 back in March. Watch lists are always subject to change, and until we actually see some games, it’s only fun speculation at this point.

No question that Barkley is the early leader in the minds of many. Given his statistics last season, the receivers he has around him and the lofty preseason ranking the Trojans are expected to enjoy, he’s looking down on the pack – at least for now.

Thomas is going to have big play after big play this season, which makes him a very strong Heisman candidate. His exploits can be packaged into an explosive highlight reel that is easily digestible for East Coast voters. No one ever gets tired of seeing 85-yard touchdown runs (unless you're safeties chasing Thomas).

Price lacks the national brand at this point, but that could all change in Week 2 in Baton Rouge. A strong showing against LSU is certain to boost his exposure and could catapult him from dark horse contender to major candidate. And then he's got Stanford, Oregon and USC all in the first six games. He could be the leader at the turn ... or slip out of the running all together.

Matt Barkley tops Heisman odds

February, 15, 2012
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It was about this time last year that people started predicting that Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck would hoist the Heisman Trophy. How'd that work out, by the way? Still, it's not too soon to start looking at some odds.

Odds maker Danny Sheridan -- as originally reported with Alabama flavor by Izzy Gould of al.com -- released his 2012 Heisman odds Tuesday and his list includes three Pac-12 candidates in total and one obvious front-runner.
At first glance, Barkley is the obvious choice. He has a very good offensive line protecting him -- including the nation's top center in Khaled Holmes (just once, I'd love to see a center get Heisman love). The running game will come together, but until it does, you might see Barkley pass a little more. And why not? With his receivers he should put up crazy good numbers. A little surprised not to see Robert Woods on this list.

Thomas is going to do what Thomas does -- run really, really fast and score a lot of touchdowns. His chances might be hampered a bit by splitting carries with Kenjon Barner (by the way, shouldn't he be on this list also?). But with the amount of plays Oregon runs per game, that shouldn't be too much of a concern. Because Thomas is a speed guy, he's also going to have to get over the national stigma that he can't run between tackles. LaMichael James had the same label, but was quite good this past season at going up the middle.

Price is the wild card of this bunch. Last year, he spent the season with a lot of nagging injuries that forced him to be a better pocket passer. But when healthy -- as we saw in the Alamo Bowl with his three rushing touchdowns -- he can be just as explosive with his legs. Next season he should be a true dual threat and a player that should warrant serious consideration.

Other players picked by Sheridan include:
But as we've seen in recent years, there is always an out-of-nowhere candidate that was off the radar. Just looking at this awfully impressive lineup, however, it seems like it's going to be tough for an unknown to wiggle his way in.

SPONSORED HEADLINES

PAC-12 SCOREBOARD

Saturday, 12/20
Monday, 12/22
Tuesday, 12/23
Wednesday, 12/24
Friday, 12/26
Saturday, 12/27
Monday, 12/29
Tuesday, 12/30
Wednesday, 12/31
Thursday, 1/1
Friday, 1/2
Saturday, 1/3
Sunday, 1/4
Monday, 1/12