Tyrann Mathieu, the star cornerback who became known as the “Honey Badger,” was dismissed by LSU earlier this month, leaving Wisconsin's Montee Ball as the lone 2011 Heisman Trophy finalist back this year.
Like last season, a Pac-12 quarterback enters as the clear-cut favorite to leave New York in early December with the Heisman. Stanford's Andrew Luck came up short last year, but USC's Matt Barkley seems poised to potentially become the Trojans' fourth Heisman winner since 2002.
Here are five favorites to win the 2012 Heisman Trophy, and five more to watch.
MATT BARKLEY, SR., USC, QB
He's on pace to break USC career passing records and will be a four-year starter. Last season, he threw for over 3,500 yards and 39 touchdowns.
DENARD ROBINSON, SR., MICHIGAN, QB
Robinson's suspect passing aside, he's among the country's elite game-changers. He is the only player in NCAA history to pass for 2,000 and rush for 1,500 yards in one season. Over the last two years, he's accounted for over 7,600 total yards and 68 touchdowns.
MONTEE BALL, SR., WISCONSIN, RB
Ball tied OSU legend Barry Sanders' single-season NCAA record with 39 touchdowns last season, when he led the country with 1,923 rushing yards and was both a Heisman finalist and consensus first-team All-American. He's 18 scores away from breaking the NCAA career record for touchdowns.
GENO SMITH, SR., WEST VIRGINIA, QB
Smith earned preseason All-Big 12 honors before he or his Mountaineer teammates have played a game in their new conference. His mechanics aren't perfect; still, Smith's seven-touchdown performance in last year's Orange Bowl was the cherry on top of a special 2011 season.
TYLER WILSON, SR., ARKANSAS, QB
Wilson threw for 3,638 yards and 24 touchdowns with just six interceptions in 2011. To really establish himself as a serious contender, Wilson will need to perform well against division powerhouses Alabama and LSU, and Arkansas probably needs to beat one or both of them.
FIVE MORE TO WATCH
* Landry Jones, Sr., Oklahoma, QB; Collin Klein, Sr., Kansas State, QB; Marcus Lattimore, Jr., South Carolina, RB; Aaron Murray, Jr., Georgia, QB; De'Anthony Thomas, So., Oregon, RB.