Kellen Moore, QB, Boise State
Could be the first mid-major player since Ty Detmer to take home the stiffarm, and his Labor Day heroics in the two-minute drill bolster his case immensely. After the Broncos' date with Oregon State in two weeks, however, Boise State's schedule may leave Moore forgotten.
Terrelle Pryor, QB, Ohio State
Plays football for Ohio State, which is a bit of a leg up in itself. Leads a team with a better-than-legitimate chance of competing for a national title. Strong opening-week performance against Marshall. Anything less than a BCS berth this winter will be viewed as a letdown and may ding his chances, however.
Kenjon Barner, RB, Oregon
Had a monstrous coming-out party Saturday against the dregs of the WAC, with five touchdowns in the first half. A bit of an unknown nationally, but not if he keeps this up.
Christian Ponder, QB, Florida State
Was, by himself, the entire Seminole offense last season. Can he put on an encore performance under a new head coach?
Jake Locker, QB, Washington
Being a two-sport star and possessing an overpowering air of quarterbackishness make Locker a natural fit for this position. Unfortunately for him, in a crowded field, he drops back as the Huskies kick off the season by losing to BYU.
Andrew Luck, QB, Stanford
With the rise of Toby Gerhart, the general public seems to understand that Stanford is good at football now. And apart from the Week 1 tuneup with Sacramento State, the Cardinal plays a high-profile non-conference schedule sure to inject Luck into the trophy conversation.
Ryan Mallett, QB, Arkansas
Mallett will receive due attention merely by quarterbacking an SEC team, never mind one that's a trendy darkhorse pick to win the division. He won't be seriously tested before Week 4 against Alabama, however.
Patrick Peterson, CB, LSU
Set an all-time LSU record for kick returns in a marquee setting at the Chick-fil-A Classic in Week 1, and came nine yards short of the NCAA record. Is, however, nominally a defensive player, and if Ndamukong Suh can't break through while serving as the defense for a whole team in a high-profile conference title game, who can?
Matt Barkley, QB, USC
Only a sophomore, but leads a unit that will score as fast and flashily as possible to distract from a fledgling defense. May be tainted in the minds of voters by recent Trojan Heisman unpleasantness.
Jacory Harris, QB, Miami
The Ohio State game next weekend will be a crucial opportunity for either Harris or Pryor to look extremely foolish on national television and take himself out of the running. We are hoping for Pryor, since if Harris gets invited to New York there's a better-than-even chance Michael Irvin shows up to hijack the event.
Jacquizz Rodgers, RB, Oregon State
A much-hyped flavor in 2009, Rodgers was stymied for much of the Beavers' loss to TCU, and bigger tests await. (Not next week, though. Fill up on Louisville, kid.)
Case Keenum, QB, Houston
Pro: Returns with three 1,000-yard receivers from last year's team and plays in a pinball offense. Con: Threw for 5,600 yards in that same offense in 2009, and 5,000 the year before, which didn't seem to do him much good in the hardware department, apart from the consolation prize of a Baugh trophy.
Andy Dalton, QB, TCU
Sort of a darkhorse-of-darkhorses, Dalton is the fringe pick even among mid-major enthusiasts. Was less than impressive against Oregon State (17/27, 177 yards, one touchdown, two picks). Upside: Name invites copious Road House jokes.
Denard Robinson, QB, Michigan
The nexus of a Wolverine offense that may, out of nowhere (much like Robinson himself), be very, very good. Passed for close to 200 yards against UConn on Saturday and ran for close to 200 more. Great. Now do it again, eleven times.
Kendall Hunter, RB, Oklahoma State
Another showy outing in the vein of Barner's. One factor in his favor: Hunter's star turn came against a Big Six team, even if it was Wazzu. And one against: Oklahoma State is sagely forecast to be terrible this year.
Ryan Williams, RB, Virginia Tech
He's a sophomore, so he's got time to make this up, but the Hokies' freshman phenom of 2009 managed only 60 total yards against Boise State. They were valuable numbers, coming with three touchdowns, but won't attract great attention to attention-deficit-prone poll types in this large a field.
Cam Newton, QB, Auburn
Accounted for five touchdowns in the Tigers' season opener, but has "character issues" stemming from his time at Florida that may drop him a peg or ten in the voting. May still be Brandon Cox in elaborate disguise, in accordance with the Plainsman Prophecy.
Ronald Johnson, WR, USC
Stuffy voters may have concerns putting their precious trophy back in the hands of a Trojan, but Johnson's three-touchdown grab performance Thursday night was delightful, even if it was against Hawaii. Adding to his utility, he also returns punts to great effect.
Trent Richardson, RB, Alabama
Count us among those who think Richardson may wind up a greater threat to opposing defenses than Ingram ever was, but he may split votes with his predecessor.
Mark Ingram, RB, Alabama