Since the 2009 Heisman race is over, why not jump the gun and take a peek at the top candidates for next year's stiff-arm trophy?
Obviously, this is far out from when Heisman buzz typically starts, and it's hard; some of the seemingly top targets might still declare they're jumping into April's NFL draft. A few of those guys (such as Cal's Jahvid Best) I suspect might bolt are not going to be on this list. I'm also not including promising guys who play at high-profile schools but still haven't proved that much (such as Florida's John Brantley, USC's Matt Barkley and Notre Dame's Dayne Crist).
Final thing to note: Even this past summer, no one had Mark Ingram on the Heisman watch lists. Look what happened there.
Let's get into it:
If the 2009 race taught us anything, it's this: There's always hope for running backs. Two previously off-the-radar guys (Mark Ingram and Toby Gerhart) finished 1-2. It also showed that big-game stages are more vital than ever in the Heisman chase. Rodgers has a flashier style than both Ingram and Gerhart, but he's not just some scatback. He's got some Barry Sanders in him with great burst, vision, patience and balance. It also helps that the Oregon State brand of football has risen quite a bit in the past two years since he sparked that stunning Thursday night upset of USC on national TV. The respect is already there.
The offensive scheme -- with its fly sweeps and downfield passing attack -- is diverse enough to keep some of the pressure off him while still showcasing him. In addition to running for almost 1,400 yards and 20 TDs, the guy caught 74 passes this season. Here's the best part: His school made the bold move of dumping a soft nonconference game with Eastern Washington to take on the TCU Horned Frogs in the Jerry Jones Megaplex (and it isn't that far from the Texas home of Rodgers' brother). The game reportedly is close to being locked in.
There are more fireworks in the nonconference schedule a bit later when the Beavers go to Boise State to try to do something almost no one (including the archrival Oregon Ducks) has been able to do: win on the smurf turf. The Beavers also have games with USC and Oregon later in the season, which I think means we'll be hearing a lot about "The Quizz Show" in 2010, and that's a very good thing.
To see the rest of Bruce's list -- where is Jake Locker? Terrelle Pryor? Mark Ingram? Kellen Moore? -- you must be an ESPN Insider. Plus: tons of recruiting news.