1-Matt Barkley (Southern Cal) – He was the ‘Face of the Franchise’ through two years of probation and now he’s back for his senior season with hopes of winning the national title and the Heisman Trophy. And it might happen. Barkley has two of the nation’s premier wide receivers in Robert Woods and Marquise Lee, who combined to make 184 receptions for 2,435 yards and 26 touchdowns. Barkley completed 69.1 percent of his throws as a junior for 3,528 yards with a 39/7 touchdowns-to-interceptions ratio.
2-Tyler Wilson (Arkansas) – With Bobby Petrino ousted, even more pressure is on the senior leader. Wilson waited patiently behind Ryan Mallett, who is the all-time leading passer in Razorbacks history. But Wilson was an upgrade from Mallett, leading the Hogs to an 11-2 record by throwing for 3,638 yards and 24 TDs compared to only six interceptions. In 2012, Wilson will have a better running game to lean on thanks to the return of Knile Davis, who was a first-team All-SEC selection in 2010 before sustaining a season-ending injury last August.
3-Geno Smith (West Virginia) – The Mountaineers picked the perfect year to transition from the Big East to a tougher loop like the Big 12. That’s because of the presence of Smith, the senior signal caller who is poised to become the school’s all-time leading passer by the end of September. WVU has eight starters back on offense, including all of its skill players from a unit that averaged 37.6 points per game. Smith has a 55/14 TD-INT ratio in two seasons as a starter.
4-Denard Robinson (Michigan) – These aren’t rankings in terms of pro prospects at the QB position, and that’s why Robinson is ranked so high. Obviously, his strength is running the ball, as evidenced by 3,051 rushing yards and 30 TDs in 2010 and 2011. Robinson, who also had five rushing scores as a true freshman, has 40 career TD passes. If Robinson can lead the Wolverines to a Week 1 upset over Alabama, he’ll instantly become one of the front runners for the Heisman.
5-Aaron Murray (Georgia) – The Tampa Plant High School product throws a tight spiral, has excellent accuracy and is tough as nails. However, he’s failed to shine in the biggest games of his career. With an advantageous schedule compared to its SEC East rivals, Murray better lead UGA back to the Ga. Dome or Mark Richt could find his job status on shaky ground yet again. Murray has an outstanding 59/22 TD-INT ratio for his career.
6-Landry Jones (Oklahoma) – OU’s all-time leading passer slumped toward the end of last season and finished with a career-worst 15 interceptions. For his career, Jones has 12,379 passing yards and a 93/41 TD-INT ratio. The Sooners averaged 39.5 PPG in 2012 but could muster only 10 points in their blowout loss at Oklahoma St. in the regular-season finale. Jones missed WR Ryan Broyles when an injury kept him out of the last four games. He needs to reduce his interception total if Oklahoma is going to get back to its first BCS Championship Game since 2008.
7-Collin Klein (Kansas St.) – Again, these are QB rankings for college football, so Klein is one of the elite. The fifth-senior who is a former WR garnered first-team All Big 12 honors after rushing for 1,448 yards and 27 TDs last season. Klein also threw for 1,918 yards with a 13/6 TD-INT ratio. With eight starters back, K-St.’s offense should be formidable again.
8-A.J. McCarron (Alabama) – I saw McCarron play live twice (at Florida and vs. LSU in New Orleans) last year and came away extremely impressed both times. He played his best game when it mattered most at the Superdome, setting the tone for the game with precise throws in the first half against LSU’s stout secondary with NFL players galore. McCarron completed 66.8 percent of his passes for 2,634 yards and a 16/5 TD-INT ratio. This guy might be worth a shot at 20/1 odds as a sleeper Heisman pick.
9-Casey Pachall (TCU) – There wasn’t much drop-off from Andy Dalton to Pachall, who led the Horned Frogs to an 11-2 record and a 40.8 PPG average. He connected on 66.5 percent of his passes for 2,921 yards with a 25/7 TD-INT ratio. Pachall, a six-foot five-inch junior, has nearly all of his weapons back, including one of the Big 12’s best WRs in Josh Boyce.
10-James Franklin (Missouri) – Following a dynamic sophomore year, Franklin missed spring practice to have shoulder surgery. He didn’t start throwing a non-nerf football until a few weeks ago, but Gary Pinkel said his QB is ‘ahead of schedule’ at SEC Media Days. Franklin will need to be 100 percent for a crucial Week 2 showdown vs. Georgia in Mizzou’s SEC debut. He ran for 1,145 yards and 15 TDs last year, in addition to throwing for 2,865 yards and 21 scores.
11-Tyler Bray (Tennessee) – If not for his knucklehead actions recently, I’d probably have him much higher. He played OK last year (17/6 TD-INT ratio) but was never 100-percent healthy after getting hurt in a loss to Georgia. Plus, he lost star WR Justin Hunter in the first half of Week 3. Bray has NFL skills and one of the nation’s best WR corps. If he keeps his head on straight and matures, Bray could be poised for a monster 2012 campaign.
12-Mike Glennon (North Carolina St.) – The Russell Wilson transfer to Wisconsin ended up working out for everybody. Glennon thrived as a first-year starter for the Wolfpack, throwing for more than 3,000 yards with a 31/12 TD-INT ratio. The six-foot six-inch senior will have a chance to go against Bray in a huge Week 1 game at the Ga. Dome. With FSU coming to Raleigh, N.C. St. could be the ACC’s sleeper squad.
Just missed the cut…
Alex Carder (Western Michigan)
Tyler Tettleton (Ohio)
Tajh Boyd (Clemson)
Keith Price (Washington)
Logan Thomas (Va. Tech)
Connor Shaw (South Carolina)
Tanner Price (Wake Forest)
Chuckie Keeton (Utah St.)
Terrance Owens (Toledo)
James Vandenberg (Iowa)
On the rise…:
Teddy Bridgewater (Louisville)
Joe Southwick (Boise St.)
Bryan Bennett (Oregon)
Corey Robinson (Troy)
Brian Edwards can be reached at email@example.com.
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