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The contenders for college football's highest honor are led by the dynamic Terrelle Pryor


The Defending Champ

MARK INGRAM,RB, Alabama, Junior

2009 stats: 271 rushes, 1,658 yards, 17 TDs; 32 receptions, 334 yards, 3 TDs

Reigning national champion Alabama will be in the title hunt all season, keeping the 2009 Heisman winner in the running for a repeat. Even with the rise of backup Trent Richardson, Ingram will see his share of touches. As history has shown, however, the bar is higher for returning winners: Simply duplicating his stats from last year won't be enough. Of the 11 winners who have come back for at least one season, only Ohio State's Archie Griffin (who repeated in 1975) and Oklahoma's Billy Sims (second in '79) finished higher than third.

The Can't-Miss Prospect

JAKE LOCKER,QB, Washington, Senior

2009 stats: 230-of-394 passing, 2,800 yards, 21 TDs, 11 INTs

The player at the top of most 2011 NFL mock drafts, Locker has size (6'3", 230 pounds) and a strong arm and plays the position with a no-holds-barred attitude—perhaps because he was also a safety in high school. He made strides in his first year running coach Steve Sarkisian's pro-style offense and should continue improving after putting off baseball this summer (he's an Angels farmhand) to focus on football. But his Heisman hopes depend on whether he can put the Huskies, who were 5--7 in 2009, in contention for a Pac-10 title.

The Stats Monster

CASE KEENUM,QB, Houston, Senior

2009 stats: 492-of-700 passing, 5,671 yards, 44 TDs, 15 INTs

Playing in coach Kevin Sumlin's scoreboard-torching offense, Keenum last year joined former Texas Tech passer Graham Harrell as the only quarterbacks with multiple 5,000-yard passing seasons. The Cougars' triggerman is likely to reach that mark for a third consecutive year with the team's top four pass catchers from 2009 back. For those who don't put much stock in statistics, Keenum also will face a nonconference schedule that features foes from the SEC (Mississippi State), Pac-10 (UCLA) and Big 12 (Texas Tech).

The Sophomore Sensation

DION LEWIS,RB, Pitt, Sophomore

2009 stats: 325 rushes, 1,799 yards, 17 TDs; 25 receptions, 189 yards, 1 TD

Sophomores have won the last three Heismans, and this Pitt workhorse, who is just 5' 8" and 195 pounts, could be next. He'll be on everyone's radar after finishing third in the nation in rushing in 2009 and becoming the first player since Virginia Tech quarterback Michael Vick in 1999 to win Big East Rookie of the Year and Offensive Player of the Year honors. The Panthers' remaining in the conference title hunt will help Lewis's candidacy, particularly if he plays well in a Sept. 23 showdown against Miami.

The BCS Buster

KELLEN MOORE,QB, Boise State, Junior

2009 stats: 277-of-431 passing, 3,536 yards, 39 TDs, 3 INTs

The Broncos bring back 20 of 22 starters from their 14--0 squad, but no one is more valuable than Moore. He has been the starter since he arrived on the blue turf and has racked up 26 wins (against one loss), which puts him on pace to shatter the Division I-A record of 45, set last year by Texas's Colt McCoy. If Boise State beats Virginia Tech in the season opener and stays in the national championship chase through the season, Moore could become the first Heisman winner since 1990 from outside what are now known as the BCS conferences.

The Talented Transfer

RYAN MALLETT,QB, Arkansas, Junior

2009 stats: 225-of-403 passing, 3,624 yards, 30 TDs, 7 INTs

The Texarkana, Ark., native played in 11 games as a freshman at Michigan, then transferred home to play for the team he loved as a boy. Last year, his first in coach Bobby Petrino's pro-style offense, the 6'6" Razorback with the rocket arm set the SEC ablaze, leading the conference in touchdown passes, passing yards per game and total offense. If he can at least duplicate his 2009 numbers and get through a tough early-season schedule (which includes Georgia, Alabama, Texas A&M and Auburn), he could be the one to catch come Halloween.

The Electric Gamebreaker

NOEL DEVINE,RB, West Virginia, Senior

2009 stats: 241 rushes, 1,465 yards, 13 TDs; 22 receptions, 177 yards, 1 TD

It would be clichéd to say that every time Devine touches the ball, he has the potential to score—but it would also be true. The 5'8", 180-pound jitterbug of a back, who has been a football celebrity since his high school highlight reel hit YouTube in 2006, had seven runs of at least 50 yards last year, including touchdowns of 88 and 56. Despite his diminutive frame he can handle a heavy workload, and with the Mountaineers breaking in a new starting quarterback this season, he should have even more opportunities.

The Defensive Menace

ROBERT QUINN,DE, North Carolina, Junior

2009 stats: 52 tackles, 19 tackles for loss, 11 sacks, 6 forced fumbles

Quinn has the potential to be this year's Ndamukong Suh, and he's certainly not shying away from the pressure, saying that his goals are "27 sacks and a Heisman." The star of a stout UNC defense, the 6'5" 270-pounder plays like a monster truck with a Maserati engine. He runs a 4.51 40 (breaking Julius Peppers's school record for defensive ends) and can power-clean 366 pounds (a record for all linemen). Suh finished a distant fourth in the Heisman last year, so the odds are against Quinn's becoming the first solely defensive player to win the trophy.

The Impossible Long Shot

RICKY DOBBS,QB, Navy, Senior

2009 stats: 56-of-105 passing, 1,031 yards, 6 TDs, 3 INTs; 315 rushes, 1,203 yards, 27 TDs

It has been 47 years since a player from a service academy has won the Heisman, and while Dobbs faces the longest odds of these 10, he clearly belongs in their company. A smooth operator of Navy's option offense, he set a single-season NCAA record for rushing touchdowns by a quarterback last year, and did so while playing six games with a broken right kneecap. For him to have any chance, the Midshipmen most likely have to run the table, meaning he has a better chance of becoming president of the United States—which is one of his goals—than being voted this season's winner.

The Preseason Favorite

TERRELLE PRYOR,QB, Ohio State, Junior

2009 stats: 167-of-295 passing, 2,094 yards, 18 TDs, 11 INTs; 162 rushes, 779 yards, 7 TDs

Critics said he should move to wide receiver. They said his improvisational style and Jim Tressel's button-down play-calling were destined to be a failed marriage. But in the 2010 Rose Bowl win over Oregon, this modern-day Big Red Machine showed what can happen when ability meets opportunity, throwing for a career-best 266 yards and two touchdowns (and running for 72 yards) in a tantalizing offensive MVP effort. This season, playing on a Buckeyes team with an excellent shot at winning the national championship, Pryor will enter the season as the one to beat.


Photograph by AL TIELEMANS