4. CODY KESSLER, QB, USC
Cody Kessler checks off just about every box to determine a West Coast Heisman candidate.
USC quarterback? Check.
Huge statistics? Check.
High-character presence? Check.
And yet, Kessler’s portfolio varies greatly depending on whom you ask. Some have him pegged as a leading contender — I’m obviously in that class, ranking him No. 4. Sports Illustrated left him off its preseason Heisman rundown altogether.
Kessler must improve in big games. His four touchdowns and three interceptions against the top of the Pac-12 South is as repeated as his 39 touchdowns and five picks thrown over the entire season.
He said at last month’s Pac-12 media days he “takes it personal,” and is focused on improving in those marquee contests. If he does, he’ll soar to the lead in the Heisman race.
3. J.T. BARRETT, QB, OHIO STATE
Ohio State’s rare situation in which three quarterbacks of Heisman ability are on the roster at the same time makes naming a Top 10 contender a challenge. Moreover, the Buckeyes have another offensive Heisman candidate in the aforementioned Ezekiel Elliott.
But with him seemingly edging in front of Cardale Jones, and having put up some Heisman-quality numbers himself in 2014, Barrett is sure to factor prominently into the race for college football’s most coveted individual award.
Last season, Barrett rushed for nearly 1,000 yards and scored 11 touchdowns on the ground. He tacked on another 34 via the pass, which actually gave him more total scores in 2014 than Jameis Winston logged in his 2013 Heisman-winning campaign.