Yep, I know what you are thinking.. and yes, it IS way too early. That being said, you are obviously looking for someone's take by reading this, and I am willing to offer mine.
Welcome to my flock.
The Heisman is the most coveted individual award in all of sports, but no one is supposed to want it. You are supposed to think of your team first, and individual accolades second. That is why it is often award to QBs whose team is undefeated, even though they may not be the "most outstanding" player in the land (see Troy Smith, Jason White, Eric Crouch, Chris Weinke, Gino Torretta, etc).
Few people actually pay attention to the wording for the award. It simply says: Most Outstanding College Football Player. It doesn't say that the player has to be a QB or RB, but those positions have won the award all but 6 times in history. (One defensive player has won it, and 5 WRs. Three linemen have finished 2nd, but never taken home the trophy.)
The question then arises as to what makes an outstanding college football player? Is it a player with monster stats, or a team player on a great (possibly undefeated) team? Maybe the stats were against inferior competition. Maybe the wins were too.
Not every player is playing against the same level of competition. Not every player is playing within the same system. Should Player A be penalized because his stats weren't as good as Player B's if he played against a far superior schedule? Maybe Player B is in a system where he throws it 70 times a game, should he be penalized for his coach's offensive philosophy? Also, maybe one player is a RB with a gazillion (technical term) yards rushing (against quality competition) and a bajillion (technical term) TDs, but his team has lost 5 games. Should he be penalized because his team has an awful defense?
More often than not, QBs are held to this standard, but RBs are not. For most QBs, 3-4 losses can boot you from the conversation... no matter the circumstances. The debate could be endless when trying to compare schedule strength vs offensive system vs how-many-losses-are-acceptable-depending-on-your-position vs team prestige vs TV time vs............ I think you get my point.
I can propose a much easier system when it comes to choosing the 2008 Heisman winner.
(Everyone please nudge the sleeping Heisman voter to your left)
All you have to do is answer one simple question: Who would you want playing for you?
Or, conversely: Who would you NOT want to play against?
That solves all of the debates about schedules and systems, etc. You simply pick the guy that you think is the best football player in the land. That guy may be a dominating offensive or defensive lineman (unlikely, but possible), or he may be some gunslinging QB who went to a smaller school, or he may be the starting QB of an undefeated team. He may even be (GASP!) a Freshman or Sophomore.
Opinions will still vary, but at least everyone will be choosing under the same criteria. With the ground rules firmly in place, I give you my preseason list of Heisman Candidates.
* Tim Tebow QB, Florida - Who wouldn't want a QB who can run over LBs, and was also 2nd in the nation in passing efficiency? The road for Tebow will be tougher this season for a few reasons: 1. He won it last year. A lot of old fuddy-duddies will not vote for him because they don't want another two time winner. It is one of those "sacred" college football traditions... much like Sophomores winning the award. 2. His stats won't compare. Anything short of last season's accomplishments may be viewd as a sub-par year. He can off-set this by guiding UF to the SEC or National Title. 3. Percy Harvin. He is sharing the field with another candidate. Even with the factors against him, I think it is Tebow's trophy to lose. He will need to become more of a leader, and produce a "Heisman" moment to do it... but it is his award to lose.
* Beanie Wells RB, Ohio St. - He is the sexy pick for most. A super-talented RB who will get a ton of exposure on national TV. He will need HUGE games and some highlight runs in order to get it done. The negatives are that the Big 10 is catching up with OSU, and USC has a nasty defense. I can't see him putting up numbers like McFadden (300+ yds). 1-2 sub-par games, and he may be out of the race.
* Chase Daniel QB, Missouri - A gutsy QB who has an unbelievable ability to make plays. The negatives are that Missou isn't going to sneak up on anyone this year.
* Graham Harrell QB, Texas Tech - He will put up mind-numbing numbers this season without a doubt, but can he beat the big boys?
* Percy Harvin WR/RB, Florida - Simply electrifying. I would take him in space over anyone in the NCAA... but can he stay healthy?
* Micheal Crabtree WR, Texas Tech - An athletic freak who put up great numbers a year ago, but if Harrell spreads the ball around more, will it be considered a "sub-par" year?
* Pat White QB, WVU - The best running QB in the game- hands down, but how will he adjust to life without Steve Slaton? Also, with a new coaching staff- will he finally develop as a passer? If he shows up with a big game against Auburn and his nemesis USF, he has a shot.
Dark Horses: CJ Spiller, Sam Bradford, Knowshon Moreno, Ian Johnson, PJ Hill, LeSean McCoy, Dan LeFevour
So there you have it, my Preseason Heisman list. These are the guys I think have the best shot at winning at the moment. They are not ranked in any fashion, because there is way too much football to be played. As the year progresses, I will update the list accordingly. Some will move up, some will be dropped from contention.