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ASA: Heisman Wagers

It’s about that time of year when university athletic departments turn up the public relations efforts on their respective Heisman hopefuls.

Whether it’s billboards, local and national ad campaigns or a letter to the Heisman voters, athletic departments will spare no expense in giving their players a leg up on the competition.

With that in mind, here’s a look at what players will be receiving the most hype heading into the 2007 college football season.

John David Booty, QB, USC (+500): Booty is the early favorite in the Heisman race at +500. While Booty had a very strong 2006 campaign, much of his hype is due to the team he plays for and the position he plays for said team. Former Trojans Carson Palmer and Matt Leinart have brought home the hardware in the past and Booty seems like a logical choice to follow in their footsteps.

The USC offense is always stacked with playmakers but Booty will have to break in a new set of wideouts following the departures of Dwayne Jarrett and Steve Smith, who combined for 2,098 receiving yards and 21 touchdowns on 141 catches last year. This year’s college of wide receivers combined for 50 catches and four touchdowns a year ago. The lack of experience on the outside could hurt Booty’s chances.

Steve Slaton, RB, West Virginia (+500):
Slaton put up some amazing numbers during his sophomore campaign, totaling 1,744 yards and 17 touchdowns on seven yards a carry. There’s no reason to believe Slaton won’t be able to equal if not surpass those totals this season in West Virginia’s run-orientated spread offense.

One potential hindrance could be the presence of other stellar offensive players stealing some of his thunder. Mountaineer quarterback Pat White is another Heisman hopeful following a season in which he threw for 1,655 yard and ran for another 1,219 yards. Freshman Noel Devine, considered by many scouts to be the best incoming running back, could take some of Slaton’s carries. A schedule featuring numerous poor rush defenses could counteract White and Devine, though, giving Slaton a legit shot at winning the Heisman.

Darren McFadden, RB, Arkansas (+600): McFadden, who finished second in the Heisman voting last year, was perhaps the most exciting player in college football last year as opposing defenses never knew what he was going to do or where he was going to line up. Not only did he rush for 1,647 yard and 14 touchdowns but he threw for another three touchdowns after lining up in the shotgun. Last year may have been McFadden’s best shot at the Heisman, though.

The Hog offensive line lost three starters from last year’s unit, meaning McFadden may not have the gaping holes he had last season. Also, the shaky, at best, quarterback situation at Arkansas could lead to opposing defenses focusing on stopping the run. Teammate Felix Jones, who ran for 1,168 yard last year on 7.6 yards a carry, could also hurt McFadden’s chances by taking some of his carries.

Brian Brohm, QB, Louisville (+650): Brohm quarterbacked one of the nation’s elite offenses last year and passed on the NFL for another chance at leading Louisville to a national title. He threw for more than 3,000 yards last year with 16 touchdowns despite missing two games with an injury early in the season. Injuries have sidelined Brohm the last three seasons, though, and that could again be a thorn in his Heisman chances. He has yet to play a full season, missing two games last year, one game in 2005 and two games in 2004.

Another potential pothole in Brohm’s Heisman chances could be the offseason coaching change in Louisville. Former head coach Bobby Petrino left for the NFL and was replaced by Steve Kragthorpe. The coaching change may lead to some alterations in the Cardinal offense but Kragthorpe won’t hesitate to air it out. He turned around Tulsa prior to coming to Louisville behind a high-octane offense and could actually improve a Cardinal offense that couldn’t look much better a year ago.

Colt Brennan, QB, Hawaii (+800): Brennan may not have the big-school recognition of other potential Heisman candidates but he is definitely on the Heisman map. He captained an offense that led the nation in passing offense, total offense and scoring offense. Brennan set an NCAA record with 58 touchdown passes last year, completing 72.6 percent of his passes for 5,549 yards along the way. Barring any injuries, he should again lead the country in almost every passing statistic and could match his record-setting numbers of a year ago.

The big question surrounding Brennan is whether the Heisman voters will overlook an easy schedule. Hawaii’s first 10 games come against weak competition but impressive showings against Boise State and Washington in the final two weeks of the regular season could sway some voters in his favor. There is no offense in the nation more exciting to watch than the one Brennan quarterbacks but that may not be enough to bring home the Heisman.

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