By DJ Gallo
Special to Page 2

The college football season doesn't open for five more days, but Heisman Trophy campaigns have already begun.

Here are 20 Heisman candidates to keep an eye on this season, listed from least likely to win to most likely.

(And Heisman committee, let this serve as my official application to become a Heisman voter. You'll see I have great passion for college football and a deep knowledge of the game. I'll also be sending you a replica Heisman statue I sculpted out of belly-button lint and my morning eye mucous. I hope you enjoy it.)

Jeff Samardzija
John Medina/WireImage
Yes, that's a boy.

20. Jeff Samardzija, WR, Notre Dame
The talented Samardzija is an All-American in both football and baseball, making him a two-sport star similar to 1985 Heisman winner Bo Jackson. In fact, the only major difference between the two is that of all the things Bo knows, one of them is not girlish haircuts.

19. Calvin Johnson, WR, Georgia Tech
Johnson might be the best wideout in the country, but it's tough to win the Heisman as a receiver -- let alone as a receiver on a team ranked outside the Top 25. It's just too bad for Johnson's sake that Georgia Tech doesn't still employ George O'Leary, because that guy could really help Johnson boost his Heisman résumé.

18. John David Booty, QB, USC
After three years of watching and waiting, Booty is primed to take control of USC's high-powered offense. Trying to pick up where Matt Leinart and Carson Palmer left off will place significant pressure on the redshirt junior, but his biggest distraction could come from all the late-night phone calls he'll be getting from a lonely Nick Lachey.

17. Drew Weatherford, QB, Florida State
It will be tough for the sophomore to leap over more established college quarterbacks such as Troy Smith and Brady Quinn in the Heisman race, but if Florida State can return to BCS title contention this year, it's possible Weatherford could be a surprise Heisman winner. But I wouldn't bet on it. Adrian McPherson might, though.

16. Chad Henne, QB, Michigan
Brilliant at times, but maddeningly inconsistent, Henne's play is the key to the Maize and Blue's season. But luckily for Michigan, Drew Henson is now available to counsel Henne on the finer points of playing the quarterback position.

15. Dwayne Jarrett, WR, USC
With Matt Leinart, Reggie Bush and LenDale White all gone from USC, Jarrett is the biggest remaining name on a team that should still be a national title contender. Despite being only a junior, he has 29 career touchdown receptions -- just three short of the Pac-10 record. But it's no shoo-in Jarrett will break the mark, because Pac-10 defenses remain just as stout as ever.

14. Michael Hart, RB, Michigan
Hart is an exciting playmaking tailback, but injuries kept him out of several games last season, and he needs to remain healthy to stay in the Heisman hunt. If he does, his Heisman hopes will give the Michigan faithful something to be excited about in the weeks following their beloved team's annual season-ending loss to Ohio State.

13. Kenny Irons, RB, Auburn
Irons is a dominant running back on an outstanding team, but he likely will finish out of the Heisman race because voters tend to give short shrift to players from the SEC. In fact, Florida's Danny Wuerffel in 1996 is the only SEC player to win the Heisman in the last 20 years. If that doesn't make you upset, then you're not a real college football fan. (And by "that" I mean the fact that Danny Wuerffel has a Heisman Trophy, not that the SEC has been shut out for so long.)

Paul Posluszny
Leon Halip/WireImage
Paul Posluszny's participation at the combine was a pleasant surprise.

12. Paul Posluszny, LB, Penn State
Does the senior linebacker actually have a chance to win the Heisman? No. Not at all. He plays on the wrong side of the ball for Heisman voters. But it's fun to play make-believe sometimes and pretend that defense, you know, actually has some bearing on the outcome of football games.

11. Jamaal Charles, RB, Texas
With Vince Young gone to the NFL, last season's Big 12 offensive freshman of the year won't be overshadowed in Austin. And Charles' unorthodox, sidearm throwing motion shouldn't be as big a hindrance to gaining the respect of Heisman voters as it was for Young.

10. Brian Brohm, QB, Louisville
Perhaps the biggest stumbling block keeping Brohm from the Heisman is playing for a nontraditional power. But that can be fixed with a nontraditional Heisman campaign. I suggest pulling a Joe Theismann and pretending Brohm's name rhymes with the name of the award. "Hey, Brian, how do you say your last name?" "Well, it's spelled B-R-O-H-M. But strangely enough it's pronounced BREISMAN."

9. Chris Leak, QB, Florida
Leak is a bit of a dark-horse candidate, but he has the talent to potentially run away with the award. Of course, he just as easily could lose his starting job to backup quarterback Tim Tebow. Which would then make him even more of a dark-horse candidate.

8. Steve Slaton, RB, West Virginia
Slaton teams with fellow sophomore sensation Pat White, West Virginia's quarterback, to give the Mountaineers the most dynamic backfield in the nation. What will likely upend Slaton's Heisman bid, though, is a brutal seven-game season-opening stretch against Marshall, Eastern Washington, Maryland, East Carolina, Mississippi State, Syracuse and UConn. Whew! Slaton should be happy if he simply manages to make it through those games alive. I'll light a candle (or perhaps burn a sofa) and say a prayer for you, Steve.

7. Marshawn Lynch, RB, California
Lynch is the premier player in the Pac-10 this season but, as always for a player from the Western time zone, his Heisman hopes could be doomed by the media and it's gosh-darn East Coast bias. I mean, I think only three players from the West Coast have won the Heisman in the last four years. It's unfair, that's what it is.

6. Ted Ginn Jr., WR, Ohio State
Ginn probably won't touch the ball enough to put up the numbers necessary for a receiver to garner serious Heisman consideration. But he shouldn't fret. I'm sure an Ohio State booster will be more than happy to buy him a solid gold replica of the trophy as a consolation prize.

5. Michael Bush, RB, Louisville
He has the last name and athleticism of Reggie Bush, and the size of LenDale White. In fact, if you gave Michael Bush a box of Krispy Kremes and his parents a house, you'd have a perfect combination of the two former USC stars.

Troy Smith
Gene Lower/WireImage
Will Troy Smith get as much attention as Vince Young did? We'll see.

4. Troy Smith, QB, Ohio State
Smith is this year's version of Vince Young, and he's coming off an outstanding performance against Notre Dame in the Fiesta Bowl (he racked up 408 yards of total offense). Although I've seen loose stools that could go for 100 yards on Notre Dame's defense, so take that for what it's worth.

3. Adrian Peterson, RB, Oklahoma
Peterson has the talent and pedigree to win the Heisman, having placed second in the voting as a freshman two years ago. Plus, he's healthy again after an injury-plagued 2005 season -- although he's likely to miss time again this year. Not due to injury, though. Because he's scheduled to work three Saturdays next month at a local car dealership. So unless he can get another player to switch shifts with him, the missed game action could doom his Heisman bid.

2. Brady Quinn, QB, Notre Dame
There is a growing consensus among the media that Notre Dame is due a Heisman winner, as it's been 19 years since Tim Brown won the award. And I agree -- it's a travesty that none of the hundreds of mediocre players Notre Dame has suited up for the last decade or so was presented with college football's highest individual honor. A real tragedy. But Quinn can be the player to break the drought. He is a gifted passer and currently the most recognizable face in the college game. I say he's more or less a shoo-in for the Heisman. In fact, I say Quinn is the biggest lock for the Heisman since Ron Powlus from 1994 to 1997.

1. Garrett Wolfe, RB, Northern Illinois
Actually, no. I change my mind about Quinn. He's not going to win it. First of all, I don't think the members of the Heisman Foundation will want to risk sullying the prestige of the presentation ceremony by having Quinn's sister sitting there in one of those atrocious half-and-half jerseys. And second, if you want to talk about a program that's overdue for a Heisman, look no further than Northern Illinois. It seems like it's been forever since they won one.

DJ Gallo is the founder and sole writer of the award-winning sports satire site SportsPickle.com. He is also a regular contributor to ESPN The Magazine and Fantasy Sports Monthly, and has written for The Onion and Cracked. His first book -- "SportsPickle Presents: The View from the Upper Deck" -- will be in stores soon.




DJ_Gallo
DJ
Gallo
TROPHY WATCH