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SI's Heisman Preview

Posted: Tuesday August 24, 2004 10:29AM; Updated: Tuesday August 24, 2004 10:29AM
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By Gene Menez

  Matt Leinart
Matt Leinart shined in his first year as a USC starter.
Stephen Dunn/Getty Images
2004 Preview
Myths, realities of title teams
What does it really take to win a national championship?
By Stewart Mandel
Applying the formula
Five teams that fit the mold in 2004, and three "contenders" that don't.
By Stewart Mandel
Profile of a Champion: A statistical breakdown of the 12 national champions from the past 10 years.
Athlon 2004 Previews: All 117 I-A teams
TV Guide: 10 games to watch in '04
National TV schedule | '04-'05 bowl schedule
 And much more ...
8/5  Return of the RBs
8/6  The true freshmen
8/10  SI's Top 25
8/11  ACC preview
8/12  Big 12 preview
8/13  Big East preview
8/16  Big Ten preview
8/17  Pac-10 preview
8/18  SEC preview
8/19  C-USA, Mt. West, MAC
8/20  Inds., WAC, Sun Belt
8/23  SI's All-Americans
8/24  SI's Heisman Preview
8/25  Bowl Projections
8/26  SI.com's Crystal Ball
8/30  Power Rankings
 

FAVORITES

1. Matt Leinart, QB, USC, Jr.
The next Heisman of Troy? He'll be surrounded by übertalented skill players in Norm Chow's high-powered offense and face seven teams whose D's ranked lower than 70th against the pass in '03.

2. Darren Sproles, RB, Kansas State, Sr.
He led the nation in rushing in '03 with 1,986 yards, but the departure of QB Ell Roberson means defenses will be keying on this 5'7", 180-pound mighty mite.

3. Jason White, QB, Oklahoma, Sr.
Looking to bounce back from a disastrous finish to the '03 season, the reigning Heisman winner leads an offense that may be even more potent than last year's.

4. Chris Leak, QB, Florida, Soph.
Last year's top recruit was the only QB to beat LSU in '03. He'll shine even more as Florida emphasizes downfield passing.

5. David Greene, QB, Georgia, Sr.
He's surrounded by a skilled and experienced offensive unit, so expect the Greene of 2002 (SEC offensive player of the year) rather than '03 (13 TDs, 11 INTs).

DARK HORSES

1. Justin Vincent, RB, LSU, Soph.
As a freshman, he was MVP of the SEC and BCS title games, rushing for 318 yards and three TDs against Georgia and Oklahoma.

2. Aaron Rodgers, QB, California, Jr.
Ringmaster of an aerial circus, he's coming off an impressive bowl performance and again will be throwing to All-America candidate Geoff McArthur.

3. Cedric Benson, RB, Texas, Sr.
He'd have won the Heisman by now if the season started after the Texas-Oklahoma game. Eleven of his 15 100-yard rushing efforts have come after that test.

4. Brad Smith, QB, Missouri, Jr.
He has 26 passing TDs and 25 rushing in two seasons, but the Tigers must be more than ordinary for their man to have a shot.

5. Carnell Williams, RB, Auburn, Sr.
Cadillac ran for 1,307 yards and 17 TDs, but he'll split backfield time with Ronnie Brown in the Tigers' new West Coast offense.

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